It's 'Back to Acquisition' Time!
You may also choose an offer that brings in more gifts, either because it is more attractive than another offer or easier for the potential donor to visualize (i.e., feed a child vs. provide psychological counseling to a teenager), or because you gave it a low price point (i.e., feed a child for only 50 cents).
3. Can I afford to cultivate the donors we acquire?
So, here's the downside to the options you considered in Question 2. If you choose premiums or freemiums, your initial cost will probably be higher, and you may acquire donors who are really not interested in your cause, but wanted the gift (or to not feel guilty using the freemium). Can you continue to offer premiums or freemiums to keep them engaged? I once worked for a nonprofit that essentially ran a "book of the month club." The title we offered had a significant impact on fundraising response rates, so I was constantly looking for the next great book to offer.
Asking for a smaller initial gift may lead to new donors who are conditioned to give small amounts. Continuing to cultivate a $5 donor will quickly eat up your budget, and your overall net income will decline as you send out more solicitations and get smaller average gifts.
Acquiring donors by inviting them to support your most exciting program could create a group of supporters who are only committed to a program that is not central to your mission, and who are disinterested in the bulk of your work.
These three questions aren't meant to discourage you from efforts to acquire new donors this fall. After all, donor acquisition really is a life-or-death matter for a nonprofit. The purpose of considering these questions is to lead to the best answer for your organization. What can you afford to do? ("Nothing" is not the right answer; that's a ticket to obsolescence.)
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.