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Nonprofits face many fundraising challenges. Competition for the donor’s dollar is fierce: in Canada alone there are over 170k nonprofits and charitable organizations and in the difficult economic situation of 2022, many donors are holding on to their money. In fact, the donor retention rate in Canada is only 43%, meaning that over half of the current donors to your nonprofit won’t donate to it again. Add to that the rising cost of fundraising and increased public scrutiny and nonprofits may be looking for effective and efficient strategies to increase their donor base

The key to gaining additional, generous donors for your nonprofit is basically a three-step process:

  • Increase your number of prospects
  • Narrow the list to those most likely to donate generously
  • Contact these people in an appropriate fashion

In this article we look at step 1 and 2, offering three tips to increase your donor list of people who will gladly and generously give to support your cause. The three tips overlap somewhat, but screening your current prospects is the place to start.

Conduct prospect screening

Examining the wealth and philanthropic history of your current donors is the place to start because the information you glean from this exercise can benefit your other list-building endeavours as well. Specifically, look at:

  • Their donations to your nonprofit in the past
  • Their donations to other nonprofits
  • Their philanthropic engagement in general, and specific areas of focus
  • Their personal, demographic and wealth characteristics (interests, wealth indicators such as real estate and business affiliations, marital status, age, location etc)

This in-depth study of prospective donors’ giving patterns will give you a good picture of who is amenable and able to donate to your cause — or donate more to your cause than they are currently doing. It will even suggest the best ways to approach them, based on their interests and demographic information. Would they respond more to an invitation to an event or a direct plea for a donation, for example. But what if you don’t even have a list of donors to start from?

Increase your list size with a brokered list

Using a brokered list for donors is the quickest way to increase your number of contacts. This is especially helpful for organizations that haven’t yet compiled a good-sized list, but it is also beneficial for larger organizations looking to expand their lists or to reach different groups.

The magic of these lists is that they are already screened to some degree — though the work you do at defining your ideal donor will still help you select the best list for your nonprofit. For example, Prospects Influencial’s donor lists contain all the standard contact data but you also have the option to add selects, such as geography, donor type and donation amount. Knowing your ideal customer profile will allow you to hone in on those specific characteristics that suggest these people will be open to your cause (as well as able to donate). Here are just a few of the possible lists which can also be further narrowed by opting for selects:

  • Affluent Donor’s Lists
  • Donors to Multiple Causes
  • Donors by Causes
  • Ethnic Donors

Conduct prospect research

While using a brokered list in some ways combines screening and research for you, you can also bring the research process closer to home in two ways:

Look at donors to similar nonprofits

You can carry out prospect research by first identifying similar nonprofits to yours, and then examining their annual reports, donor recognition lists and newsletters to find prospects. Your brokered list can also target organizations that are similar to yours.

If you see that a donor is contributing regularly to your nonprofit but is giving more to a similar organization or similarly, somebody who has never donated to your cause but does give to a similar cause, these are signs that these prospects could become major donors with the right outreach.

Use relationship mapping

Relationship mapping uses existing donors to connect with their personal and professional networks. The place to start is with your own board members and volunteers. Variations on this general idea are peer-to-peer fundraising with participants creating their own fundraising pages to reach their networks. Crowdfunding also builds on this principle, but with your nonprofit creating a central fundraising page with loyal donors reaching out to their networks through social media.

Building your list is the foundation of a successful fundraising

Using these three tips to increase your list of donors that are likely to give generously to your cause will help put your fundraising campaigns on track to being wildly successful. Of course, how you approach your prospects is the next important decision. Will you use direct marketing or some other method?

If you need help with any of these steps, feel free to contact our experts at Prospects Influential.