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6 Tips for Leveraging Existing Donors to Acquire New Ones

Posted by Jeff Cova

Learn How to Leverage Existing Donors

Acquiring new donors is tough. Before you can even begin convincing people to support your mission, you first have to find people to convince!

There are many resources available for finding new donors, but they usually come in the form of a marketing initiative and a hefty price tag. Instead of taking out an ad in the newspaper or investing in a direct mail campaign, take advantage of an effective - and less expensive - resource you already have at your fingertips: your existing donor base.

Referral based lead generation - or leveraging your existing supporters to refer new potential donors - is one of the most powerful ways to acquire new customers, donors and followers for your organization. Think about it—your supporters are the people who can testify to both your credibility and your passion for the mission. They’ve experienced it firsthand! People who hear about your Nonprofit through a friend, co-worker, family member or other acquaintance are much more likely to trust your organization and consider contributing.

If you’re uncomfortable asking donors to help you find new supporters, consider this: your donors—especially your bigger contributors—support your cause for a reason. They are passionate about your mission and believe in your Nonprofit and its ability to efficiently put the money they donate to good use. Many of your current donors would love to help out in more ways than just contributing money.

That being said, you should still consider the best ways to approach current supporters and how you can leverage them to acquire new donors. To start, you’ll want to focus on the state of your current donor relationships...

Establish a Positive Relationship

  1. Ask & Listen: Donors are happy to support a good cause, but they also want to be appreciated and valued by your Nonprofit. Make it a habit of taking your biggest donors out to lunch to personally thank them and ask for input on the direction of the organization. Their feedback will be insightful and offer a perspective very worth listening to. Simply listening goes a long way to making that donor feel involved, leading to more support from them in the future.
  2. Say "Thank You": For any donation of $100 or more, you should be sending a sincere, personalized and hand-written "thank you" card and follow up with a phone call. Smaller contributions should at very least be acknowledged by a personal "thank you" phone call. These gestures will make contributors more willing to help in the future.
  3. Educate: Before asking your existing supporters to help you find new donors, make sure they are well informed about the state of your Nonprofit mission. Keep your donors in the loop by posting consistent social media updates and sending out periodic email newsletters.

Strategize With Your Donors

When you have established strong, positive relationships with your current donor base, you can ask for their help. Rather than simply requesting a list of his/her contacts for you call, find ways to meet these people face-to-face so you can leave a better, more memorable impression. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Lunch Introduction: Before taking your biggest donors out to lunch to thank them for their support, ask them if they can bring along a friend, colleague or other acquaintances that might be interested in supporting your mission. Having them “introduce” you to potential donors face-to-face at an event or during a lunch is more effective than asking for a list of names that you could call or email.
  2. Host a Gathering: Ask donors who are well connected to host a gathering for their friends, family members, colleagues and neighbors. The purpose of this get-together will be to inform guests about your Nonprofit. Make it easier on them by offering to organize the event and even pay for food and drinks. You will want to make sure the atmosphere is light-hearted and fun. After the event, ask attendees to write down their contact information if they are interested in learning more and attending one of your upcoming events.
  3. Offer Free Event Tickets: Offer your VIP donors additional tickets to bring people they know to your fundraising event or dinner gala. Donors who are planning to attend a fun benefit event will have an even better time in good company! Plus, people with money to contribute tend to associate with others who have similar resources. If you’re hosting a dinner gala, have a donor sell a table to his or her family, friends or business colleagues. With these new “friends” in attendance, your organization will do the rest of the work by making the event fun and encouraging donations.

Networking within your existing group of supporters is one of the most effective strategies for expanding your reach, acquiring new donors and making more of an impact.


Fundraising, Donor Relations, Acquiring New Donors
Jeff Cova
Jeff Cova
Jeff Cova, President of Winspire, Inc., has over 17 years of experience in the Nonprofit and fundraising industry. Prior to Winspire, Jeff worked for 5 years as the Director of Development at Cal State Fullerton before co-founding a company specializing in producing charity auctions for Nonprofits where he successfully produced the auctions for 250 of Southern California’s most successful fundraising events. In 2008 Jeff founded Winspre with the goal of helping non-profits across the country increase their event fundraising revenue and identify new fundraising sources. Jeff and his team at Winspire have helped over 12,000 non-profits to date.

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