Welcome to the Salsa Blog

Your Donor Acquisition Process: 5 Best Practices

There are tons of articles and information about ways to retain your donors and encourage them to keep on giving. Many of these articles claim that donor retention is much easier and more cost effective than finding brand new donors to welcome into the fold.

While these claims are true, donor acquisition is still an important piece of the nonprofit puzzle, especially for nonprofits that are just starting out and don’t have any donors to retain anyway!

Admittedly, acquisition is not as simple or quick as donor retention. But if your nonprofit wants to build strong relationships with potential and existing donors, acquisition tactics must be factored into your nonprofit’s overall strategy. 

Here are some of the best practices to help your nonprofit acquire new donors.

For more strategies, check out these top ten tips!

1. Start close to home

Think about the people that are the most dedicated to your nonprofit’s mission.

They probably aren’t random people; they’re your:

  • Board members
  • Key stakeholders
  • Employees
  • And even your volunteers!

Many nonprofit organizations conduct feasibility studies to identify their most loyal stakeholders (this is especially true when preparing for a capital campaign).

A feasibility study will enable your organization to map out its current donor population and identify individuals who are likely to support future fundraising campaigns.

In addition to pointing out potential donors, feasibility studies can:

  • Generate interest in your campaign. Since you'll be conducting interviews with major donors and loyal supporters, the feasibility study is an excellent opportunity to promote your event, excite your donors, and gauge their interest levels. 
  • Develop deeper donor relationships. You can never go wrong when you ask for your supporters' advice. By listening to their feedback, donors will see that you care about their opinions and are putting in the effort to make positive changes. Plus, it gives donors a chance to support your cause without having to pull out their wallets. 
  • Identify gaps in your nonprofit's infrastructure. When conducting a feasibility study, you have to be open to constructive criticism. Even negative feedback can be beneficial if you put effort into correcting the issue. 
  • Improve your marketability. Feasibility studies also help you understand your role in the community and your reputation. When you understand how the community perceives your organization, you'll be better equipped to craft communication strategies. 

All of those feasibility study benefits can help you connect with donors on a deeper level. 

Use the connections that your closest supporters have with their family members, friends, and colleagues to acquire new donors. The nephew of a board member or the aunt of a volunteer might want to support your cause. People within your organization can potentially make a large impact when they reach out to the people they’re closest to.

Remember to thank your team for connecting people they know to your organization. People like to feel appreciated, and your board members and employees are no exception. Send out thank you cards to show your gratitude and acknowledge the effort your team put in to help you acquire more donors.

2. Combine traditional methods with emerging technologies

Part of the reason that donor acquisition is costly is due to the fact that nonprofits have to communicate with potential donors in many different ways.

Traditional methods have relied on:

  • Word-of-mouth
  • Cold calling
  • Direct mail

These methods of reaching out eventually led to events or meetings with potential donors.

Donor Acquisition

Emerging technology-based methods utilize:

  • Social media.
  • Email campaigns.
  • Blogs and website articles.

These methods consequently drive traffic to nonprofits’ websites and online donation forms.

While both methods have their pros and cons, using them in conjunction with one another in a way that works for your organization can prove beneficial when reaching out to potential donors.

For example, you may find that communicating with older supporters through direct mail generates a greater response than if you solely focus on your online presence.

Similarly, your social media strategy should appeal to the demographics that use sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Incorporating a healthy dose of both methods will result in greater donor acquisition for your nonprofit.

3. Host events to meet potential donors

It’s easy to think of potential (and existing!) donors as no more than a name on a screen or a sheet of paper. You can remedy this distance by hosting a fundraising event!

Check out Salsa's full fundraising event list here.

When potential donors can put faces to the voices they’ve heard on the phone and the names they’ve seen at the end of emails, they are more likely to form a personal connection to your nonprofit. People respond to events that allow them to directly interact with your organization.

Additionally, you can capture potential donor information at events. Having a designated area for attendees to submit their email and regular mail addresses is a great way to communicate with potential donors after the event is over.

Once you have basic information, you can also conduct a prospect screening to learn more information about your potential and existing donors. This information can help you plan your next fundraising campaign and reach out to new donors.

4. Make the most of peak giving times

Many people enjoy giving to causes they care about. Whether it’s the tax incentive or the physiological effects, donors enjoy contributing to worthy projects.

And while many donors give at different times in the year, there are definitely specific times in the calendar year when individuals are more likely to be in charitable moods.

As the year draws to a close, most people have a firmer grasp on their financial situations and know how much money they can reasonably set aside to donate to charity. During November and December, send out year-end appeals to potential donors that you have recently started talking to. The deadline will encourage them to donate to your organization sooner rather than later.

Additionally, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, commonly known as Giving Tuesday (or #givingtuesday) can be a great opportunity to broadcast your organization’s mission to potential donors who enjoy taking part in the day dedicated to giving. You can gain more donors by effectively marketing your Giving Tuesday campaigns.

5. Look to corporate partnerships

Most corporations and businesses are looking to increase and develop their culture of social responsibility and philanthropy. Some of those companies have partnerships with nonprofit organizations and regularly donate money and time.

However, nonprofits can also find potential donors within the company walls. By promoting the organization to company employees and executive leaders, nonprofits can potentially acquire new donors as well as volunteers.

Many companies offer volunteer grant programs and matching gift programs that encourage employees to become more philanthropically minded. While most of these corporate giving programs allow employees to volunteer at and give to their preferred nonprofit, your organization can still reach out to employees who work for your corporate partners and educate them about your specific projects and events.


Donor acquisition isn’t a one-and-done process and is constantly evolving, but with careful planning and execution, your nonprofit can reap the benefits of having new donors. There are many other ways to acquire new donors. This list is by no means comprehensive, and your organization should use each of these tips in conjunction with one another in order to find the best method of acquiring donors for your nonprofit.

Topics: Supporter Management Strategy