The key to long-term, sustainable fundraising is having a big donor base of people who WANT to support your nonprofit’s mission.
But when you’re new (or newish) to fundraising, it can be tricky to find ideal new donors.
Not just any donor will do – you want people who love your nonprofit’s mission and want to see you win. You need people who WANT to be part of your success and they’ll gladly give to help make it happen.
You see, if someone gives a donation then never gives again, they’re not really a donor. If they bought something (event ticket, calendar, T-shirt, etc.), they’re a customer, not a donor. And if you’re always looking for people for those transactional donations, you have a very long road ahead. It’s a treadmill of ‘churn and burn’ where you’re always looking for the next person to give you money, which usually leads to desperation at some point. Yuck.
Instead, focus on donor-based fundraising, where people give because they love your mission. Focus on caring about the donor’s experience giving to you. Help them feel good and feel part of your nonprofit’s work.
THAT’S where the magic happens.
When you have a big, loyal donor base, you’ll never feel desperate for money because your donors will support you with their time, money, and other resources. You’ll know they have your back and that they’ll give when you ask, because they want to give to something that matters to them.
It can take a while to grow a big, loyal donor base, but trust me, it’s worth it.
Here are 10 weird things that happen when you grow your donor base.
1. Your budget has more black than red. The more ideal donors you have, the more revenue you’ll have. Ideal donors give because they care, which means frequent gifts are common. My client Becky has found that the more donors she has, the more money she raises when she showcases the work her program is doing. She’s learned that her donors want to know how things are going, and when she keeps them in the loop with simple stories, updates, and video, they give more often.
2. Major donors show up. The more donors you have, the more big donations will bubble up from the crowd. It’s a matter of math: if your major donors are 10% of your overall donor base, then the bigger the donor base, the more major donors.
I once received a $10,000 check through the mail from a donor and it blew my socks off! I had to stare at it for several seconds to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. I picked up the phone immediately to call the lady to thank her, and to ask her what prompted the huge donation. She told me her parents had recently passed and left her some money, and she wanted to give some to us because she knew what good work we did (apparently, she READ the newsletters I’d been sending out!). It was AWESOME to have a donor affirm our work in such a big way.
3. Monthly donors will show up. The more donors you have, the more people who will ask you how they can give monthly. It’s weird when you get a call or an email from someone wanting to set up a recurring donation, especially if you don’t yet have a monthly giving program. By the way, this is the reason I set up my first monthly giving program – because a donor asked for it.
4. Your volunteer pool will grow. As your donor family grows, you’ll start to get calls and emails from people wanting to get more involved. Lots of folks tend to want to volunteer where they donate. So be ready to offer them ways to plug in.
5. Revenue becomes more predictable. The bigger your donor base, the more predictable revenue becomes. You have a group now and not just a few scattered donors, so even when everyone doesn’t give, there are enough people still giving that revenue from appeals is consistent. Their history of giving will give you insight and certainty about how they’ll give in the future.
6. Event tickets are easier to sell. The more people you have in your donor family, the easier everything gets, including selling tickets to your annual signature event. Remember that these folks WANT to see you win, and even though all of them may not want to attend your event, you’ll have enough that ticket sales will be easier than ever before.
7. Your social media following will grow.The more donors you have, the more followers you have. When you have the right donors – those who are emotionally invested in your cause – they’ll want to see what’s happening regularly and will follow you on social media for updates. This is why having a plan for social media is so important – it may be the main source of information for some of your donors.
8. Your donor base growth starts to snowball. Building a donor base is like building a huge snowball – you have to work hard at first to get it started, then the more you push it around the yard, the more snow it picks up and the faster it grows. Donors start to bring their friends with them to your events and open house. They share your social media posts with friends. They forward your emails to their contacts. Finding and caring for new donors becomes a part of your fundraising culture and it takes on a life of its own.
9. You sleep better. With a big, loyal donor base and more predictable revenue, you worry less and sleep better at night. Your stress level goes down because you KNOW your donors are there to support your nonprofit’s work and with consistent income, there’s less to worry about.
10. You care about your donors. When you work hard to grow your donor base, you start to care about them as people and not just checkbooks for your nonprofit. You want them to experience the joy of giving. You start to develop real friendships with them, not just stiff relationships based on the possibility of a donation. You truly value them, you care what they think, and you want them to be proud of their affiliation with your nonprofit.
When building your donor base, the most bizarre thing is that you learn to focus on quality over quantity. Yes, you need lots of donors. But if they aren’t committed to your cause, they won’t stick around.
Building your donor base with Ideal Donors is what creates sustainable, predictable revenue and lets you confidently grow your nonprofit, ultimately delivering your mission and changing more lives.