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finding individual donors

Financing Not Fundraising: Create Donor Personas

targetThere’s a key practice in business marketing, creating buyer personas, that I think nonprofit fundraisers would be wise to adopt. It is a great fallacy of nonprofit fundraisers to think that anyone with money is a potential donor to their organization. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you want to really succeed in bringing new donors in the door, you need to get smart and strategic about reaching the right target markets for your specific nonprofit, which is the topic of today’s post in the ongoing Financing Not Fundraising blog series.

Smart marketing is about reaching a specific target of people whose values intersect with your nonprofit’s unique ability to address a community need, like this:

Marketing image.027

This means that you don’t want to send your message out to everyone and anyone. Rather you want always to target a specific communication to those unique people for whom it would resonate.

In the business world, this is called creating “Buyer Personas.” And I think nonprofit fundraisers should develop “Donor Personas.”

Creating Donor Personas means organizing your donor base into groups of people based on demographics, interests, lifestyle choices, etc. Then you want to find out as much as you can about those groups in order to clone them.

So, for example, an animal shelter might have the following beginning list of Donor Personas:

  • Animal Activist
    These donors are 16-30 years old, highly motivated, interested in advocacy and changing laws and systems to make the world a safer place for animals.
  • Pet Lover
    These donors are 25-65 years old and have adopted a pet from the shelter in the past few years. They aren’t politically active, but rather are very grateful for the newest member of their family.
  • Dog Devotee
    These donors may have may or may not have adopted a pet from the shelter, but they are fierce dog lovers. They don’t understand cats and are not interested in them.
  • Cat Fanatic
    Again these donors may or may not have adopted a pet from the shelter, but they are obsessed with cats and their welfare.

So how do you go about developing your Donor Personas? Start with these four steps:

  1. Group Current Donors
    Take a look at your current donor base. Can you place people into profile groups like I did with the animal shelter above? What do some of your donors have in common? Do patterns and groupings start to emerge around a combination of demographics, lifestyle choices and/or worldviews?

  2. Ask Questions
    Select a handful of current donors in each donor persona group and give them a call or send them an email. Tell them that you simply want to understand their motivations for giving so that you can find more like-minded people. Ask them a handful of questions like “Why do you give to us?” “Where did you hear about us?” “What do you do in your free time?” “What’s the best way to communicate with you?” Anything that will help you understand better what motivates them to give, how they make decisions, where they hang out, etc.

  3. Create Profiles
    Armed with a deeper understanding of what makes these different groups tick, flesh out your donor personas. Give each group a descriptive name, like “Pet Lovers” above, list their various characteristics (demographics, interests, anything you know about them). Then circulate these donor persona descriptions to your staff and board. You might even want to attach a fictional picture to each persona to make it more visually captivating.

  4. Market to the Personas
    Now that you understand your donor groups better, create different content and opportunities that resonate with these different groups. For example, you might want to engage your “Animal Activists” via social media when the city council is threatening to pull some of your shelter funding, but you might ask “Pet Lovers” to virtually adopt shelter animals with a monthly contribution. Now that you know your Donor Personas better make sure you target all of your marketing and fundraising activities accordingly.

Stop telling your story to anyone and everyone. Start figuring out what motivates those who already love you and use that information to build an army of additional supporters.

If you want to learn more about finding individual donors, download the Creating a Major Donor Campaign step-by-step guide. And if you want to move your nonprofit from fundraising to financing, check out the e-books, guides and webinars that can get you started on the Financing Not Fundraising page.

Photo Credit: Camera John


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How to Find Individual Donors

When I speak to groups of nonprofit boards and staff, they are often shocked when I reveal how money flows to the nonprofit sector. Thinking that foundation grants are the holy grail of funding, many nonprofits hire a grant writer and spend countless hours and resources chasing highly competitive grants. But the fact is that barely 2% of the money flowing to the nonprofit sector comes from foundations. A much larger portion, over 11%, comes from individuals:

But many nonprofits don’t know how to raise money from individuals. For them, it seems somehow easier to research foundation guidelines, put together a proposal that answers each question, and hope for the best. But individual donor fundraising can help diversify a nonprofit’s funding picture, and major donor fundraising in particular, which requires a one-on-one relationship building mode,l can be a great way to systematically expand a nonprofit’s network and funding. It is also the highest and best use of a board member’s fundraising time.

