Donor Acquisition Strategies – The Ramones or The Who? | npENGAGE

Donor Acquisition Strategies – The Ramones or The Who?

By on Jul 15, 2013


RockinOut Donor Acquisition Online

Guest post by Josh Loye, Blackbaud’s Sr. Internet Product Marketing Manager. Get ready to hear some great insights from an experienced marketing pro that has a passion for building products that serve the nonprofit community and Blackbaud customers.

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Before beginning, let me explain one thing. I love music – everything about it – the way it makes you feel, its ability to take you to a certain place in time, its ability to communicate meaning, everything.

I also have a passion for the nonprofit industry.  When I consider the different methods in which organizations tackle new donor acquisition, I naturally separate nonprofits into two groups (literally) – The Ramones or The Who.

Sound crazy? Stay with me…


The Ramones

A band that was simple, straight forward and had an extremely loyal following.  Their sound didn’t differ much from song to song, but what they did, they did very well.

In the nonprofit world, this approach and style is similar to organizations that have chosen to increase their fundraising base by leveraging one channel (and sometimes powerful online fundraising tools), most likely email, and using this as the main driver for new donor acquisition.

For example, a few years ago I was at an event with friends in support of pediatric cancer patients heal by Lurie’s Children Hospital of Chicago. While there, we donated to the cause and provided our email addresses. Since then, we’ve all received regular emails and updates from Lurie’s and we’ve all become advocates of their mission.

You see, the Ramones were only played on a certain radio station in a market for certain listeners and those listeners were fans of The Ramones’ music or similar music.

This Segmented Email Approach Can Work for Your Organization Too

  • Look at characteristics such as age, gender, income, geographic location, etc. and put together the prototypical donor for your organization.
  • Find where these potential supporters are congregating and go interact with them. This could be at a local event , a concert (even better!), or online.
  •  Look for ways to capture, at the very least, their email address.
  • Then, begin communicating with these individuals through compelling, relevant messaging and turn them into supporters.

Soon, you’ll have a loyal “fan base” of supporters who, just like fans of The Ramones, will become advocates for your cause and spread the word to their circle of friends.

Remember, for The Ramones, it wasn’t about quantity of fans as much as it was quality of fans.  As the great Johnny Ramone said, “We didn’t sell a lot of records, but somehow we left an impression.”

What Impressions Are Your Email Communications Leaving?

But, maybe you’re more like…


The Who

A band that was dynamic and open  to exploring  different avenues.  Their songs consisted of multiple changes and arrangements, with various sounds, but always coming together to tell a story.

This style is similar to organizations, like Alley Cat Allies, who use multiple tools (including powerful online fundraising tools) and channels in their online donor acquisition strategy, leveraging social media, webinars, online communities, eCards, events and volunteer opportunities.

If you’re online donor acquisition strategy involves email, events, social, and mobile, then you’re likely appealing to a larger audience, or to align with the theme of this blog, your “songs” are appearing on multiple radio stations within a market. And if we’re thinking of these tools as your songs, then think of your website as your album.

Long before you could purchase songs separately, the goal for bands was to release songs in an effort to encourage listeners to purchase their full album, where the listener could then hear more and learn more about the band.

The Multichannel Approach

The goal of using these different tools or channels should always be for the recipient to end up at your website, where they can hear more and learn more about your organization.

  • Start by sharing an image or a story on social media of how your mission is specifically creating impact in the world and encourage supporters to share with their networks.
  • Provide links for the audience to read the full story or watch the entire video on your website
  • Once there, you want to have a call to action, usually an email sign up section that allows you capture some initial information from the visitor so you can begin building a relationship with them and inspire them to respond to more of your “songs”.
  •  Your organization should continue to explore different tools and strategies for online donor acquisition, increasing your chances of reaching a larger and newer audience.

Similar to the different genres of music, there are different types of online donor acquisition and not every type of donor acquisition tool or strategy appeals to everyone.  Take a look at your current approach to online donor acquisition and determine which band you are.  Both have their strengths and are capable of engaging large and loyal fan bases.


What’s Your New Donor Acquisition Style? 

  • Are you a simple, straight forward acquirer like The Ramones?
  • Are you a diverse acquirer like The Who?

Once you have identified your style, begin considering the ways that you can perfect it. Leave an impression. Sell your full album.

Finally, if you’ve read this entire blog post and have never listened to The Ramones or The Who, you have a little more work to do…  Go to your local iTunes store, download The Ramones “Ramones” album and The Who’s “Who’s Next” album.

You can thank me later…


Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

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