2 min Read
January 10, 2017

Looking for new donors? Start with research.

“New year, new me”—a commonly tossed around phrase you’re sure to hear a lot in January, but I’d like to offer up a different phrase and goal: “New year, new donors”.

Easier said than done, I know, but I’ve got an underused strategy for finding new donors: market research. While that phrase might just sound like expensive jargon to you, there are ways to use research to find out if you’re already targeting the right groups or if there are other people out there interested in giving to your cause.

Here are a few types of research your organization might consider—from simple to more sophisticated—to discover the characteristics of potential new donors:

1. Survey your list yourself

Send a quick survey to your email lists (donors, volunteers, etc.) and ask them a few simple questions. Get an idea of their demographics (age, gender, region, political affiliation, etc.) and ask if they plan on donating in the future. You can outsource this list modeling to firms who specialize in it too, but if that’s not realistic given your organization’s budget or your list size, this DIY approach can still help.

While the data from this research might confirm your current approach (for instance, that you’re correct in targeting women who are 55+), you might also see some interesting trends in other groups you haven’t spent much time trying to attract previously.

2. Conduct external research

While surveying or data-mining your own list can be helpful, it’s also useful to assess how people beyond your own audiences feel about your work. With market research typically costing $10,000 to $50,000 when customized, this has historically been something most organizations never do, or do only occasionally. That’s why Big Duck created The Brandraising Benchmark.

The Brandraising Benchmark is an affordable research tool that asks a sample of Americans how likely they are to donate to specific organizations in the future (among other things). It’ll also provide demographic insights to that question, so you can see if progressive women are more likely to give to you than progressive men, for example, or how people who live on the East coast view you compared to those who live in the South, and more.

After you’ve identified prospective new donor groups, try to learn a bit more about them. If you have previous donors (or even friends and family) that meet the profile of your new donors, do a bit of qualitative research (interviews, focus groups) to get at their motivations and barriers to giving. Informal interviews your staff conduct themselves can be powerful: they turn that abstract thing called “the donor” into a living, breathing person you can identify with and, therefore, communicate with much more powerfully.  

Now that you’ve collected all this information, go! Do! Try reaching some of these new groups, perhaps via list acquisitions or list swaps, and see if they have a good return on investment. While all this research may feel time-consuming, a more strategic approach to finding new donors will pay off in the long run.