Getting Your Next 1,000 Donors

March 22, 2017

Guest Blog by Rob Leighton, Executive Director, iMission Institute

Could your nonprofit use a rapidly growing list of new donors? Of course, the answer is a resounding yes!

Your nonprofit’s ability to make our world a fairer, healthier and more humane place can be turbo-charged by a growing list of new donors. Donor power goes beyond an individual’s ability to give. Each supporter connects to a wide network of friends, colleagues and family members, opening doors to many more supporters.

New Economics of New Donor Acquisition


The good news is that technology is changing the economics of new donor acquisition. Today, even small nonprofits are launching new donor acquisition campaigns once accessible only to the largest organizations. Nonprofits using an engagement funnel strategy achieve the greatest success.

While technology powered, the engagement funnel strategy is rooted in a natural and time-tested relationship-building approach. It’s a lot like online dating. Online, people can quickly, cheaply and safely discover those who share their interests. A friendship may stay online with emails,

and social networking, but when the circumstances are right and things move offline, the relationship deepens.

The Engagement Funnel follows the same natural progression, but with one important distinction. With online dating, the goal is a long-term relationship with one life-long partner. With online donor engagement, nonprofits are seeking long-term relationships with thousands of supporters.

The engagement funnel strategy follows a proven three-step process:

  1. Connecting around their interests – In large numbers, people with interest in your mission, programs, and services can be actively brought into your online community. These are people who genuinely care about your nonprofit’s mission, but they don’t yet know about your organization. Using the engagement funnel, a large number of these online visitors can be converted to donor prospects – people who give you their contact information. Nonprofits are providing value-added reasons to opt-in and become prospects. These include webinars, petitions,

    and contests. 

  2. Branding as relationship building – Nonprofit branding is the process that moves potential donors to active, long-term supporters. Like relationship building, branding is a process that builds trust, confidence, and appreciation for your nonprofit. Your brand encourages somebody to support your nonprofit over one of the hundreds of others in your community. It goes way beyond the logo, the tagline, and the well-told story. With a prospect’s contact information, your nonprofit can proactively and cost-effectively promote your brand (no big ad budget needed!).

  3. Crafting The Asks “We’ve done good, so please give” – that’s the short description for many nonprofit annual appeals. It can work with people who have routinely given to your nonprofit in the past. Success in acquiring new donors demands a different kind of ask. These are “asks” that explicitly show how a donor’s gift – even a small gift – makes a clear and meaningful impact on creating a better world.

With a technology-powered engagement funnel, even small nonprofits are building large lists of potential donors. A well-crafted ask will encourage many of donor prospects to make a small gift to your organization. That’s the power that drives crowdfunding. But remember, from the little acorn, the mighty oak tree grows. Your next wave of major donors will be found in your growing list of prospects and small donors.


The one-day workshop, Getting Your Next 1000 Donors, provides 1) the strategic framework – the engagement funnel – for discovering the people most likely to engage with your nonprofit; and 2) the step-by-step process that moves many to become your next wave of donors. With course materials and worksheets, you’ll have what you need to jump-start your new donor campaign. Register now for the one-day workshop. 

If you are looking for additional support to work through each step, you can sign-up for a 10-week online course that includes on-demand videos to fit your schedule. Online office hours with the trainer are available to ensure your success.


 blended learning opportunity is offered by Maryland Nonprofits in partnership with the iMission Institute. Earn as many as 12 CFRE continuing education credits! Appropriate for executive directors, board leaders, development, communications and advocacy staff – cross-functional teams encouraged.
Register here.