Why You Need an Ideal Donor Profile

• ideal donor profiles • improve fundraising results • Donor engagement • fundraising effectiveness
Ellen Bristol


Instead, we're writing about strategic issues, the stuff you "never have time for," under ordinary circumstances. Now,  you have the time. 

First in the series: Why You Need an Ideal Donor Profile.  What the heck is an ideal-donor profile anyway?  I'll tell you what it is and give you three reasons why you need one.

The Ideal Donor Profile, IDP for short, is a way to describe the donor (or corporate sponsor, or grant-making organization) most likely to support you. The ideal donor has at least three sets of characteristics:

  • Passion for your mission, cause or programs. If they aren't motivated by what you do, forget trying to cultivate them.
  • Giving history. Evidence they give invest in (a) nonprofits in the first place, (b) organizations in the same or similar sector as yours, or c) they already give to you.
  • Giving capacity. Evidence that they give their money to causes. Lots of wealthy people don't, and quite a few people of modest means do. Giving capacity is the least important of these characteristics unless you're seeking major investors (which depends on your definition of "major").

Every effort you make to acquire and retain investors should start with  understanding your IDP's motivations for giving, whether you're seeking zillion-dollar investments, or $25/year.

Three reasons why you need an IDP:

1. Stop wasting time and money.  If you don't have an IDP, you and your team will probably chase anybody with an address and a pulse. You'll waste unrecoverable time trying to find, cultivate, and solicit prospects who aren't interested, don't have money to give, or are overcommitted elsewhere. Our research shows that development officers could be wasting as much as $1,000/hour trying to cultivate the wrong donors. Yikes!

2. Focus your marketing and outreach.  Your IDP describes the giving motivations of your best donors (or other funders). Thus, your website, e-newsletters, appeal letters, social media marketing can now "speaks" to your IDP more effectively. Your website traffic improves; more people respond to emails; more even give online. The right messaging attracts more prospective investors at every possible giving level.  

3. Provide GREAT resources to your fundraising team. You're not the only person raising money for your org, are you? Your team, members of the board development committee and other volunteers can use the IDP too. It helps them open a conversation, find out if the prospect is worth further cultivation effort, and even enjoy participating in fundraising. 

Unfortunately, our Leaky Bucket research shows that as many as 94% of nonprofits LACK a documented IDP including giving motivations. What about yours? Take the Leaky Bucket Assessment to see how your nonprofit rates. It's free and it only takes about 7 minutes to complete.

Leaky Bucket Assessment 


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