find new donors

I hear it all the time – Where do I find new donors? Is there a list somewhere?

Ha ha. Uh, no.

There’s no magic pill you can take that will somehow attract rich people to your cause like moths to a flame.

That would be cool if it were real.

But it doesn’t work that way.

Yet, there are some proven techniques for finding people who love your nonprofit’s work and want to see you succeed.

And building a big, loyal donor base is one of the smartest things you can do, especially if you’re trying to fully fund your budget this year.

So, where do you start to find new donors?

Go Fishing Where the Fish Are

If you’re like most professional fundraisers, you have more on your plate than you can get done in a day.

Which means you need to be smart about how you use your time and energy.

You can’t afford to waste them throwing spaghetti at the wall, hoping something sticks.

You also can’t afford to use HOPE as a strategy…

…you hope people will find your nonprofit and decide to give.

…you hope they give big.

You probably already know this, but let me make it clear: Hope is not a strategy.

Growing a donor base requires an ongoing, consistent effort to find the right people and invite them to give.

That means you can’t wait for people to find you – you need to find them.

You need your Donor Prospect Radar on all the time.

Every time you meet someone, it’s an opportunity to make a new friend for the organization. And maybe turn that new friend into a first-time donor.

Look, start by understanding that not everyone will give to your organization, and that’s okay. So, don’t even think that everyone should or will give.

Some people don’t give to charity (gasp!) and others have their favorite cause, which may not be yours.

You need to look for people who love your mission but haven’t given yet or who love your cause but haven’t met your nonprofit yet.

In other words, they love the idea of the work you’re doing, but don’t know your nonprofit is there.

Make sense?

Finding these people is the fastest way to grow your donor base.

Avoid the “Rich People” Trap

find new donors

Many nonprofit folks want to go find the “rich people” in town to ask them to give.

Big mistake.

If you’re looking for rich people, that tells me you care more about the money than the donor, and my friend, that is BACKWARD!

To be wildly successful at fundraising and fully fund your budget, you need to value your donors as partners.

It’s like this: the goose is more valuable than the golden eggs she lays.

Get it?

Your nonprofit’s donors are valuable for the donations they make now and all the future ones they’ll make, too.

So, instead of looking for rich people, look for people who LOVE your organization’s mission and want to see you be successful.

They’ll support you more enthusiastically, anyway.

Here’s some truth about “rich people:”

Just because people have money doesn’t mean they’ll give it to you. Their wealth isn’t any indication of their generosity. 

So, getting a donation is more about telling a compelling story than targeting people with deep pockets.

Chasing “rich people” will likely result in disappointment and frustration. Trust me, there are better, more effective ways to find new donors!

Be Strategic to Find New Donors

When you start looking for new donors, look for people with a connection to your mission.

Connection is the most important motivator for giving.

That connection could be their relationship with you personally or with someone who is part of your organization, like a Board member, volunteer, or program participant.

The connection could be that they once used your programs or know someone who has.

Or the connection could be that they care deeply about your cause.

To start finding donors, think of your organization as a bullseye on a dart board.

find new donors

Start in the middle and work your way out.

The solid middle circle is made up of your nonprofit’s family: you, your Board, your volunteers, and your current supporters. These people are already invested in your mission and care the most about your work.

So, make sure you’re asking all of them to give financially, even if they’re already giving their time or stuff or services.

Next, go one circle out.

Here’s where you find people who have interacted with your nonprofit (or have a connection to your nonprofit) but haven’t given yet – friends of Board members and volunteers, people who have attended events but not become donors, followers on social media who haven’t yet given, people who have shopped in your thrift store, vendors, and anyone else who has had an experience with your nonprofit but hasn’t yet made a donation.

Maybe they haven’t given because they haven’t been asked. Or maybe they don’t see the connection between their donation and making a difference in someone’s life.

Use your Core Number to make a compelling Ask that motivates people to give.

And definitely Ask. This ring on the bullseye is full of people who are very likely to give if properly inspired.

The next circle out is where you’ll find people who care about your cause but don’t know about your nonprofit yet.

For example, they care about the issue of hunger, but don’t know anything about your food pantry.

Finding these people is actually easier than you might think once you have your Ideal Donor Profile nailed down.

Find New Donors with an Ideal Donor Profile

Ok, hang on, because this is an old marketing tool called an avatar that I’ve adapted for fundraising.

An Ideal Donor Profile identifies the top psychographics and demographics of your best donor, so that you can go find more people just like them.