To help nonprofits understand individual donor fundraising and how to get moving in that direction, the next webinar in our ongoing Financing Not Fundraising webinar series focuses on how to bring individual donors in the door.

The Finding Individual Donors webinar will give you tools and strategies to:

  • Understand the differences between smaller donor fundraising and major donor fundraising
  • Define a major gift for your organization
  • Use social media to connect with individual supporters
  • Create events that resonate with individual donors
  • Identify prospects
  • Engage your board in individual donor fundraising
  • Create a system for engaging individual donors
  • Launch a major donor campaign
  • Break an individual donor dollar goal into pieces to make the goal achievable

And much more.

If you want to attract individual contributors to your nonprofit, but don’t know how to get started, or if you would like to expand the individual donors you already have, this webinar will show you how.


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When Fundraising Goes Right, Really Right

Earlier this week I wrote about a national nonprofit that continues to send me fundraising appeals, even though I have been lapsed for 11 years. A reader of the post on the Social Velocity Facebook page raised a great question: “I would love to know how this nonprofit could have turned you into a donor…step by step?” So this post outlines what my nonprofit stalker could have done differently to keep and upgrade me as a donor. However, since my initial contact with the nonprofit was in 1998, before the advent of all of the great technology now available, I’m going to take some liberties with my approach and assume that the time is 2011 instead of 1998.

Here is what a nonprofit should do to capture the power of an individual donor:

  • Thank The Donor Quickly and Sincerely. When I gave my first $50 donation in 1998 the nonprofit sent me a nice thank you note within the week. That was a great first step. They could have done even better by sending the thank you note within 24 hours and including a quick handwritten note on the letter, but no one is perfect.

  • Get to Know Them. The organization thanked me in the way that I gave, which is great, but they could have gone so much further. They could ask me how I want to be communicated with, how else I can contribute (beyond money), how involved I want to be, what I am interested in and more. There is so much to learn from your donors.

  • Get Them Further Connected to the Organization. They could send me to their website and blog for regular updates on their activities. They could invite me to an upcoming friend-raiser event to help me see their work in action. They could invite me to volunteer for the organization. They could send me to their Facebook and Twitter pages and ask me to follow them. This nonprofit’s mistake was to view me only as a source of money, not as a potential partner in their work.

  • Renew Them. The one thing my nonprofit stalker did correctly was to work to renew me (although they were overzealous about it). I am shocked by how many nonprofits let their donors lapse every year simply because the nonprofit doesn’t have a system to track and send renewals. However, don’t take the drive to renew as far as this nonprofit did. Give renewal a few tries and if the donor doesn’t bite, let them go. Please.

  • Analyze and Upgrade Them. After I gave two years in a row, this nonprofit should have done a quick analysis to determine if I had the capacity to increase my giving level.  I did have the capacity to upgrade, but of course I never did because no one invested me in the organization or asked me to give more. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is holding a fascinating webinar today on just this topic called Data-Driven Donor Management.

  • Ask Them to Do More. Once donors have become invested in the organization and feel connected to it, ask them to do more. Yes, occasionally ask them to give more, but also ask them to spread the word, become an advocate for your organization, get their friends involved, ask their friends to give and volunteer and advocate for you, and so on. And solicit and listen to their ideas for how they can help you expand your network. Think of each of your donors as an entree to a wider network. Each donor has the potential to exponentially expand your work. Tap into that opportunity.

So that’s a start. A nonprofit must thank, get to know, invest, analyze, renew and upgrade, and further tap into people who raise their hand to say they believe in the organization enough to write a check. Individual donors are an enormous opportunity for nonprofit organizations. And not because of a single check they write, but because of the long-term investment, passion, network and commitment they can bring to your cause. Don’t let that slip away.

Photo Credit: Simo

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