It's 'Back to Acquisition' Time!
When everyone else is thinking "back to school," wise fundraisers are thinking "back to acquisition." For most nonprofits, the fall is a critical time for raising funds and for acquiring new donors. Hopefully you have been acquiring them all year, and cultivating new donors to ensure they give again (and again), but the fall provides a great opportunity to get additional donors on board before year-end.
Generally, acquisition is not a money-maker. It can take months before the donors you acquire "break even." Short-sighted boards and managers can see this as a bad investment, suggesting you instead put your money into more profitable endeavors. But since attrition (the gradual loss of donors due to disinterest, change in financial circumstances, death, etc.) is a fact of fundraising life, acquiring new donors is critical to keep your organization alive and growing.
So, get ready to invest in some acquisition this fall - but first ask yourself these three questions.
1. How many donors do I need to acquire?
While "as many as possible" sounds like the right answer, it's actually a little more complicated than that. Bottom line, to stay even, you have to replace all the donors you lost to attrition. To grow, you need to replace all of those and then add more.
Figure out how many donors you are losing a year, and how many you are acquiring through events, your website, referrals, organic growth and other sources. Often, the first number (donors that attrite) is greater than the second. The difference between these two numbers is the bare minimum you need to acquire to stay even.
2. What strategies will bring in more?
There are some strategies that acquire more donors than others, but they have some "baggage," so you want to think this through carefully. For example, offering a premium (a small gift in exchange for a donation) or a freemium (a small gift that is mailed with the appeal - address labels or note cards, for example) is usually a good way to get a higher response.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.