Fundraising & Development

Why donor outreach is vital to nonprofit marketing success

April 7, 2021 Nonprofits Decoded Team
Donor Outreach meeting

Donor outreach and donor retention efforts support your marketing strategy and your nonprofit brand development. Find out how to use these tactics to grow your organization’s fundraising and to set better goals for future success.

Why does my organization need an outreach strategy?

Your donors are people who support your cause enough to give you their hard-earned money. They are in tune with your vision and are the bedrock upon which you’ve built your company. Without active donors, your organization cannot sustain itself. They are critical to your company’s success!

Staying in touch with your donors allows you to generate feedback and increase donor participation and engagement which will lead to more donations over time and larger donations in general. Lifelong donors and major donors are hard to find, and rarely just appear. They are usually created with a solid donor outreach strategy.

With the correct strategy, you will increase donations, and gain insights into your company and mission from people who are dedicated to your cause. These insights can be invaluable and lead to fundraising avenues you may not have considered previously.

What is required for an effective donor outreach plan?

The overall goal of the donor outreach plan is simple. Get in touch with your donors and offer them a chance to donate, or voice their opinions and thoughts.

So, how do we start on this process?

Step 1: Set an outreach goal, and a donation goal

To start making a donor outreach plan, you first need to sit down with your team and determine what scale of donor outreach you will be doing. Consider the timeframe that you’ll be reaching out, and the medium you’ll use to do so.

Your campaign can be anything from a monthly email, quarterly donor call, or annual appeal. Set your goal for the type and timing of your outreach, and go from there.

Make sure your outreach goal is attainable. If you plan to call each of your 10,000 donors each month, it will require a large investment of time and employees that may not be sustainable. You also run the risk of burning your donors out with frequent contacts that do not offer value to them.

In addition to your outreach goal, you’ll want to set definitive goals for the plan. If your current yearly donor engagement rate is 5%, and you want to change that number to 7.5%, establish that goal early so that you have something measurable to work towards. Your donor outreach goals will work to support your efforts in increasing this number.

What are the right goals and metrics for your nonprofit organization? Learn more about key performance indicators (KPIs) and nonprofit data analytics.

Step 2: Plan out the campaign and its elements

Once you’ve defined your goals for your outreach program, you will need to plan how you will be delivering this outreach. Consider the population your organization serves, the types of donors that are donating, and go from there.

Once you have a handle on these basic elements, you can start to determine the various pieces that make up this plan.

Communication channels
Consider which avenues of communication you will be using for your outreach. This can be social media, direct mail, phone banks, virtual events or in-person events. Some combination of these avenues may be the best option depending on the demographics of your donors.

Determine your target audience
While this is a donor outreach plan, it does not mean that you only have to reach out to current and existing donors. You can include others who have not donated yet but who are likely to be interested in your cause. This could be a specific geographic area that your nonprofit serves, a specific demographic of people that are most likely to become new donors or a general social media campaign that casts a wide net to spread awareness.

Craft a well thought out message
Creating a message that will resonate with current and prospective donors is key to a successful outreach campaign. Consider who you are helping, outline the help you are offering, and be clear about your intent in your message.

Determine the timing of your outreach
After creating a message, you’ll need to determine how often you’ll be reaching out to your donors. This can be based on budget, time constraints, or industry best practices.

Step 3: Set realistic deadlines

Any goal that you set should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based (SMART). Setting goals and deadlines that are realistic ensures that you will follow through on your efforts, and have data to review to modify your outreach strategies.

Step 4: Learn from your results and analyze the data

By keeping your goals and deadlines realistic, you will ensure that you can complete them. This allows you to review the data from your first outreach effort, and monitor how things are going. If you are seeing low response rates, and no progress towards your donation goals, you can take this information and learn from it.

Maybe direct mail isn’t working for you but a social media campaign would. Don’t be afraid to try different avenues as sending information via multiple channels can work to your benefit. Even if someone is unlikely to open the mailer you sent them, they have seen your name and they may just click on the next social media campaign you’re running.

How to get started on your donor outreach strategy

Gather your key stakeholders within your company along with anyone you feel may have insight or valuable additions to the process. Once you’ve gathered your team, follow our guide above to create a compelling donor outreach strategy.

Even if your first outreach is not “successful” and does not move you closer to your goal, you are gaining valuable information that will lead to your next campaign being more targeted to achieve better results.

Don’t be discouraged by minimal results when starting out. Donor outreach plans have far-reaching effects that increase name recognition and can lead to new donors in ways you haven’t considered yet.