Oct 13, 2020

How to Attain New Donors and Retain Current Ones

Colleagues in the office practicing alternative greeting to avoid handshakes during COVID-19 pandemic

The following is a transcript of our conversation from our #OutsideTheRoom Fundraising Success Series – Episode 14. Watch the full episode here.

This episode talks about how to attain and retain your donors using various fundraising and communication techniques. We share successful examples from various organizations. 

When seeing the increases in net, how often do you see this as due to increase in the following: donation, per attendee, quantity of attendees or decrease in like expenses, production expenses, food, venue, etc. Can you speak to that high level?

Susannah: Sure, I understand and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s a mix of both. As you are seeing from our data you are seeing that more attendees, more users are coming to the site. There is a higher trend in donations right now. There is a higher trend in instant items right now as well as bids. So that plays a big part in it. We’re also seeing though that because people don’t have the expense right, the caterers, the venue, all of that. That is an equal part of that too when it comes to that net equation. And also, the 3rd part, I would even say too is the fact that as exactly what we’re talking about, the reach has expanded. You’re no longer limited to that room to how many you can cater. So, I would say it’s kind of a three-part answer there.


Amanda, where should we start, we want to go virtual but don’t know how to pick a campaign that works. Any suggestions for how to figure out where to start?

Amanda: I would say most of the time looking at just what you and your  team kind of has your resources already. I would say if you are a small team right, doing some of those fun pieces to kind of tip your toe in the water is a great place to start. I would say if you are a little bigger or even small, I mean if you’ve got some auction items that is great. Just raffles have been really popular right, I mean you don’t have to have a scope that is so big. I have a group that is doing a silent auction with just 20 items. It’s real focused. It’s more specific on a category so I would say getting started is probably your first piece. Do something, I love that you want to jump in and do something and maybe just do the fun piece to start. Take some of those ideas, take that fun, make it fun and then build up because you can do as many campaigns which is the awesome piece of it too.


If I postponed an event in the spring and have to cancel in the fall. What is the best way to encourage my donors to still support our mission?

Susannah: I would say just engagement so that it can look a lot of different ways. So first of all just want to let people know where you are at as an organization, how have you guys been affected, what is going on. I am using a video to show your organization the status of what is going on, sending that out to start. Donation campaigns have been extremely important for just generalized, emergency funds type of situation. That’s definitely a place to start but again starting one or two of these campaigns and something that I would add here to is taking from what you have done in the years past and maybe brainstorming out every element that is included in that. Go down the list and ask yourself “is this something that we could do individually by itself? Or is this something we could pivot just a little bit to do something new with?” taking what you already know and then just switching it a little bit. We are finding that over and over those have been the most successful campaigns and a great place to start raising your funds.

Amanda, has anyone done a membership drive through your system?

Amanda: Oh yeah, definitely! We have memberships, I have groups that tackle those memberships onto just their auction pages but yeah that is definitely something that is feasible and has taken place so yeah great question. I’d love to even ask more questions to that back but it’s not the time for that, but I love it.


Do users tend to come to GiveSmart sites by going to the event link or using the text keyword feature? Which is the most effective to use in marketing for the event?

Susannah: I would say personally that I think it is up to the organization. I think it depends on how you are going, so the premiere example from the beginning right it was just great to just send that link because it was in the text message I just they sent me a text and I just had to click on it. So that was very easy if you are using a press release or you’re using some sort of larger net. I would say a text in option is fantastic. It could go at the bottom of a screen during a TV commercial. It could go to sponsors who can send that out so it’s the way that you’re promoting, I would say is the way you use to have people register.

Amanda: I totally second to that. I would actually say both a hundred percent. You got capabilities to use both so definitely use them for sure because it depends on the donor and the organization but I think you nailed it Susannah on mentioning how you guys are getting out there marketing is going to be what’s easiest for the donor to do and what’s easiest to translate. But both if possible, all the way.


Where do I find donors that will do things like the doppelganger contest? I am worried no one would participate.

Amanda: I’ve had plenty of groups that have come to me with that same fear of how do we ensure that people can join in and I do have to say I mean, I can’t personally but the way that you’re communicating to them, the reality is they are engaged with you because of your mission. So if we remind people “hey we’re doing this doppelganger contest because it is fun, yes because we’re raising or we would need to raise funds” you know, remind them why we’re doing it and why it is important for them to participate. So I would say I definitely hear that fear and I want to make sure that our groups that are fearful and feel like maybe they’re not doing so hot, we hear you and we are here for you guys. And it’s understandable but I do think just going for it and making sure kind of what we’ve said throughout is communicate and just communicate well in the different ways that makes sense for your group are going to be crucial and I anticipate people would jump in.

Susannah: Yeah, I think you are spot on with finding people who have a passion for your mission as well. And two, kind of connecting dots back from an earlier slide about going after groups. So let’s say talking about the doppelganger one. Going to online and finding like “influencer pet accounts” or going online and finding different groups in your area that are the “King cavalier spaniel group” who meets every Tuesday and sips wine or whatever it is. Finding groups in your area through Facebook groups, through just googling that have interest in what you are doing or in that fun thing. Just sending an email or sending an Instagram message, sending whatever that is, or a letter if that’s the way it goes, making a call and just kind of getting it out there to those groups. They might be able to do some of that advertising for you.


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We needed a platform to make sales online and to track and display ads for our sponsors. GiveSmart was perfect. We ended up making close to $15,000 more than we had hoped for. Definite better ROI than we anticipated. The interface is easy to use and provides plenty of options to get help if needed.

Michelle M.

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

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Julie G.

MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County