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4 Reasons Your Donor Acquisition Rates are Struggling

Donor acquisition is a major priority for every nonprofit. Alongside stewarding your current donors, you need to consistently secure new donors for your fundraising efforts to be sustainable enough to fuel your mission. 

So what do you do when your donor acquisition rates are struggling? The first step is to find out why. We’ll go into detail on four potential reasons for stagnant or decreasing donor acquisition rates, including: 

  1. You’re only using one channel for marketing.
  2. You're not effectively targeting your audience.
  3. Your storytelling needs improvement.
  4. You need an updated donor acquisition strategy.

As we break down these common roadblocks to success, compare your current strategy to find areas for improvement. Then, use our tips to develop a donor acquisition strategy that locates prospects and secures their lasting support.  


1. You’re only using one channel for marketing. 

When evaluating your marketing strategy, start by examining where you’re directing your efforts. Focusing too heavily on a single communication channel is an easy mistake to make, but it can alienate you from a large portion of your audience. 

Luckily, this problem is easy to solve. Analyze your marketing content’s performance on the channel you currently rely on, then select multiple channels to branch out to based on the benefits they offer, such as:

  • Direct mail: Did you know that 90% of Millennials trust direct mail more than email? Many nonprofits miss out on the benefits of direct mail because they limit themselves to digital marketing, but this channel is more effective for acquisition than you might think. Direct mail is tangible and personal, and it’s much easier for your messages to stand out in a small bundle of mail than in an inbox overflowing with promotional emails. 
  • Your website: Your nonprofit’s website is the hub of your online fundraising and a crucial marketing channel. Take a look at your website to determine if you’re using it as well as you could be for marketing. Examine your landing pages, visuals, and blog, and make sure the content aligns with your new multichannel strategy.  
  • Email: Email becomes an even more effective avenue for sourcing new donors when combined with other communication channels. For example, when a new supporter signs up for your mailing list, you can amplify your impact by sending an immediate welcome email and following that with a more robust welcome packet sent via direct mail. 
  • Social media: On its own, social media is not always an effective marketing channel for donor acquisition. Combined with other channels, however, social media content can increase brand awareness and bring new supporters to your website, email signup, and events.  

The more touchpoints you have with prospective donors, the more they’ll remember your organization. No matter which platforms you choose, include clear calls to action and next steps by linking to important landing pages that drive conversions.  


2. You’re not effectively targeting your audience. 

If you’re already marketing your nonprofit across multiple platforms, the next place to look for gaps in your strategy is in how you’re communicating on these platforms. Mainly, are you intentionally and effectively tailoring content for your audience?  

NPOInfo’s donor data management guide suggests using your existing donor engagement data to determine key information about your audience, then target similar prospects. Specifically, take insights from these metrics: 

  • Per-channel engagement levels: First, look at per-channel open rates and engagement data to determine which channels your supporters engage with most. Then take a closer look at the types of content that receive the most likes, shares, views, and comments to learn more about your audience’s preferences.  
  • Per-channel conversion rates: Analyzing engagement metrics alone can lead you to focus on the wrong types of content. Make sure you’re also looking at conversion rates for each channel. Which outreach methods and marketing content actually lead to donations and event attendance? These are the metrics that should guide your marketing decision making.  
  • Average giving amount and frequency: While less obvious, your existing donors’ giving data can help you create more tailored outreach and make better asks to prospective supporters. For example, if the majority of your nonprofit’s current donors give under $200, you shouldn’t suggest donation amounts of $1,000 to similar prospects. 

Record this data in your database and frequently reevaluate to stay on top of any new developments and continuously learn new information about your audience. Then apply this data by focusing more on the channels and types of outreach that convert. 


3. Your storytelling needs improvement. 

Another critical mistake you could be making without realizing it is undervaluing the importance of storytelling. Dry, information-only outreach won’t capture prospects’ attention or get them to take a genuine interest in your nonprofit, but effective storytelling will. 

In each message and piece of content you create to attract new donors, convey the story of your nonprofit and the important work you do. Why does your community need your nonprofit? Whose lives are impacted by donations, and how? Tell the stories of beneficiaries, longtime supporters, and your staff, using first-hand testimonials when possible. Infuse these stories into your outreach to make an emotional connection with each reader.  

Storytelling is important for all your outreach and marketing content, especially your website’s landing pages. People interested in supporting your nonprofit will visit your website to learn more, so you need to make a positive first impression by including authentic, compelling stories.  


4. You need an updated donor acquisition strategy. 

All the points we’ve covered so far boil down to this: Without a clear donor acquisition strategy, your outreach can easily become disorganized and fall flat. To stay on top of your communications, combine these tips to create an updated, comprehensive acquisition strategy for your organization. 

Compile your data, resources, and budget, then create a detailed acquisition plan by following these steps: 

  1. Set goals for your outreach. While your main goal is to acquire new donors, it’s also important to set smaller goals. These could include increasing direct mail conversions, successfully expanding to a new channel, or acquiring a certain number of major donors. 
  2. Determine a clear plan of action. Outline the channels you’ll use, how often you’ll post, and how you’ll reach out to different segments of prospects. Schedule times to check in with your staff and update your strategy as needed. 
  3. Reevaluate your data. To increase your donor acquisition rates and keep them from dropping again in the future, you need to keep reevaluating your data and adjusting your approach. This consistency is key to your success. 

If you want professional help crafting your new strategy, consider working with a nonprofit marketing consultant. They’ll handle the bulk of your data analysis and provide detailed insights into how to use that data to acquire new donors. Consult your budget and resources like Meyer Partners’ list of top nonprofit consultants, then do more research to find the best fit for your organization’s needs. 

Once you establish a better approach to donor acquisition using these strategies, work on cultivating relationships. After all, you need to keep those new donors engaged to ensure they stay invested in your mission for the long haul. 


This blog is an original work of the attributed author and is shared with permission via Foundant Technologies' website for informative purposes only as part of our educational content in the philanthropic sector. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect Foundant's stance on this topic. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to our team.

About the Author

Bonnie brings to her role at Meyer Partners more than 30 years of fundraising experience, with a special emphasis in multimedia approaches to new donor acquisition and development. Her expertise encompasses several facets of direct response fundraising, including copywriting and creative direction, market research, strategic planning, and comprehensive results analysis.

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