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Have we been thinking about donor acquisition all wrong?

3 min read

Donors are the lifeblood of any not-for-profit. Without donors and donations, charities would cease to exist and the societal issues they are addressing would worsen.

A healthy donor pipeline is crucial for organisations that want to remain sustainable. It is imperative that NFPs must continue to bring new donors into the donor pipeline to replace the potential loss of income from donors that may cease contributing.

When it comes to fundraising appeals and campaigns, a key metric used to analyse success is the number of new donors it generates. Insofar as this data point offsets a negative data point on the income side, organisations can justify a lower Return of Investment (ROI) by the number of new donors acquired.

It’s not unheard of to lose money on acquisition appeals – it’s actually quite expected with the justification being that the lifetime value of a new donor outweighs the amount it costs to acquire them.

Generally speaking, the thinking behind donor acquisition goes something like this: “The reason why this group of people have never given to us before is because they don’t really know what our organisation actually does. Hopefully by exposing them to our work they will make a financial gift to our organisation, and we can add them to our donor funnel!”

This is absolutely true – you can’t possibly expect someone to give to your organisation if they have never heard of you or don’t know what to do.

This line of thinking skips a step. It assumes that everyone who knows about us and what we do either already gives to us or has made the choice not to. As such, we need to go out and grow the pool of people that are familiar with our organisation in order to grow our pool of donors.

Every organisation will have huge segments of people that know of and support its work, yet still haven’t given. Think staff, volunteers and even beneficiaries of the organisation’s services and their family and friends. Far from being people that don’t know you, from an acquisition standing they are the lowest hanging fruit.

By assuming that the lack of a financial contribution coming from people that are involved in the organisation despite them knowing that we are constantly fundraising and in need of funding means they don’t want to, ignores the number one rule of fundraising. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Study after study shows that people only give to charity when they are asked – if this wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t really need fundraisers! Cheques would just be slipped into the office regularly, and wouldn’t that be nice!

Staff, volunteers and beneficiaries would typically be very happy to give. They are already invested in your organisation and have experienced first-hand the amazing work that it does. But like everyone else, they need to be asked. By asking, I don’t mean just including them as a segment in your next DM appeal.

Rather, they need to be asked in a way that makes them feel good about their contribution. Treat them as their own segment of individuals and give them the special attention that they crave. By asking them as a unique group, you are giving them the opportunity to further invest in an organisation that they are naturally warm towards.

Furthermore, give them the opportunity to express their reasons for giving and the opportunity to express their appreciation of the organisation.

When it comes to donor acquisition, instead of thinking about the possibilities that are ‘out there’, let’s start thinking of the possibilities that already exist ‘in here’.


Peretz Schapiro is the Managing Director of Charidy Australia and Asia-Pacific. A passionate leader who pioneered Giving Day’s across Australasia, Peretz enjoys working with causes to help them reach and exceed their financial goals.

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Peretz Schapiro is an experienced leader with a real can-do attitude. An strong entrepreneurial streak with proven results in launching successful startups. Skilled in Management, Building out teams, Sales and Fundraising, with a passion for empowering others.


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