Converting non-donors and prospects into active donors and then retaining them as long as possible is at the epicenter of all nonprofit fundraising activity. Pushing for database growth and fighting the sky-high attrition rates can be mentally exhausting and down-right frustrating!

But what if the perfect donors that you’ve been searching for have been in your hands all along?

In fact, it’s possible you already have a viable source of donors from ongoing activities and engagements. Many constituents that have not yet given are receiving your newsletter, attending events, volunteering, and maybe even following you on social media. In fact, they may even consider themselves a true advocate even though they have not given financially.

Many nonprofits fail to recognize these potential donors, but when they do, they don’t know how to capitalize on them or convert them to becoming a donor in addition to their other connections.

Does that sound like your organization? If so, not to worry. According to The Agitator, there are four tried-and-true practices to help your convert passive supporters to donors.

  1. Speed

The first step is speed…. Every 30 days that passed before a solicitation went out after the patient’s first visit dropped response rate by 30%.  Every 30 days that passed before a solicitation went out after the patient’s final visit cut response rates in half.  The authors noted that changing their schedule so that asks went out every month would increase response rates by as much as a one-to-one match campaign.  Compelling evidence for switching from batched to triggered communications.

This is for hospital patients, but the idea applies to pet adopters, museum/park/library visitors, event attendees (for a good event), content consumers, etc.  Speed gets people while they remember you and remember you fondly.

  1. Don’t be shy… Ask for a commitment!

Speaking of… you probably want to make sure they do remember you fondly by asking commitment and satisfaction

Asking these questions doesn’t just increase your upside; it also decreases your downside by violating rule #1: speed.  If someone has an experience that turns them off to you, it’s counterproductive to ask them immediately – you could kill any chance of a relationship. Rather, you want to find the problem, fix the problem, then ask.

  1. Make your communication count.

This process is made much easier if you know your interactions are adding to commitment… 

For example, if you are like most organizations, you have an email newsletter.  Is that an effective tool for increasing your donors’ and potential donors’ commitment and lifetime value?  Is it telling the right types of stories?  Asking for the right types of engagement?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions, think about all the time and treasure that goes into creating and sending that newsletter, not to mention the effort to acquire people to read it. 

We have a natural tendency to think of a communication as a “conversion email for advocacy participants” and look at its success or failure to convert some self-contained ‘system’.  In reality, conversion and retention begin at the point of acquisition (whether donor acquisition or general constituent acquisition).  Every communication to and fro builds or detracts from a well of goodwill and commitment.  Conversion communications only draw from that well.

  1. Targeted advertising.

With smart, identity-based targeting like you can do on Facebook or Google (as we described here.), you can target your prospective donors with advertising based on what you know about them. Making these ads about your donors, rather than about you, can have a substantial increase in response rate…

These ads don’t just convert folks (although they do and they should). If well crafted, they also often provide a lift to other communications your prospective donors are receiving. With the ability to upload prospects and advertise to them specifically, you can increase they convert, through any channel.

With so many nonprofits reaching out into the black hole of social media and email in order to get new donors, people are less and less likely to care about random organizations. However, for those individuals already invested in your cause, the chance for conversion is much higher. Although it’s never a bad idea to reach out to new venues to find new donors, we’d suggest a more in-house approach to supplement it.