Getting Started with Donor Development

Getting Started with Donor Development

In the world of fundraising, timing is everything. That is why it's important to have a donor development plan in place to better understand your donors, when to reach out, how they prefer to be contacted, and how often they want to engage with your organization.

Last week we hosted a webinar with Eddie Allen, Principal of Pacific Northwest Fundraising. In this webinar he shared insights into how to invest resources in an ongoing, thoughtful effort to cultivate and contact donors.

How can you use this to your fundraising advantage?

Watch the recording On-Demand


Here's our cliff-notes version: Special event fundraising costs you fifty cents on the dollar, and even more when you account for staff salaries and time.

You lose money, more often than not, on mail donor acquisition.

Don’t just hope the right donors come to your big, annual event.

Your nonprofit gets the best ROI when you invest resources into an ongoing, thoughtful effort to cultivate and contact donors.

How to start donor development

1. Database management

The foundation of any donor development plan is an organized and well-managed database. When you have a database full of actionable information it can give you the tools and insights necessary to make the right decisions for your organization.

2. How to identify key donors in your database

Knowing which donors to cultivate is equally, if not more important, that cultivating donors in general. In this webinar, we’re going to explore what to do with three main donor categories:

  1. Donors who gave 80% of your funds over the last 12-24 months
  2. Donors who gave 20% of your funds over the last 12-24 months
  3. Donors who gave 0% of your funds over the last 12-24 months

The majority of your fundraising efforts should be aimed at the top group here.

Spend time using the data in your donor database to more deeply understand this segment of your donors.

What gets them to give?

Is there an aspect of your organization that speaks most to them?

How did they find you?

There is so much you can learn about growing your organization by studying this segment.

3. What to do with your donor database

We touched on this briefly at the end of the last section but once you’ve found your top group you want to identify who they are.

Look at:

  • age,
  • gender,
  • profession, and
  • other demographic characteristics.


"It takes multiple touchpoints to convert a donor"

Touches refer to things like newsletters, special announcements, blog posts (like this one!) to lead to a major donation.

What “organizational touches” are you using?

Watch the webinar recording to learn more about organizational touches.

There you have it! Sounds easy, right?  

Getting started with donor development, and mastering how to better manage your database will help you better strategize your outreach, improve your communication with those who support your organization and give you a more fruitful relationship with ALL of your donors.