Five foolproof ways to acquire thousands of online donors

The headline is a bait and switch, let’s just get that out of the way. If you are reading this thinking the promise of that headline is possible, you aren’t going to be happy.

If you, instead, clicked ready to ridicule and scoff, then read on.

Masterworks’ rich history in traditional direct mail colors “acquisition” with shades of mailing labels for national organizations and lunch bags for missions.

Digital acquisition focused on asking for a gift from a cold lead, is extraordinarily difficult in non-emergent situations.

It’s just math.

Industry benchmarks put cultivation fundraising email response rates to your constituents at around 0.08 percent. Response rates tend to decrease with uncultivated constituents, so you need an exceptionally large and cheap acquisition pool. A pool that would be as over fished as Atlantic Bluefin tuna.

So enough of what doesn’t work, what is working for clients.

1. Organic Growth through integration

Ack, not something new or interesting, just good old fashioned common sense. By better integrating your marketing efforts your online donor group will grow.

Again with the math.

Most organizations have more offline donors than online donors. You can use strategies like including drives to give online in direct mail pieces to grow your digital donor file.
But aren’t I just suggesting transferring giving, not acquiring a brand new donor to the organization? That’s not acquisition at all!

Perhaps on that single impact we have moved money offline to online, but we all know that a donor who has given via multiple channels is more valuable to your organization. Moreover, you can now cultivate that donor both online and offline.

When the postal service as we knows it goes away, organizations who were unwilling to “trade” online for offline donors are going to be in a world of hurt.

2. Buy your name

What is the most frequent search term people use to get to your site? Go look in your Google Analytics, I’ll wait…

I’m willing to bet you a shiny nickel that it is some variation of your ministry’s name. And where does search engine traffic end up when they clicked on your listing? Probably your homepage. Is that optimized for conversion?

It seems counterintuitive to pay for terms where you have a high organic rank, but we have proven with a number of ministries that just such an investment can generate positive net revenue and new donors.
Add free placement with Google Grants and that dog will hunt.

3. Engage your whole email file

If you are doing permission based email marketing – only emailing people who have asked for email – then you likely have a large file of people who haven’t opted-in, but haven’t opted-out either.

If you have been sending SPAM (that’s any unsolicited email), then you already missed this opportunity, sorry.

This list of “gray” email addresses has to be carefully contacted. They haven’t asked for communication, so you have to make sure when you communicate with them it is with something worthwhile.

One tactic we have used to gather new email addresses is to provide a “Click 2 Give” offer where filling out a short form delivers a meal or medicine to someone in need.

This action is funded by a major donor as a kind of “match.”

By sending this offer to the whole email list of a Mission client we were able to increase their email file by five percent. While generating positive net revenue by asking for an additional gift after the “free” meal was provided.

4. Email appends

This one is a bit controversial. Masterworks has not seen great initial results with appended email addresses, however; we know many people swear by frequent appends.

It is certainly the fastest way to grow your email list, with lists doubling in size in one append.

If you are going to go this route, your ministry needs to plan for a long runway. In other words, getting these email addresses and dropping them into your current email stream is a great way to waste money.

You will need to plan a six or nine month email treatment to appended names to slowly understand the composition and responsiveness of the list.

In the end the number of responsive individuals you find will be far less than the number you start off with, but if you track the long term value of these donors you may find it’s worth it for your organization.

Why all the caveating? The value of email addresses has a lot to do with the composition of your current direct mail file. If your direct mail file skews significantly to individuals that are seventy or older, then we would suggest those email addresses are going to be less valuable, than if your list has folks in their fifties and sixties.

5. Name acquisition to donor conversion

This is as close as it gets to a sure thing in this space. Many organizations have a mature, profitable program designed to acquire names with a physical or digital premium and then cultivate them into donors with an integrated communication stream.

Again you are in this for the long haul. The specific communication stream is months long and it takes about a year to break even on your investment.

And that’s when you have the right premium and are advertising it in the right places. Pick the wrong premium or don’t promote it enough to get the volume you need, no joy.

There you have it, five ways you can acquire new online donors. But what do you do next?

  1. Test a direct mail package where the primary call to action is to go online, don’t even include an traditional response device
  2. Make sure all of the email addresses in your offline database are in your email tool. You can’t mail people you don’t know about.
  3. Spend $100 a day for five days buying your name on Google Ad Words and send people straight to your donation page. Make sure you can track conversions

Need advice on any of this, drop me a line at