For example, if you knew which radio station your best donors listened to, you could partner with that station on a promotion and easily reach more people who would most likely support your nonprofit’s work.

You could easily get in front of ideal prospects without wasting a ton of money or time.

The good news is that figuring out your Ideal Donor Profile isn’t complicated or hard.

Here’s what you do:

Sit down with a blank piece of paper and think about your best donors. These can be donors who give large amounts, donors who’ve given consistently over the years, or just donors you know something about.

If you can only think of one or two, it’s ok. Use them for this exercise.

Now, jot down their names and what they have in common. Think about

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Education
  • Values
  • Interests
  • Hobbies
  • Anything else you can think of

The more details you come up with, the better your profile will be.

If you can get at least 3-5 things, that’s a great start.

Don’t get hung up on trying to get this right. Perfection won’t help you here. Just see what you can confidently come up with and work with it.

Once you have your notes for each donor, circle what they have in common. Those are the characteristics you’re looking for in a new donor prospect!

When I worked at the food bank, I did this exercise. I didn’t know many of our donors, so I used what I knew about the ones I could think of. It wasn’t perfect or scientific, but it was good enough. Some of the donors I thought about were our biggest donors and some gave smaller amounts consistently. By the way, those are both indicators of donor loyalty!

Here’s what I figured out about my donors:

  • Women
  • Age 55-70
  • College educated
  • Attended church services regularly
  • Volunteered in the community

I looked at that list and said “where can I go find more people just like that?”

If you’re already thinking “women’s groups in churches,” that’s what I thought, too!

I started asking around to see who belonged to a women’s group where I could go speak, and got several leads. I put together a hot presentation with a clear call to action, and off I went!

I remember at one church, almost everyone in the room signed up to hear more about our work and how they could get involved (in other words, they signed up for my newsletter list!). Several ladies handed me a check or cash before I left, and a few days later, I got a check from the group as a whole.

Nice right? And what a great result from a less-than-perfect study of my donors!

Looking for ideal donors this way is much smarter than looking for “rich people,” which is how many nonprofits do it (but they usually don’t have much luck).

Want to Find 100 New Donors in 100 Days?

EVERY small nonprofit needs more donors. I can’t think of a single one that I know that has plenty of supporters!

We encourage people to build their donor base to at least 1,000 donors to start.

If you already have more than that, add another 1,000.

If 1,000 seems overwhelming, start by adding 100 new donors.

It CAN be done, and here’s how.

Starting in the center of your bullseye, talk to at least one person every day who hasn’t yet given and invite them to give.

That can be an in-person conversation, a Zoom conversation, a note, an email, or messaging someone personally.

The important point is that you connect personally with that one person and you ask them to give.

That means you can’t just make a blanket post on Facebook and call it done.

One of the biggest reasons why people give is because someone asked. And if the person is your friend, there’s more strength powering your Ask. So Ask because you’ll probably hear “yes.”

When you’ve talked to everyone in your center circle, move to the next circle out.

If you can talk to 2 or 3 people a day, great. If you can speak to a group of your Ideal Donor Prospects, perfect.

Just focus on finding one new person to say “yes” every day and ask them to support your nonprofit’s work.

If you’re consistent over the 100 days and keep your donor radar on, you’ll find a lot of new donors and build your donor base FAST.

If you’re still scratching your head trying to figure out where to find new donors, here’s a list to get you started:

  • People on your mailing list who haven’t yet given
  • People you met at program-related or volunteer recruitment events who haven’t given
  • Vendors (people you spend money with)
  • People in your contacts list on your phone
  • People in your Outlook/Gmail contact list
  • LinkedIn connections
  • Facebook connections
  • People you go to church with
  • People you sit on committees with
  • People you went to school with
  • People in your _____ group/club (yoga, hiking, painting, etc.)

By the way, if you want to figure out exactly how big of a donor base you should have, I explain how to calculate the number of new donors you need here.

The Bottom Line

A big, loyal donor base gives you sustainable support for your nonprofit.

After all, the more people you have giving, the more money you can raise, the more buzz you can create, and the more good you can do.


  • Fish where the fish are.
  • Remember that not everyone will support your nonprofit so target Ideal Donor Prospects.
  • Don’t chase “rich people.”

In short, be strategic and consistent about finding new donors. Make finding new donors part of your annual fundraising plan.

Because the more you work on finding new donors, the easier it will get and the better you’ll get at it.

And a bigger donor base means more funding for your programs so you can change more lives. That’s what we’re here for after all.