In my last blog, I wrote about why your organization’s future depends on your donor pipeline. I hope you’ve taken steps to find the donor pipeline in your organization structure. If you have, now it’s time to evaluate how you’re feeding and caring for that pipeline (both the individual donor pipeline and the institutional donor pipeline).

In our experience at Veritus, there are eight steps to properly caring for and feeding your donor pipeline:

  1. Identify the revenue sources.

    The first step is to identify all your funding sources in these two broad categories: individuals and institutions. What are the major types? So, for individuals, you might have current giving donors, planned gift donors, mid-level donors, major gift donors, planned gift donors, earned revenue individuals (ticket buyers, services buyers, etc). For institutions, this could be businesses, foundations, educational institutions, places of worship, government, other non-profits, etc.

  2. Identify ideal donor by source.

    You already know that not all individual or institutional donors will want to support your organization. In fact, most of them won’t. But who will? What are their attributes and characteristics? You need to have a general idea of your individual and institutional donor profile.

  3. Identify universe of prospective donors by source.

    Having identified the profile of each donor by source, the next step is to get a general handle of the universe of each donor profile and source. Direct marketers (agencies and internal professionals) have this down to a science, having figured out through testing that “these types of donors respond better and at higher value than those types of donors.” It’s important to have a general sense of what the count is of all the types of donors for each source profile. Because then you’ll be ready to…

  4. Set acquisition goals.

    Now you’re ready to set donor acquisition goals. This is THE critical step in your donor pipeline care and feeding program because a fundraising program without an active donor acquisition program is like a body without blood. It will not function or live. So, you need to set goals every year as to how many donors by type/source you will acquire.

  5. Create an acquisition plan.

    Create a plan to achieve your donor acquisition goals.

  6. Execute the plan.

    And then execute that plan so you are actively bringing in donors for all revenue sources to your organization.

  7. Create a cultivation, retention, and upgrading plan.

    Develop these plans for all the donors you currently have and intend to acquire. This is complex and detailed, but there’s no sense in acquiring donors that you don’t intend to care for once they’re in the house.

  8. Measure everything.

    You should establish cost and revenue ratios (ROI) and KPIs (key performance indicators) for every donor acquisition and cultivation program. There’s plenty of information on best practice metrics out there in the marketplace, so just ask. We can help you with the mid, major, and planned gift metrics. Other organizations and agencies can help with metrics around donor acquisition and initial cultivation. One thing for sure, do not execute any of these programs without a sense of the metrics you will use to measure their effectiveness.

There you have it. How to care and feed your donor pipeline. Remember, paying close attention to the maintenance of your donor pipeline, from start to finish, is one of the most strategic things you can do in the resource acquisition function of the organization. Ignore doing this work at your peril. Proactively manage it, and you’ll be closer to achieving your organization’s mission as a result of your thriving donor pipeline.


Read Part One:

No Pipeline, No Future: How Does the Donor Pipeline Fit Into Your Organizational Structure?