How to Find New Donors for Your Nonprofit: A 4-Step Process

Gia Chow
Gia Chow

In the realm of charitable giving, finding new donors is like discovering hidden gems that fuel your mission’s growth. As the heartbeat of your cause, these supporters provide the means to make impact a reality. In this article, we’ll navigate the terrain of donor discovery together, accompanied by insights from a luminary in the field – Chris Barlow. 

Drawing from the wealth of insights accumulated over years of dedicated work, we’ve distilled a comprehensive four-step process from our webinar to help you unearth new donors. 

About the Presenter

Chris Barlow is the Customer Happiness Director of Beeline Marketing. While he originally aspired to immerse himself in cause-focused endeavors, his path led him towards the realm of business. Yet, in a serendipitous twist of fate, Chris’s passion for both worlds converged in 2015 when he founded Beeline. This enterprise became a catalyst for nonprofits, enabling them to amplify their mission and cultivate a burgeoning donor base.

His unique blend of experience has not only bridged the gap between altruism and business but has also allowed him to develop a four-step approach to help you find new donors for your nonprofit. 

This journey begins with the essential step of planning and creating a lead magnet. It’s a journey where we recognize that donors often arise from the pool of individuals who initially connect with our mission as email subscribers.

Step 1: Plan & Create Lead Magnet

There’s a lot of jargon tossed around in the nonprofit industry, but let’s break it down. What exactly is a lead magnet? Simply put, it’s a digital resource that you create once and then use repeatedly to help your target audience. Those interested will be required to give you their email address in exchange for the resource, which leads to new subscribers to your email content.

In practical terms, creating a lead magnet involves providing potential donors with something valuable that resonates with their interests and needs. When people browse the internet, they’re usually seeking entertainment, answers, or solutions to their problems. Rarely are they actively searching for nonprofits to support. Therefore, the key is to tailor your lead magnet to align with what donors are looking for, making it a vital tool in your quest to connect with supporters.

Identify Your Expertise

To attract new donors, your primary aim should be to leverage the knowledge and skills that drive your mission. It’s about using what you already know to meet the needs of potential donors. By doing this, you’re not just providing a solution; you’re offering them a window into your mission, building a bridge of connection in the process.

For example, if your organization is a food bank, your expertise naturally centers around addressing hunger and food insecurity within the community. To effectively harness this expertise and engage potential donors, consider offering a variety of lead magnets. It’s a good idea to brainstorm ideas for lead magnets as a starting point for your research. Consider possibilities like recipe books, educational webinars, and a toolkit for organizing food drives.

Do Market Research

The goal for your lead magnet is to create a resource that people may find when they are using a search engine. Initiate your market research by using a free tool known as Google Keyword Planner. By creating an account, you gain access to the current search volume for any given keyword, enabling you to gauge the level of interest in specific terms.

google's discover new keywords page

Continuing with the food bank example above, you may wonder how this aligns with your potential donors’ interests. However, many people, even if they’re not in need of food assistance, often seek culinary inspiration for their home cooking. They frequently search for nutritional meal ideas, plans, and recipes. As a food bank, you possess valuable expertise in this area, which can be leveraged to create a resource that addresses this common concern among your potential donors.

Once you’ve employed the keyword planner, you’ll get search results that can be tailored to specific timeframes. Additionally, you can refine the targeted geographical area to align with your donor base’s location. If your nonprofit primarily draws support from your local community, narrowing down the geographic scope is prudent. 

google keyword search results example
Google offers both the average monthly search volume for specific keywords and suggests an alternative list of keyword ideas with comparable or even higher search volumes.

Subsequently, you can fine-tune your keyword selection, focusing on terms relevant to the lead magnet you intend to create. In this context, your aim is to gauge the level of interest in topics such as healthy dinner recipes or fast, nutritious meal plans.

Choose a Format

Remember, your primary goal here isn’t to deliver a product or service. Instead, you’re trying to convey that you can share valuable knowledge and expertise in an informative format to assist people.

Now that you’ve gained insights into keyword volume, the next step is determining the perceived value of such a resource. This is where you can engage your current donor base by seeking their opinions through surveys. By surveying your donor base, you can ascertain the ideal format for your lead magnet or resource. The options are diverse and encompass e-books, infographics, online courses, videos, petitions, quizzes, and more.

petition, ebook, and online course text with icons

While a petition can galvanize action, it may not precisely cater to donors’ needs. Although it’s straightforward and concise, petitions tend to have a very low conversion rate (the amount of people who take action), typically ranging between 0.3% to 0.5%.

On the other hand, online courses boast the highest average conversion rates, falling between 6% to 10%, and sometimes even reaching 20%. However, developing an online course is a substantial undertaking, often requiring months to create.

Hence, the ideal compromise lies in crafting an ebook, quiz, or infographic. These formats offer valuable information in a condensed manner compared to online courses, and they can be assembled within a few weeks, ready for repeated use. While the conversion rate may be lower, averaging at 3% to 5%, it strikes a good balance, in terms of optimal results for the amount of effort invested.

