Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 29 seconds

Building Your Donor Database

It’s neither a secret nor a surprise that donations are down and need is up in this battered economy. Qualified donor lists are more valuable than ever but they are shrinking in terms of donor numbers and average donations. The usual barrage of donor solicitations is fizzling fast. To overcome these challenges, here are three productive and innovative ways to honorably build your donor lists right now:

1) Leverage the Freebies.
Become familiar with free services and learn how to use them, and then put them in play right away. One example: is a nonprofit organization that was created to provide other nonprofit organizations with free valuable technologies and resources to increase their efficiency and productivity. works with over 80 nonprofit organizations in the New York area, where they are based, and approximately 1500 total nonprofit organizations in the United States.

Google Grants and email appending are good options as are all social media. Build a Facebook page, Twitter your cause and join like-minded communities surrounding cause-related groups. For example, if you fight birth defects, actively participate online with new mother/pregnancy groups, hospital premie groups, even new bride and grandparent groups, etc. If you are an athletic nonprofit, participate in existing online communities surrounding schools, parks, alumnae associations, and so on.

All of this type activity helps you get the word out and entice qualified donors and volunteers at no cost to your nonprofit.

“For foundations, I really like NOZA's free charitable foundations search because you can save the output in a spreadsheet and further manipulate the data and because it is free,” says Margaret King, president of consulting group InfoRich.

2) Team Up with Other Groups.
One great example of unique cross-marketing teaming is the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation in Waltham, MA. The museum sought to expand its constituency in the high tech community. They came up with a monthly event at the museum called "Mass Innovation Nights."

“Starting in April we began holding monthly ‘innovation’ focused events where ten companies come and introduce new products and the guests support the local innovators by tweeting, blogging, using Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.,” explains Roberta (Bobbie) Carlton, board member of the Charles River Museum of Industry &Innovation. “Meanwhile, the museum, by serving as headquarters, suddenly has over a 1000 new buddies! How's that for building a list of potential donors?”

The group also asks for a small donation to the museum as people leave the event and gives away a two-for-one coupon in its follow-up email newsletter.

“Here are the tips -- figure out what your potential audience wants and build on that –not on what you have to sell,” advises Carlton. “Look at who the adjacent communities are comprised of and work around that. Figure out what you have to contribute to their community.”

3) Leverage Your Board.
Beyond asking your board members to actively recruit donors or provide names of prospects, consider them as new outlets for community outreach. “One method I suggest is teaming up with a financial advisor who is an expert on legacy planning and doing webinars and seminars,” says Certified Financial Planner Richard T. McCallister, CFP, CFS, of McCallister Financial Group. “The non-profit adds value to attendees by having the financial advisor speak on gifting and legacy planning issues, and adds to their donor list by reaching the financial advisor’s clients and prospects, but also adds even more new names depending on how the webinar is marketed.”

“Possibly more importantly, the non-profit’s current list of donors may be rejuvenated and introduced to new gifting and planning ideas,” he adds.

McCallister says that doing such a presentation is better suited to an in-person seminar venue, but webinars have the advantage of being less expensive and marketable to a wider audience. The portion of the non-profits current list that isn’t local could thus be reached in a way that they haven’t been touched before.

“The webinar can be recorded and placed on a website or burned to a CD for further distribution and use,” he says.

Take a good luck at your board and find other tie-ins that will help each board member and your nonprofit too!
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