One of the things you need to do constantly as nonprofit, is looking out for supporters. People or organizations who can and want to support your work or specific activities. This is often a challenge, especially at the beginning when the organization does not have a track record and cannot show past results and successes. But it remains a relevant focus also for more experienced nonprofits because you cannot rely on one and the same donor funding you for all time. So what should you do? How to find the right donors?

It won’t happen just like that

The first thing to do is PLAN. It almost never happens that you just simply stumble upon a donor who will give you so much money that you can do everything in your strategic plan just like that. I say almost, but in all honesty, I myself have NEVER experienced this. If you have been so lucky, I want to hear and learn from you!

Plan achievements

You need to make a plan for how the perfect donors will be mobilized to invest in your activities and work. As with any plan, you need to start by visualizing and specifying your end goal. Look at your strategic plan. What do you want to have achieved by the end of that plan? Plan backward: If you want to have achieved abc by the end of 2022, for instance, what will you need to have achieved by the end of 2021? What, by the end of 2020? And what by the end of September 2020?

Plan actions

Identify actions from now to the end of September to make that possible. So that you know what you will need to be doing between now and the end of September to achieve the little win you need to have by then. This will be the basis for the milestones in December 2020, December 2021, and December 2022 (in this example).

Try to make a rough plan for the whole period until end of September, and then make a really detailed plan for the first four weeks. For the next four weeks you should know for each day what you need to do to make it to the first milestone by end of September. Make sure this plan is doable, given available time. And make sure you keep track of how much you can get done. So that you can learn for the next period; knowing better what is realistic and what maybe not so much.


Now you know what you need to achieve by when, and what you need to be doing in the next days and weeks. This is the time to look at the resources you need to be able to achieve these wins, and to take the planned steps. What resources do you need for each stage of the road? How much of them? Where do you need support? What kind of support? What if you would not have (all of) these resources in place at these moments? Could you make do without them? How would that impact your work and impact in the end?

Who can be a resource for you?

Think about who could be interested in helping you acquire these resources. What kind of persons, organizations, government agencies, companies, etc. could be interested in supporting your activity? Why? What would make them interested? In other words, where do you see overlap in their interests, concerns, priorities, and your activities and work? How do you know this for sure? Do you have any information about them, their priorities, and concerns? Think about what kind of support you might be able to get from them. Do they donate money, give grants, provide free of charge services? Be very precise in all of this! Make a plan for finding out those things you do not know for sure or do not know at all. What can you do to find out more? Collect all information and open questions in a spreadsheet or database.

Relation building

Now you know what you need, how much of it and when. You have researched who can help you with acquiring missing resources. Now you need to develop a plan how you can get in touch with these possible donors and how you can convince them to support you. I am saying ‘develop a plan’ on purpose. Because you need to develop a relation with your possible donors, so that both sides can see and feel that there is a good match. You need to think of how you can make it so the possible donor will get to know you, will start liking you and will trust you. This is a process that takes time and requires attention and effort from your side.




How can you get in touch with the possible donor? What can you share with them so they can start knowing you? Where? What platforms do they use, personally and/or professionally? If they are on Facebook, check if your page is showing clearly what you are about. Are you keeping it fresh? Does it look nice? Are you responding to queries there? Are you facilitating a conversation with your community there that this possible donor can see and join in?

Know – Like – Trust

Think very carefully about all the little actions you can do to make it easy, useful and fun for your possible donor to get to know you, online and offline.

Think also carefully about where the overlapping interests and concerns are. Your possible donor may start liking you more if it becomes obvious to them that you have something in common. Make sure that these things are highlighted properly in whatever communication actions you are implementing.

Think very carefully as well about how you could gain trust of your possible donor. What are worries they might have? What is important for them when supporting an organization or activity? Which values do they adhere to? If you think you can meet their standards, think about how you can show that. Can you publish your anti-corruption policy on your website? Or can you post on social media about how you are making sure that there is no harassment of vulnerable participants, for instance?

Be real

When planning how you will build the  know – like – trust factor make sure to keep it real. Don’t pretend to be something you are not. Do not embellish the truth. Do not lie.

Treat others as you would love to be treated yourself

When you are developing a plan and a strategy how to identify, attract and build trust with possible donors, keep in mind how you would like to be treated yourself. If someone needs something you have, how would you like them to come asking for it? How would you expect them to treat equipment they borrow, for instance? How would you reassure yourself they are the kind of people who would treat your equipment in that way?

Be concrete and clear

How would you like it if someone you did not know at all would approach you in the street and say: “Hello, I would like you to help me work on my organization.” Would they get anything from you with this sentence alone?

Of course, they would not!

You do not even know what they would like to get. You do not know who they are. And you have no clue whether they are doing something that is of any interest to you.

So – do not be like that person.

Do not keep the people you reach out to guessing about why you are contacting them, about who you are and about what is in it for them. Like you, most possible donors do not have time to go guessing and will simply move to the next e-mail in their inbox after deleting your vague request.

Learn and repeat

Make sure you keep track of everything you do and of the results you achieve. Look back at this regularly to see what you can learn from this. Adjust your strategy and planned actions accordingly. Make sure you always have a strategy in place for reaching out to existing and possible donors. Do not stop with these activities as soon as you have found your first donor and received support from them. Anything can change. Your donor may go out of business or change priorities. Once you grow, your ambitions will grow, and your needs will grow. So if you want to be sustainable as an organization, make sure you always have donor outreach actions going on, both for new and existing donors.

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