More supporters & more money

As the cost of doing business is increasing and the biggest donors (baby boomers) now need to watch their pennies a little more closely and the next generation of donors are more skeptical and demanding – organisations are forced to innovate and change or suffer a slow and undignified – well, you get the picture.

Acquiring new donors is expensive and time consuming and quite frankly the good ones, who will stick with you, are hard to find, but they are out there! This article will focus on how organisations can use digital channels to acquire and “onboard” new supporters and convert them into donors faster and with better results than you’re currently getting.

Who to acquire

Because online allows you to target individuals by their interests and behaviour, there’s no need for a scattergun approach. Focus on your ideal donor profile and don’t try to appeal to everyone, as you can’t win the hearts and minds of all people. Acquiring the right audience will give you a high return on investment and a longer relationship with and lifetime value of your donor.

When working with online media partners, give them as specific a profile as you can. Give them all the demographics information you can as well as their sentiment and inclinations.

How to acquire supporters online

If you know who you are targeting online, you must also define what type of acquisition you’re aiming for.
Is it a prospective donor lead (their details), or is it a newsletter subscription? Is it a cash donation or a merchandise purchase that you can then convert? Or are you trying to acquire a direct regular giver – which is pretty hard in the online space.

There are many digital options for acquiring new supporters – by supporter I mean a person who has opted in to receive more communications from your organisation.
• 3rd party websites – advocacy and contextually relevant websites that relate to your cause (access to like-minded individuals)
• Affiliate marketing – using display advertising messages on websites where your prospects spend time (pay per acquisition)
• Co-registration campaigns to capture prospect details (pay per lead)
• Co-branded email campaigns with partners (pay per send or perhaps free if a good partner)
• Rented email lists – be very specific in your targeting for these lists. Better to go niche than wide as people who opt in for these lists are often competition junkies (pay per send or record you send to)
• Paid search to target subject areas and topics and competitor donation searches (pay per click and optimise to cost per acquisition)

For the purposes of this article the onboarding of supporters is to convert them to financial donors, regular givers specifically.

Onboarding new supporters & converting them to donors

Online onboarding process

Welcome, convert and onboard new supporters into donors

An onboarding strategy is a series of communications to your prospect and is most commonly used to convert newly acquired leads into donors or to upgrade existing cash donors and to convert activists into donors.

Our strategy is to convert a supporter into a financial donor over the course of 16 weeks. A variety of action based and financial asks will be sprinkled strategically throughout the onboarding period communications calendar. We do this by using a 3-part process of nurturing your new supporters.

We welcome the new supporter and get their attention initially through digital channels, specifically email, SMS and web or video content. The stories you choose to use in the first 2 weeks must be engaging and emotional and focused very specifically on the topics that you know your donors care most about.

You then need to map out how your stories will be told, in what order and through which channel. Then you need to set up your systems to follow this calendar or sequence of communications. Each touch-point should have a deliberate message and a clear next step. Your sequence of messages can be time-based or triggered by the user’s behaviour.

Finally we need the destination landing pages for every communication to give supporters a great user experience and include a strong call to action to convert them. Call to actions should be a mix of financial and action based tasks – don’t just ask for money, that is not nurturing your new supporter.

The first two weeks of your onboarding communication strategy are crucial because your new supporter is most interested and most engaged at the point of their first enquiry, action or gift. Whatever it was that captured them worked and we need to keep talking to them about that subject before moving on to other topics further down the donor journey.

Do you want to test an online acquisition campaign? Or perhaps you want to set up an onboarding communications strategy to convert email subscribers into donors? Download our Online Acquisition & Onboarding program and consider booking a half-day workshop to get started.

Digital Readiness

To onboard your new supporter, you need to have systems in place that can trigger an automatic chain of communications. You will be scheduling emails and SMS’s to be sent to your supporter at set intervals (if using time-based triggers) in line with the sequence or communications calendar you have planned.
As a minimum you will need an email campaign tool and an SMS marketing tool and you will need to set up a video platform for your organisation, such as Vimeo or YouTube.

Is your organisation ready to get serious about online fundraising? If so, download our Digital Readiness Checklist to kick-start your project.


Online Acquisition & Onboarding – Where do I start?

1. You always start with your supporters.
Who are they and what do they care about? What stories are you going to talk to them about?

2. Then you have to get into the numbers.
How many people do you need to acquire? What is your current retention rate after 6, 12, 18, 24, 36 months? Know your current average gift, cash to RG conversion rate, ROI and cost per acquisition and start working out what your campaign targets will be.

3. Identify and set up your digital infrastructure
Scope out your project and identify the resources you need to build and run your onboarding campaign.

4. Determine what your onboarding calendar sequence looks like
When will you communicate to your supporter, at what intervals? How are you going to talk to them, what channel will you use? What will you ask them to do at each touch-point?

5. Test your plan with real supporters
Go live, test and optimise based on your supporter’s response.

You’re going to love this process and the value to your organisation will be out of this world.


Download our Online Acquisition & Onboarding program and consider booking a half-day workshop to get started.
And good luck, it’s going to be fun!