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The BEST way to find new donors for your nonprofit

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… 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, especially if you’re trying to fully fund your budget this year.

So, where do you start?

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.

You’re using Hope as a strategy – you hope people will decide to give to your organization. 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. I tell folks they need their Donor Prospect Radar up all the time.

Every time you meet someone, it’s an opportunity to make a new friend for the organization.

First, understand that not everyone will give to your organization, and that’s okay. So, don’t think that everyone should or will give. Some people don’t give to charity (gasp!) and others have their favorites.

You need to look for people who love your cause but haven’t met you yet.

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.

Start by creating an Ideal Donor Profile to give you an idea of exactly who you’re looking for.

Ideal Donor Profile

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.

Think about it: if you knew a few key details of your best donors, wouldn’t it make donor acquisition a lot easier?

For example, if you knew which radio station your best donors listened to, you could partner with that station on a project and easily reach people who would likely support you. You could easily get in front of ideal prospects without wasting a ton of money.

It’s not complicated or hard to figure out.

Try this:

Sit down with a blank piece of paper and think about your top donors. Jot down their names and notes about what they have in common. Think about their age, their sex, their education, and whatever else you can think of. Write each one down.

If you can get at least 3-5 things, this will help.

Don’t get hung up on trying to get this right. Perfection won’t help you here. Just get what you can and you’ll be fine.

When I worked at the food bank, I did this exercise and it was far less than perfect. It was also very unscientific. I just thought about some of our best donors – the ones I knew something about (which wasn’t really that many). Some of them were our biggest donors and some weren’t, but they were consistent in their giving and often sent words of encouragement with their check.

Here’s what I figured out about them:

  • Women
  • Aged 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?”

After thinking a bit, it occurred to me that women’s groups at churches might be a place where I could find ideal donors easily and in large numbers. 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 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.

Avoid the “Rich People” trap

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

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!

If you want 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 donor is valuable for the donation 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. And most people have their favorite causes already. If yours isn’t their favorite cause, your chances of getting a gift aren’t good.

So, chasing “rich people” will likely result in disappointment and frustration.

Be strategic about finding new donors

Let’s review:

  • Fish where the fish are
  • Not everyone will support your nonprofit so find Ideal Donor Prospects
  • Don’t chase “rich people”

In short, be strategic about finding new donors.

Being strategic about finding new donors can save you a lot of time and trouble, and bring you donors who will stick around a long time.

Check out this video where I explain more about where to find new donors.

More resources for finding new donors:

Marc Pitman at www.FundraisingCoach.com has some great tips from 11 experts for finding new donors.

Joe Garecht at www.TheFundraisingAuthority.com offers some great insight for finding new donor prospects.

And here’s an article I wrote on how to calculate the number of new donors you need.

By | 2019-05-21T02:21:23+00:00 January 31st, 2017|Building donor relationships, Finding new donors|7 Comments

About the Author:

Sandy shows Founders and leaders of small nonprofits how to fully fund their big vision so they can spend their time changing lives instead of worrying about money. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to mastering donor-based fundraising, inspiring their donors to give often and give big.   Learn how to raise the money you need to fund your new nonprofit without begging, doing without, or paying out of your own pocket.   Click here to download our free ebook Fund Your Dream.


  1. Dave Evans September 20, 2017 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    Thank you Sandy, I’m glad to see that someone finally said this out loud. Furthermore, I know well to do people who want to support a cause but do it anonymously and never show up at events because they don’t enjoy feeling like a target.

    People aren’t stupid, they see through all the sucking up and the sicky sweet attention, all based on their perceived net worth

  2. Leann Wessinger October 6, 2018 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    Very good site you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics talked about in this article? I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get advice from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Cheers!

  3. Keshab December 21, 2018 at 10:59 am - Reply

    I am working for a charity in Nepal that helps to make differences in poor children’s lives and livelihood. I am clueless on finding donors to support this great cause. Website of the charity is http://www.butterflyfoundation.org
    Please share some ideas.

  4. Antonio Ngovene junior April 27, 2019 at 10:25 am - Reply

    its helpful

  5. […] you’re clear, choose a strategy that will play to your personal strengths, appeal to your ideal donor prospects, and meet your revenue goals. In short, don’t try raising money the same way that the nonprofit […]

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