Marketing, Development, and Donor Acquisition

Marketing is based upon understanding your target market. This is true for any business, and no different for nonprofit organizations. There are different aspects to marketing. One is focusing on acquiring community awareness and support. Another is to procure volunteers to help support your efforts and keep costs low. The marketing of fundraising events helps your organization get community recognition and funding support to help grow your programs. The final marketing piece has to do with finding your core donor base and making sure they are continuously inspired to become and remain involved in financially supporting your organization’s efforts.

That means that there are different target markets to identify. This will require different marketing efforts to suit the demographics of each group.

Direct Mail

Direct mail is the most commonly used and historically effective method for building a substantial donor base. However, branding only impacts those with large visibility and highly established success. What makes a direct mailing campaign effective is the list selection process, which takes at least three years of experimentation to evaluate the way in which copy tests, roll-out mailings, and other factors tied to your direct mailing strategies were effective. Three years is what it takes to see demonstrable evidence of financial profitability for the efforts expended.

Brand Recognition

Brand recognition is less important for nonprofit search engine hit calculations. Brand recognition does help, but it is not essential. What truly builds the donor list is your relationship building skills. Just as direct mail is a staple, the advent of social media has expanded the tools for developers to reach out to new and established supporters. Be sure to include as many social media platforms as is appropriate for your organization and how you wish to engage your supporters. Know their demographics so that you target your social media strategies to appeal accordingly.


It really is essential to have some kind of development background in order to effectively apply any kind of fundraising or development strategy based off of any marketing statistics, analyzing ranges or medians, or hits on a search engine. You also must help your Board to understand the process. When projecting the anticipated results over time strategy, have your board check out search engines and their own community contacts.

If the Executive Director or Board members have no experience with development, it will be much more difficult for them to hire a development person that is effective, let alone know how to evaluate their strategies and outcomes.

It is easy to hire someone who seems to know what they are doing, but be sure that your own knowledge includes what it takes to be successful in this area. Otherwise, you may end up mistaking poor performance with the Development Director, when in essence it is the misunderstanding of what it takes to actually see progress. This includes making essential changes and efforts within the entire organization to ensure success. Your Development Director should advise you in this area, so be sure to take copious notes and refer to them when you are unsure.