Strategy Quick Hit: How To Connect With The Right Donors

Hello! This week I’m offering a strategy quick tip: A strategy and a tool for actually figuring out who you should be aiming your fundraising energy at over the summer – your ideal donors. 

A bit of background/ context: Two weeks ago I joined forces with four of my favorite leaders in the nonprofit space on a project called Roadtrip. 

Jess Cambell, Cindy Wagman, Rhea Wong, and Rachael Bearbower and I offered a 2-hour series of 20-min fundraising mini-trainings designed to give you a roadmap for how to use the summer months to prepare for year-end fundraising. 

It was a smash hit, in addition to be soooo much fun to create and work on.  I mention it for 2 reasons – first, you can get the replay, and watch all five fundraising trainings for $47 at

Second, because it inspired the quick tip I’m going to offer today: Figuring out who your ideal donors are.

Fundraising works best when it’s relational. Everyone says that. But here’s what it means — It means that your donors are in a bi-directional relationship with your organization in which they donate contribute funds and support and the organization offers them an opportunity participate in having an impact on the world that they care very deeply about.

That last part is key – an impact that they care very deeply about.

The most effective fundraising enters a conversation already happening inside the minds of your ideal donors and attempts to see the world the way they see it.  

You have to find people who have an affinity for the mission – the deep connection to the outcomes that your organization is working towards… the shared vision of the better world you’re creating. 

That is EVERYTHING in the funding relationship. 

And what that means is that your fundraising will be increasingly successful the better you are at connecting with people who have that affinity or shared passion. And ignoring everyone else.

I always remind the folks I work with that there is no such thing as “fundraising for everyone.” If you are fundraising for everyone, you will connect with no one.  Always remember: Donors are people and all people are different. The more you’re able to connect with them on a personal level, and really get inside their heads,  the more effective your fundraising will be. 

That is why mass fundraising tactics don’t work as well as intentional and targeted engagement and cultivation tactics. 

My strategy quick tip is about how to begin to operationalize this: How to identify your ideal donor (or donor avatar.)

Here’s the thing, before I start: Everyone wants to skip this. They want to back of envelope this and use their instinct. Do. Not. Do. That. You will waste time, money and people’s energy coming up with cultivation events and fundraising campaigns for the wrong people, or focused on the wrong themes, and you will get less support. 

Also, I have a free toolkit with worksheets for all of this at 


Ok, here are a number of strategies you can use to develop profiles of your ideal donors — looking at your current donors, talk to your organizational partners, and if you’re still scratching your head – or just starting out – use yourself as a starting point. 

The one I’m going to highlight today is one that you can implement during th summer months to get you ready for the Fall, and it’s the absolute most powerful strategy for developing a deep understanding of your support community: The stakeholder interview. 

First, make a list of people who have demonstrated an affinity for your mission and/or work:  Current donors, board members, and even other stakeholders who have committed in some way – like program partners. 

Second, draft your interview questions

Consider the following: 

  • Tell me about what you choose to donate money to. 
  • What are your biggest concerns in the world (related to your nonprofit’s mission)?
  • If I could wave a magic wand and get you the results you are after, what would those results look like?
  • What (other) organizations have you been involved with similar to this cause?
  • Why did you decide to donate to us? (For current donors)
  • What are you looking for when you donate to a cause?

The point is to learn about their interests, needs, concerns, and passions, as they relate to your organization and its work.

Finally, capture and organize your notes in a way that allows you to illuminate themes and common trends. Pay attention to commonalities in what your stakeholders and donors are thinking, feeling, saying, and doing with respect to your issue, mission, and/or work. 

I also included an empathy map, which captures and organizes this kind of data, inside the toolkit at

So those are the 3 steps to take to develop really robust donor profiles. I’m going to say again what I said earlier: Don’t skip this. 

The summer is the PERFECT TIME to have these conversations, and you’ll go into the Fall more prepared than ever! 

So you can go even deeper on this with the Roadtrip replay at, and you can get the free donor attraction download at attraction.


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