Attracting New Donors: What They Want, When They Want It, and How They Want It


As the co-host of the American Nonprofit Academy podcast, I had the privilege of interviewing Timothy Sarrantonio, Director of Corporate Brand at Neon One, about the trends of new donors. He offered insights into his analysis of millions of donation records from multiple nationally recognized sources and compiled a report on how new donors are different from past donors. Having this information, we can guide our nonprofits to attract new donors.

Pandemic Impact

We all felt the height of the pandemic. As nonprofit leaders, we knew we were not receiving the donations we had in the past. Layoffs and worry about the future had people worried and not willing to give or give as much. What has emerged from that time (2020-2021) is a new generation of donors. What does that mean for your nonprofit? It means changing how you view donors and deliver an experience to them.

One of the trends we’ve seen is charitable giving in response to socio-political and global events. That means monies that may have once come to your organization are being diverted to others. That doesn’t mean the end of donations, it means rethinking the who, when, how, and why of new donors.

What do you know about your donors?

Understanding who your donors are will go a long way in attracting and retaining them as supporters. As a Nonprofit Nerd, I love data. I highly recommend looking at donor information. Learn who has previously donated over the last few years, who is a new donor, and which guests of big donors made contributions.

Network for Good suggests finding out who is sharing social media posts and/or mentioning your organization. This will help you build existing as well as new relationships. I’d also research media mentions of your organization to cultivate new relationships in the community.

In this way, you begin to develop a strategy for reaching different donors as well as media, to get the word out about upcoming events and opportunities to give.

What do new donors want?

The pandemic has shown us that we can keep our nonprofits moving forward but we’ve got to be open to change. For example, give donors a good online experience and easy call to action to donate. Let them know who their donations support using stories. This will help them remember what you do and who you help. They’re more likely to be retained as donors because of the stories you’ve told.

Younger donors, especially millennials, want to accomplish tasks quickly so give them nuggets of information, share a story, and respond to them in real-time.

Generation X donors fall somewhere in between mailing a check and using an app to donate. Born between 1965 and 1980, we adopted technology later and may be slower than millennials in adopting and using it. That doesn’t mean we don’t love a quick story and call to action like our younger counterparts!

Big donors love galas so give them that experience! They want and appreciate being recognized. Not only that, but there is power in meeting people in person and seeing others giving to noteworthy organizations. Utilize these events to learn more about donors and to cultivate relationships with new and prospective donors. Big donors bring their people to events so it’s a wonderful time to share the mission.

Educate donors about the ways they can give to the organization. If they can’t donate today, they can leave a legacy gift, donate miles, or other gifts.

When do people give more?

We’ve been conditioned to have a giving season during the winter holiday season, so donors are used to it, but it doesn’t have to be this way. What if your big campaign was in July – think Christmas in July. For food banks and homeless shelters, the summer is often when supplies run low, and the people they serve are the most need.

Off-season campaigns are those that don’t occur in traditional months. Many nonprofits focus on December giving but that isn’t the only time of year that can be profitable for your organization. About 20% of giving happens in December but now we’re seeing giving is happening in November as well as other times of year.

According to the Neon One report I mentioned earlier, I was surprised to learn donors give on Thursdays at 11:30 AM Central Time. They give $300 donations most often; we think this is because it is a universal charitable donation for single people, $600 for couples.

I say all of that because people are giving all year round so your planning and events should match that. Arizona Gives Day happens in April. Other states and cities have giving days throughout the year.

How do new donors want to give?

They want giving to be simple. Apps and websites enabled with a clear and easy-to-use donation feature are the best. New donors aren’t the ones asking for a donation form and mail in option. We love those donors too, but the trend is moving toward a tech-based user experience model.

Ease of use and clear calls to action will attract new donors to your organization. An outdated website and a letter in the mail aren’t going to cut it for this generation of donors. Using data (hello…. Nerd Alert!), we can learn about past donors and review trends to attract and retain new donors.

If you’re not sure where to start, I’d love to nerd out with you and your data! Schedule a Consultation today!