Step 2: Offer the Lead Magnet

Once your lead magnet is ready, the next step is to entice potential donors to subscribe.

Create a Landing Page

This is the stage where you craft a dedicated landing page to present your lead magnet in exchange for their email address. You’re probably acquainted with this concept. Unlike your website’s homepage, which caters to a broad audience, the landing page is designed for a specific target audience. It addresses a particular issue or question and offers a tailored response. 

Consequently, the page should resonate with your visitors by understanding their concerns or inquiries and guiding them towards your resource, also known as your lead magnet. Your landing page must remain pertinent and persuade your potential leads to stay on the page instead of clicking the “back” button. Make a compelling case on your landing page, highlighting why subscribing is worthwhile and how it will prove helpful.

Story Brand’s 5 Minute Marketing Makeover landing page
Story Brand’s 5 Minute Marketing Makeover landing page for their lead magnet

Step 3: Promote the Resource 

We all know that donors emerge from the pool of subscribers who initially start as visitors. So, how do we attract more visitors? The key is to actively promote your lead magnet. It’s essential to ensure that the resource you’re offering reaches individuals actively seeking it, and there are numerous avenues to achieve this goal. This approach offers remarkable flexibility and can be implemented using various strategies, including social media advertising. Additionally, you can tap into Google Ad Grants, which provide qualified nonprofits with a generous monthly allowance of $10,000 in free advertising credits.

Given that we’ve already conducted research indicating a substantial number of individuals searching for relevant keywords, we can proactively engage with them through targeted advertising. For instance, if you identify people searching for “cat adoptions,” you can create an ad specifically geared towards promoting adoptable cats, effectively connecting those in need with your resource.

adoptable kittens & cats google ad

Step 4: Engage & Qualify Leads

In the final step of the process, the focus shifts to converting new subscribers -who are essentially unfamiliar with your organization – into engaged supporters. The primary objectives are to encourage them to open your emails, click on your links, and actively respond. 

Chris emphasizes the importance of the often-overlooked metric of generating responses, as those who respond demonstrate higher engagement compared to mere email openers. Creating a dialogue with these individuals provides an opportunity to establish a connection, initiate conversations, and build a relationship. This stage allows you to inquire about their interests, passions, and motivations, identifying areas of alignment with your organization’s mission.

To lay the foundation for transforming these engaged individuals into new donors, Chris recommends implementing a strategy known as a Welcome Series. This series of emails aims to nurture the budding relationship and guide them toward deeper engagement with your cause.

Welcome Series

A Welcome Series is a strategic sequence of emails designed to establish a strong foundation for building relationships with new subscribers.

Welcome series summary

So what can you put in a welcome series to lay that groundwork? Chris’s recommended approach consists of the following:

  • Email #1: The first email you’re going to send out right away that delivers the resource you promised them. The goal is to build trust. Do what you say you’re going to do.
  • Email #2: The next day, send an email introducing yourself personally rather than the organization. Share a few key details about yourself and how you got connected. Encourage recipients to reply, fostering dialogue and an opportunity for them to share more about themselves.
  • Email #3: Share additional helpful ideas within the email. This email reinforces the previous two by providing more valuable information.
  • Email #4: Ask a soft question in this email, encouraging recipients to take a step and engage. For example, inquire about their current challenges, aligning with their interests and needs. Express that you monitor responses and find them helpful in developing additional resources.
  • Email #5: Tell a compelling story illustrating how your organization fulfills its mission. Use this narrative to draw recipients in, capitalizing on the emerging relationship. The aim is to connect recipients emotionally to your mission.
  • Email #6: In the final email of the Welcome Series, issue a call to action, inviting recipients to take the next step, such as participating in a fundraising event or making a donation.

It’s advisable to maintain a 4:1 ratio within this series – four emails focused on serving and inspiring, and one email dedicated to making a specific request or call to action. This balanced approach ensures that not every email solicits action, increasing the likelihood that recipients will continue to engage with your emails over time.

Make a Thank You Donation Page

To ensure your prospective donors reach the finish line and make a contribution, prioritize a gratitude-driven donation page. Once individuals subscribe, guide them to a dedicated “Thank You” donation page. Here, express your heartfelt appreciation for their interest and extend an opportunity to make a donation. This not only cultivates goodwill but also opens the door to potential financial support.

Unlocking Your Donors

The journey to find new donors for your nonprofit is an exciting one. By embracing the insights and strategies shared in this comprehensive four-step process, you are poised to unearth hidden gems of support that will fuel your mission’s growth and amplify its impact.

As we’ve learned from Chris Barlow’s expert guidance, the key lies in creating meaningful connections with potential donors and nurturing these relationships over time. The Welcome Series offers a powerful tool to lay the groundwork for transforming subscribers into dedicated donors.

But of course once you get new potential donors in the door, you want to be ready with a seamless donation page so you don’t lose them in the most important step of the process!

At CauseVox, this is our specialty. To optimize your donation page today, get our free download: The Complete Guide to Building Your Donation Page.

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