For non-profits, fundraising to support their goals and mission is a never-ending process. There is a constant drive for organizations to recruit new, passionate donors while retaining existing loyal ones. Each task is important and vital in maintaining stability and ensuring organizational growth. Both require effort and significant strategy.

It is difficult to convince strangers to lend charitable support to your organization, but it’s not impossible. Fundraising strategy for non-profits differs greatly from for-profit businesses. Non-profit organizations must follow best practices to ensure their efforts are consistent and efficient in securing donations and other financial gifts from supporters.

ASK: The Power of Please

Donor recruitment begins with your story. Potential donors are more likely to contribute financially to your organization if they feel a connection with your mission and vision. The simplest and most effective way to engage those who have a high probability to become donors is by using your platforms, both digital and terrestrial, to tell your story in the most compelling way possible. After you have them hooked by your story, the most important part of donor recruitment, The Ask, begins.

“Regardless of how much a girl likes you, you’ll never get a date if you don’t ask.” This is a piece of advice that, at face value, doesn’t make much sense in the context of non-profits. But once you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that this mode of thinking is key to recruiting donors. Leadership that is tasked with development must adopt the mindset that you get what you ask for. I call this type of thinking Dating As A Strategy. By using one of the basic principles of dating you can have more success in donor recruitment.

Your audience is engaged, some are interested in becoming volunteers, others are interested in donating to your cause. While some donors will take the initiative and give without being asked, an overwhelming majority needs to be prompted. Embedding calls to action in your messaging will not only compel new donors but engage past donors with the opportunity to be repeat donors. The bottom line: You must specifically ask your audience to give. You can not leave it up to chance that they will be compelled to give without being asked.

TIP: Today, most people are active on their phones and respond best to text message and social media. Millennials rarely check personal emails or respond to phone calls. Gen Xers are more likely to respond to emails in addition to being active on social media. While understanding your audience, make sure you are providing donors with opportunities to give via all three platforms (text, social media and email). 

APPRECIATION: The Power of Thank You

As stated earlier, convincing someone to support your cause financially is an extremely difficult task. Recruiting donors is an important part of any fundraising strategy, but it is not the only activity that should take priority. Once you’ve recruited a donor, you must make sure you have a plan to maintain and retain them, so they will give in the future. This plan starts with two words: “Thank You”.

The single most powerful action you can take after someone has donated to your cause is to show appreciation. This can come in the form of a thank you email, a handwritten letter or a small gift. Signs of appreciation help donors realize how important their contribution is to your cause. You donors are human, so treat them as such. Give them the same courtesy you would give a close friend or family member.

It is important to view charitable donations not as a one-off transaction, but the start of a long, mutually beneficial relationship. Any good donor retention strategy includes thoughtful, heart-felt thank you’s and overt signs of appreciation for their gifts.

Tip: Make an outreach calendar that includes “thank you” messages to donors. At a minimum, you should be sending 4 messages yearly to keep donors engaged and show your appreciation. Consider creating a “thank you” packet for donors that includes a handwritten letter and other tools that will help them stay engaged.


Donor recruitment and retention are time-intensive, intentional tasks that must be undertaken strategically. These tasks should not be siloed, but instead should be a prominent part of your communication strategy. When used strategically, “Please” and “Thank You” are powerful tools to help you secure funds to keep your cause moving forward.

Don’t have the tools or team in place to undertake donor management? No problem! AlvaOdessa provides strategic services for a wide range of topics, allowing you to focus on the work that matters while we craft an amazing strategy to tell your story to your audience. Feel free to reach out to us at services[at] to learn more.