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2 Critical First Steps to Obtaining New Donors

September 30, 2022

Looking to obtain new donors (aren’t we all?)? Here is where to start.

Nondonors, never givers, future donos, no matter what you call them, these are the most challenging constituents to engage. They are critical, however, to the success of your annual giving program. Without new donors the annual fund will eventually cease to exist! Moreover, once a donor makes a gift they are 50% more likely to give again. Replacing and replenishing donors is the only way to maintain and grow your annual fund.

Step 1 - Get great constituent data

Having accurate addresses, email, phone numbers and donor information are where we must start. Our experience in new donor acquisition has shown us that having accurate contact information and other useful donor information in your data is one of the most important factors in creating a successful new donor acquisition strategy. The more data you have, the more you can communicate with nondonors effectively, which increases your chances of success.

Here are some ways you can do that:

Incorporate data enhancement into your phonathon/ phone engagement.

  • Start each positive contact over the phone, with confirmation and updates of contact information (mailing address, email, cell phone).

Send contact information update request emails/ texts.

  • Send out emails to alumni with links to update contact details and request opt-in consent for texting.

Append emails, phone, mobile numbers and wealth info using data providers.

  • Get as much contact info as possible! Wealth information and charitable giving history can be useful, but costly. If you have the budget to do so, it can help improve targeting and personalization.

Step 2 - Develop familiarity with your nondonors

Nondonors need to be informed about what is going on at their Alma Mater to feel part of the institution and maintain affiliation. This is part of a general psychological phenomenon known as the mere-exposure effect or the “familiarity principle” as it is often referred to in social psychology.

Before Robert Zajonc, the scholar best known for developing the mere-exposure effect, conducted his research on the topic, Robert observed that exposure to a novel stimulus initially elicits a fear/avoidance response. However, each subsequent exposure causes less fear and more interest. After repeated exposure, the observing organism will begin to react fondly to the once novel stimulus. In context of new donor acquisition, the mere-exposure effect suggests that simple repetition is enough to make a "memory trace" in the nondonor's mind which could unconsciously affect their affiliation with your organization.

University newsletters, quarterly magazines, and other scheduled consistent publications of this type of information will bring nondonors closer to your institution. Here are some topic ideas and examples for staying connected that will help develop the relationship and familiarity that can help you convert nondonors:

-        Positive community impact stories

-        Student profiles

-        University rankings and statistics

-        New Faculty and programs

-        Finished campus or facility constructions

-        Retired faculty announcements

-        Anniversary or special recognition announcements

-        Upcoming events

Some great examples from our clients:

Alumni & Family Weekend 2022 (Sept. 30 – Oct. 2) is just around the corner! This event is a great opportunity to reunite with some of your classmates and come back to campus. If you are able to attend any of the events throughout the weekend, please register at For a detailed schedule or more information, you can visit

Service Trips returned this year: Over the summer, two groups of Marywood students participated in Alternative Break Service and Immersion trips for the first time since the pandemic halted these service learning excursions two years ago. Social Work students traveled to serve in Texas, and Nutrition/Dietetics and PA students joined an interprofessional Medical Mission, serving at the San Lucas Mission in Guatemala. These trips are opportunities for students to act on the university’s values; they also stress the importance of building relationships around the core value of service and commitment to the common good.

We wish you best of luck in your donor acquisition strategies. Give our tips a shot, and of course, reach out anytime if you need help.

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