a donor acquisition recipe that works

cooking with a recipeDo you struggle to acquire new donors? If you do, you’re not alone. For many, many nonprofits and ministries, it’s a real challenge to acquire new donors.

Traditional donor acquisition remains expensive. Plus, traditional direct mail results for donor acquisition aren’t what they used to be in the “good old days” (that’s about 4 years ago). Smaller organizations really struggle to find the budget to deploy new donor acquisition strategies.

Are you looking for an easy, non-budget busting donor acquisition strategy that you can do this week?

Well I have just what you’re looking for.

First, before I tell you about the strategy, I want you to understand this principle: “people cook from recipes.”

I got that idea from my buddy Chris Brogan. I’ve interacted with Chris a bunch in the last 6 months or so. He’s a genius and is making things happen on the for-profit side of the fence. (Fair warning, Chris is great but my mom wouldn’t be happy about some of his word choices, if you get my drift. At any rate, he’s worth checking out because he’s the real deal.) I also should say that may not even be a direct quote, but it’s a “direct idea.”

Back to “cooking with recipes.” That means, if you want a donor to do something, you have to give them the “recipe” or the steps. Got it? It’s easy, but most people don’t do it.

OK, here’s a great idea that you can do on a budget of any size.

Our friend, Peter Drury, over at Splash sent me an email Saturday morning.

The email’s subject line was: Please do NOT give to Splash on May 15!

Peter is our friend who’s the Development Director over at Splash, a great nonprofit that provides clean drinking water.

Here’s the body of the email from Peter:

That’s right. If you have already given to Splash, we don’t want to ask you for money again. Here’s what we want you to do instead (which is even more important).


Paste this into subject line: You are the smartest person I know!

Paste this into the body:

Dear [Name],

I’m sending this message today to:

1. Tell you how I know you are so smart:

[YOUR TEXT HERE. Example: Remember when you told me not to marry that awful guy? You saved me!]

2. Ask you to please donate to Splash through this link on May 15, because on this one day, for 24 hours only, your gift will be “stretched” to become even larger. (Why Splash? Watch this video.)

3. Tell you that if you do this for me, then you are smart enough to know that I owe you one!

Much love,

[Your Name]

With your help, we hope to raise some much needed funds, but more importantly, find more smart people like you who want to make a real, lasting difference in the health and lives of children with clean, safe water.

A couple of pieces of information to help you get what Peter is up to.

May 15 is the Give Big Day here in the Seattle area. The Seattle Foundation has a cool matching program for gifts given to selected nonprofits and charities on the 15th. It functions like a matching gift for Seattle area nonprofits.

What Peter is doing is tapping a list of donors, asking them to connect their friends to his cause at a time when their gift will be stretched (increased) by the Foundation). Most importantly, he gave them a recipe. He very specifically tells step-by-step how to help.

There are a couple of things that he doesn’t do that I’d recommend doing (like: call me by name in his email) and I’d probably do a copy tweak or two, but don’t sweat that. Notice his genius: a specific step-by-step way to help.

Pretty cool, huh? This is a version of a strategy we teach our small consulting clients. Peter has a great spin on it.

A couple of thoughts about how you might use this idea:

This works best in the “e” space or as a digital strategy. You can do similar strategies with “ink on paper” and postage or on the phone but if you do that you’ll start spending money quickly and your results will decrease. Email is the way to go. (Here’s yet another reason why I’ve been preaching about the value and equity inherent in your email list.)

This works best with a deadline. You have to give people a reason to do it now. If you don’t, most of us will decide to “do it later” which in real life means “never.”

This works best with a match or stretch.  Potential new donors (and those of us telling our friends about our favorite causes) will react best when our gift is multiplied in some way.

This works best when it remains really, really simple. Make it, like Peter did, fool proof. Peter gives me what to write, where to put my name, etc. But I would suggest making it even more simple. Lindsey and I discussed this, and decided we’d recommend you ask for your donor to send only 5 emails.  5 is easy. 10 is less easy. You want, EASY.

This works best when you don’t have to deliver all the information in the message. You’ll want to send people to very specific landing pages as Peter does (or better yet a microsite). That will allow you to keep your message simple and clean while giving potential donors all the necessary info. The advantage of specific landing pages or microsites is that unlike your primary web page, all the info the prospective donor needs is right there in the email with fewer rabbit trails or distractions.

Pretty nifty, huh?

You can use this principle for your nonprofit, your church, your new book, your new speaking course, your new whatever. If you’re not into donor acquisition, think “audience building,” the recipe works.

Give them a recipe.

Go ahead give it a shot.

Before I forget, if you found this helpful, you might want to email 5 friends, using this link to tell them about the idea and about our blog.

You might say: “Wow, what a great donor acquisition idea from the Oneicity blog.”

Or: “Steve Thomas, at Oneicity, swiped a great donor acquisition recipe from his friend.” (Peter would love that one!)

Or: “Oneicity has a great audience building idea you should check out.”

Of course, you could grab this and tweet it.

And because it’s important, if you’re not signed up for our
you should. I save our very best stuff for the newsletter. I think you’ll enjoy it.

You get the idea and the recipe.

So, what do you think? Do you love Peter’s recipe as much as I do? How are you going to try your version? I’d love to know what you think. Oh, and give Peter a shout-out for his great idea.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: USArmyAfrica)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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