Three Ways to Grow Your Nonprofit List

One of the themes that has been popular among fundraising writers and researchers over the past couple of years has been to concentrate on renewing support from current donors. It is, after all, much more cost-effective to renew a gift rather than asking for a first-time gift. But while that is good practice and cost-effective, renewing supporting should not be at the exclusion of identifying new potential supporters.

Why is that? Primarily, some of your supporters may move from the area, lose interest in your cause or be no longer able to support your organization for another reason. There needs to be a plan to replace those donors in order to continue having a strong base of supporters. And if your donor pool is small or nonexistent to begin with you’ll need to develop current – and future – donors.

The traditional donor pyramid started with first-time donors. I propose that the first level should be changed to people who are interested in learning more about your organization. Historically, organizations could, in a fairly cost effective manner, acquire new donors through direct mail and phone solicitations. Both of those strategies are becoming more costly. By building your own, in-house list, you’ll be sending appeals (whether via email, postal mail or other method) to people who are already at least somewhat interested.

Here are the three basic categories of activities I’ve identified that can help you develop a list of people who are interested in hearing from you:

  • First, traditional methods. That can include speaking, networking, sending out press releases (and other public relations activities), and advertising. But it’s not about those activities alone – it’s about inviting people that you’re meeting to stay in contact. It’s no longer enough to hand out our information and hope they reach out to us, we need to immediately ask for permission to stay in contact with them. Instead of inviting people to visit your webpage when they get back to their office, ask for their contact information so that you can follow up with them.
  • Next, online and social media activities. Things like optimizing your webpage (SEO or Search Engine Optimization) so that your organization shows up when someone in your community searches for information about the issue you’re addressing. Twitter (and LinkedIn for that matter), used correctly, can be another great way of finding those prospects. And while building ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ is a great thing to do, there’s no replacement to growing your own in-house list. To do that, you’ll want to add a sign-up box on your webpage. Don’t forget to build a way to follow-up with people.
  • And the last category – partnerships. Too often in the nonprofit world we see all other organizations as competition. If there are other agencies in your community that address the same issue you’re addressing (and are complementary), reach out to them and try to identify ways you can work together. Perhaps you can do some joint events for the community, provide guest posts for each other or promote events for each other.

What do you think? What do you have to add?

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