Last week we started our list building journey by getting software in place to track donor information and identifying our donor avatars. Now we can get into the specifics of finding our donor avatars and engaging with them! If you did not see last weeks blog post, you can read it here.


Where Are They?

Now you need to look at where that ideal donor spends their time and then focus your engagement there. If, for example, your ideal donor is a female baby boomer with a college degree that is interested in engaging their local community in meaningful ways, the best way to reach them probably isn’t on Facebook. Instead, you could focus your efforts by going around to local churches and community centers and posting fliers about how your organization is offering a free training on starting community initiatives.

You could contact your local Lions/Lioness/Kiwanis/Rotary club and offer to come in and speak a bit about the organization and the service you provide to the community and ask them to come support the organization at the upcoming community day in two weeks.

This step will require some research but it is well worth the effort. If you can’t find this type of donor after really looking hard or you find them but there are literally only two in your area, then you should go back to the Ideal Donor Profile and make some edits to make it less specific or remove a criterion that limits the potential donors too much. But, before you even think about going out and making the ask, you need to figure out how you can provide value to them.


What Do They Want?

So you know who and where they are. Now you need to define your messaging to address how your organization gives them what they are looking for. We partially addressed this in the Persona Motivations portion of the Persona Profile but now we get more specific. As with the other steps, you should spend a good amount of time on this refining your message and being concise. The messaging should fit the marketing medium that you are using (posters, fliers, Facebook ads, etc.)

It is important to remember that you should not use messaging for one audience that is meant for another. Remember that each donor segment is different and each has unique motivations and quirks. One segment may be motivated by inspirational stories while sad pictures may motivate another group. Some may want to volunteer while others may want to be able to brag about how they attended your recent gala event. Again, identifying this ahead of time allows you to tailor your messaging so you can engage them much more personally, which increases your chances of getting them started in the donor stewardship process.

An excellent thing to do at this point is to test out some of your messaging with a select group of people that are closer to the organization. If a board member matches one of the donor profiles pretty closely, ask them to review the flier you made. Similarly, don’t ask someone from one profile segment to evaluate messaging meant for another profile segment.


Give Them What They Want

Once you know who they are, where they are and what they want, give it to them. If you did a thorough job thinking about and identifying the above criteria, you should have no problem getting them to engage with your organization.

There are lots of creative ways of giving them what they want. You could go do a presentation at a Lions meeting. You could put on a gala. You could do a free event in the community. You could put an article in the local newspaper with messaging that specifically targets the audience you are looking for.
This is where a lot of the fundraising ideas that work for big organizations translate to the smaller ones (just scaled down.) Your basic Google search should help you figure out creative ways to get yourself in front of your target audience.


Capture Their Information

Using software you selected in the first step, ensure that you have made it easy for your audience to give you their contact information. Put pop up forms on your website prompting people to sign up for your newsletter. Bring an iPad to a speaking engagement and ask people for their info on their way out. Ask them to find you on Facebook and join your group. Whatever it may be, make it as easy as possible to collect their information while they are still interested and motivated about what you had to say.

Again, remember your profiles. While times may be changing, it probably isn’t smart to assume that all the folks at the knitting circle will have an easy time finding your group on Facebook.

During this process data collection process, be sure to ask questions that make it easier to segment your contact groups. Give them the option of selecting if they want to volunteer, donate, serve on a committee, and other. The more info that you can get, the more you can understand what their profile really looks like, rather than what you set out to find. (remember that your profile you created was based on what you wanted, not what you are getting.)


Engage and Steward Them

Now we get to the part where most articles start. You have a list of potential donors and people that are interested in engaging with your organization. I would recommend looking first at how to engage your constituent group before you ask them to donate. While they are interested in the organization, they may not be at the point yet where they feel connected or comfortable enough with the organizations mission to donate. Some of the ways you can facilitate that connection is by:

  • Showing your impact in bite size chunks on social media
  • Sending out a monthly newsletter
  • Offering opportunities to volunteer on social media or via email
  • Setting up activities for your potential donors and your beneficiaries to interact (food drives, park clean up, gala, etc.)



As I always say, evaluation is one of the most important things a nonprofit can do, especially when they are starting out. Problems that go unresolved now can become major organizational problems that require lots of effort to fix later. But, in the context of this article, I am talking about reevaluating donor profiles.

The segment you set out to find may not be the segment that you attracted or may no longer reflect the profile you initially created. For example, you may have set out to attract cat lovers with your messaging but you somehow gathered more dog people. It wouldn’t be smart to keep sending cat themed newsletters to the whole group. Rather, you could split that segment and send dog themed newsletters to the dog lovers and keep the cats for the cat people.

As such, in order to continue to create content that engages them in a meaningful way, you need to update your donor profiles (usually every year if not sooner, especially if you just gathered a bunch of new contacts). You can use feedback you receive (like using A/B testing) to determine which messaging works best for that segment. It’s also important to remember that, as your profiles change, you don’t forget about the donors you already have. There are plenty of articles about keeping donors while gaining new ones as well.


Whats Next?

And there you go! You are caught up with where most other articles and advice assume you should already be! If you want to learn how to apply the content we just covered to your organization, I highly encourage you to take the 14 Day Donor List Challenge, where you will learn how to build avatar profiles, find them in real life, implement the technology to collect their information, and provide value they will use in exchange for their contact information or donation.

Build Your Donor List, No Matter Where You Are In The Process

Brandon Reed

Founder at Reed Community Consulting and NPO.lib

Brandon helps people help other people. He has over 10 years experience working with small and medium-sized nonprofits in two countries in many different sectors. He has worked at all levels of organization from entry-level service delivery up to the executive director and board president. This experience affords him insight for whole level management of an organization, which he transfers to his clients. In his free time, he likes to play volleyball and spend time gardening with his wife and dog.

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