How to Prospect for New Donors

in Acquisition & Prospecting

When prospecting for new donors, don’t write about what you [the nonprofit] want.

Instead, your copy ought to address what the prospective donor wants. That’s a great way to frame any acquisition campaign — digital or print.

Let’s say you’re on the development staff of a large (or small) university. It’s time to send out your annual appeal to alumni, most of whom have never sent any money in response to your appeals. nonprofit universityTo convert more of those prospective alumni to donors, I recommend you not take the usual approach when giving them reasons to support you.

Here are some “typical” phrases you might use in your appeal:

  • Provide scholarships …
  • Support an academic discipline or university program
  • Provide important educational and research opportunities …

Now, there’s nothing terribly wrong with that approach. However, instead of asking alumni to support the University of Smarts … ask them to support their cause and what’s important to them. And then point out that a gift to the University of Smarts will do just that.

With this different approach in mind, those same three phrases could be rewritten something like this:

  • You want to help attract bright students who will carry on the legacy you’re so proud of through scholarships you help fund.
  • You want to give back. You want to help today’s students in the same program you studied, get a great degree just as you did.
  • You want students and faculty to have the chance to innovate and develop industry tools, not simply read about what someone else did.
  • You want to help keep the University of Smarts #1 in …

Do you see the difference? You help your prospect find what it is they’re most passionate about, and then ask them to support that. This is also a more donor-centric approach to crafting your acquisition appeals.

Give it a whirl. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.


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