The largest not-for-profits and charities in Australia know that if you add a donor’s name to a database, it will add income. They understand the concept of name acquisition as a science.

These charities calculate the cost of acquisition of a name. And, because they have their analytics in place, they have data to inform their decisions about paying for donor acquisition. They appreciate the lifetime value of a donor is perhaps $1,000 or $1,500, depending on where they got the donor from. From that perspective, it’s worthwhile to invest in name acquisition, as it has a great return.

However, many smaller organizations haven’t adequately thought through these facts. The size of a supporter database (and therefore income) is often limited to the capacity to think through name acquisition. It’s a surprise for some organizations to realize it’s possible to track the cost associated with new donor acquisition.

For example, you may have hard data showing each donor remains active for an average of three years, and they give $1508 each. The data may also show it costs $75 to acquire each one. Then your ability to grow will only be limited by your cash-flow available to invest into name acquisition. And also, your ability to continually replicate that result. Not all donors are equal, however, so it does pay to keep your data and analyze it from regularly.

It’s worth noting that just because someone is on a database, it doesn’t mean they’re a donor. It pays to go beyond the methods given below to acquire names. It’s also important to warm up, engage, and educate new contacts in your database about why your organization is worth their support. That’s where an automated email sequence can come in handy.

But the initial challenge is to get new people in the door, and it’s one thing many organizations are either not doing, or not doing well. In fact, most people haven’t understood that acquiring names will result in an increase in donations!

Here are three proven ways to acquire new names . . .

1. Email collectors

This method to acquire names is the strongest I’ve seen so far. I’ve set it up in a number of organizations where we created a regular update or offer.

The first was a radio station in Adelaide. Using a tool called Sumo, (previously called SumoMe), a header bar was set up on the website, giving visitors the option to sign up and receive a special offer. Within seven months of the new setup, 400 new people signed up!

The great news was that those donors were four times more likely to donate than the rest of the list. In addition, because their level of engagement increased, they gave twice as much as anyone else!

The key to name acquisition using email collectors is to provide an offer that matches the intent of the person who arrived on your site. The good news is that with a bit of thought, it’s possible to replicate results like this for most organizations (though results may scale depending on the size of the potential audience).

The trick is making an enticing offer to potential supporters. It must be something they want, not spam. Personally, I wonder if newsletters have had their day. So, the offer must be an update that isn’t just regular for the sake of being regular. It’s something that will be useful for the person receiving it.

Why don’t you give it a go?

2. Conduct a Facebook survey

I’ve used this method, of surveying your Facebook audience, a couple of times quite successfully. The impact varies depending on the size of your audience. With this process, you conduct a survey using a tool like Music Buzz, or SurveyMonkey. The key is to make the last survey question about receiving updates via email or post. Add appropriate address fields for email and post, and you have a sign-up form!

Just by doing a survey once every six months, I’ve seen increases of around 300 names per year to a database. This is in a market where the database was only 800 to begin with! The number of people on the list grew quite quickly. This resulted in a larger donation base, with a consequent increase in fund-raising income. This is simple name acquisition, with great outcomes!

3. Gathering first-time supporters

There are other things to think through when you do an appeal: How wide do you go? How public? Where are there other people who are likely to become supporters of your organization?

This third method generates the best donors, because they actually donate when you run an appeal. This adds first-time donors to your list.

For radio stations, it’s common for a radiothon, or an on-air appeal, to receive around 30% first-time donors. If the radio station maintains their existing list, their entire database would grow by 30% every time they run an appeal. This is name acquisition at its best.

Unfortunately, there’s always attrition, which increases if a database isn’t managed properly. Names will disappear, and people will become disconnected. But if you manage your database well, and your donors are regularly engaged, the chance of losing them diminishes significantly.

Multiple channels and name acquisition

The more different channels you use to engage your donor, the less likely it is you will lose them. For instance, if you only ever communicate with your donor via email, which would be a terrible idea, by the way, you miss out on connecting via posted mail. Other channels include: social media, live video, web chat & web forums, in person connection at events, service club meetings, your local mall etc.

Using multiple channels also gets around some of the Promotional email issues faced by email marketers. For example, many of your donors will use Gmail as their email client. A while back, Gmail decided to put in a new tab for Promotions, sectioning off emails into different categories. More recently Microsoft’s outlook app has adopted a similar approach. In both these cases your email might go to the Promotions tab, rather the normal Inbox section. The supporter mightn’t see it in time for the appeal. Or maybe they don’t see it at all! So, relying on just one channel can be disastrous for fund-raising.

The Last Word

Name acquisition: Connecting, communicating, and gathering. These are the tactics required to grow the donations your organization receives. It is possible to increase. The important thing is to think carefully through your strategies and make a plan.

Are you going to actively grow your donor database? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.