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A Donor Acquisition Strategy for Healthcare Organizations

A clear donor acquisition strategy is essential for nonprofit health organizations. Yet, attracting and retaining the interest of potential donors has become more complex, necessitating a more systematic and strategic approach.

As a healthcare nonprofit, your mission focuses on improving the health and well-being of those in your community. Because of the life-saving work that your organization does, your team is always looking for new funding opportunities to keep operations afloat—whether it’s applying for a new grant or finding a new corporate partner.

However, a lack of focus on individual giving could put your financial health at risk. Generosity from individuals makes up the majority of giving. What Giving USA 2023 tells us is that individuals gave a total of $319 billion in 2022, far surpassing foundations ($105 billion), bequests ($45 billion), and corporations ($29 billion).

Your Donor Acquisition Strategy Needs Personalization

Traditional fundraising methods, such as sending appeals to your existing donor database, have had some success in the past. However, in today’s digital world, this basic approach falls short of donor expectations. Moreover, such a generalized strategy is unlikely to improve your donor acquisition rate significantly.

The modern donor lives in a world of hyper-personalized experiences—think Netflix, Amazon, DoorDash. They’re not just customers—they’re participants in a tailored narrative. So why should their experience with your cause be any different?

This level of personalization is becoming a necessity for all online experiences. In fact, 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands with personalized online experiences. While this report focuses on consumer brands, it also applies to nonprofits and their donor base. Personalization goes beyond just donor acquisition. Consistency in your personalization can also positively impact your donor stewardship and retention efforts.

So, how can nonprofits achieve this type of personalization?

Responsive Fundraising Is Personal and Intentional

Enter Responsive Fundraising.

Responsive fundraising puts the donor at the center of fundraising and grows giving through personalized donor journeys that respond to the needs of each individual. The responsive approach is a recognition that cultivating generosity isn’t just about asking for more—it’s about forging deeper, more personal connections with donors.

But therein lies the crux of the problem: While giving is intrinsically personal, the technology and processes that most nonprofits rely on are anything but.

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, 81.4% of first-time donors never make a second gift. In other words, if you gain 100 new donors today, only 19 are likely to contribute again. But here’s the silver lining: organizations that adopt Responsive Fundraising strategies typically see a 12% increase in donor retention.

We’re in a generosity crisis, not because people have stopped caring. It’s because the systems we’ve built to facilitate that caring are fundamentally flawed. We’ve witnessed a 76% donor attrition rate, a 50% donor turnover yearly, and a 25% drop in low to mid-level donors in the last decade.

With high donor acquisition costs, you want to make sure your efforts are converting more donors. 

Why Traditional Fundraising Falls Short for Today’s Donors

The reason traditional fundraising is no longer effective? It’s straightforward. Current donors are encountering:

  1. Inappropriate asks and impersonal messages
  2. A lack of gift acknowledgment and limited transparency
  3. Poor and unhelpful communications

The interplay of these three experiences might cause a potential donor to reconsider their donation and turn to another organization with a similar cause.

For example:

Imagine your nonprofit focuses on breast cancer research, prevention, and treatment. A prospective donor, whose mother was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, subscribes to your newsletter to gain insights into the disease and explore treatment options.

If you don’t gather extra information initially, such as what specific content they are seeking, and instead automatically include them in your standard email series with a generic message about the severity of the disease, it may not meet their needs.

Meanwhile, they are already aware of the disease’s impact and were looking for more practical content, like how to care for a loved one with the illness. As a result, you risk losing their support because you didn’t consider their specific stage in their journey related to your mission.

The Responsive Framework

Responsive Fundraising Framework

Responsive fundraising helps you avoid stories like these. It prioritizes the donor, their passions, interests, and preferences and customizes each donor journey based on intention.

With the responsive fundraising framework, you:

  • Listen:
    Listen to what current donors tell you about their interests and preferences through consistent communication, donor surveys, and nonprofit data collection.
  • Learn:
    Observe donor signals and behavior through your listening initiatives to learn what’s important to them.
  • Connect:
    Offer meaningful connections with stories, information, and inspiration based on their interests and passions.
  • Suggest:
    Offer the next best action for the donor to take based on how they’ve connected with you.

Responsive Fundraising In Action

St. Luke's Health System Logo

Jason Wyssmann is the Director of Development of Saint Luke’s Heath System. He and his team work hard to put responsive fundraising into action by leaning into outbound donor surveys and framing content around two key pieces:

  1. What mission impact do donors have a preference toward?
  2. What are donors interested in?

“Through website listening—along with our donor surveys, which is understanding the interests in the areas of care they care about—we get more intelligence that is real-time and personalized.”

Jason Wyssmann, Director of Development of Saint Luke’s Health System

By listening to donors’ interests and preferences and pairing them with data intelligence from its nonprofit CRM, Saint Luke’s Health provides donor-centric experiences designed to attract and engage new potential donors and unlock their generosity.

A Winning Donor Acquisition Rate With Multichannel

Acquiring a new donor is more than just one personalized experience. Sure, you might catch their attention, but the needle that could move someone from being interested in your cause to someone who donated is providing a unified giving experience across all of your channels.

Did you know that nonprofits that take on the multichannel approach to fundraising see an increase of 300% in donor lifetime value?

Supporters of healthcare nonprofits are unique, often personally affected by your mission. They, or someone close to them, might be fighting a disease or illness. Providing them with a tailored experience that resonates with their personal journey related to your cause is crucial. This approach is key to increasing donations and impact.

While taking a multichannel approach to fundraising can seem like a big project to take on, it doesn’t have to be. Bryan Funk, VP of Category Marketing at Virtuous, suggests:

“If taking on multichannel or going deeper into marketing automation feels really overwhelming, maybe it’s as simple as going back and taking a look at your new donor welcome series and asking, ‘Where can we get more personal? Where do we need to reinvent? Where do we need to refer?’ That’s just a simple place to start.”

Bryan Funk, VP of Category Marketing at Virtuous

Personalize the Donor Journey With Data Insights

If you’re ready to integrate multichannel into your fundraising efforts and personalize each donor journey, use the data insights available to you on your nonprofit CRM. Don’t overlook the power of your data—it plays an essential role in your acquisition efforts.

The nonprofits that partner with Virtuous can track website and email engagement and take these learnings to create individualized experiences. Based on donor actions, nonprofits can trigger automated workflows that enroll donors into multichannel campaigns.

Marketing automation in Virtuous CRM.
Virtuous CRM automates personalized engagement for all your donors

Learning about your donors through active listening is especially important for the major gifts element of your donor acquisition strategy. As a Major Gifts Executive Lindsay Voltz, CFRE, puts it, “Major donors are coming to us in a variety of ways, and you have to, as a fundraiser, learn exactly why they have given to your organization.”

“We can learn to understand donor intent and what’s motivating them because that is key to helping donors connect with their passions through their philanthropy.”

Lindsay Voltz, CFRE


Your fundraising strategy should encompass both high online engagement and robust offline communication channels. This combination is essential for creating a comprehensive donor lifecycle experience.

Wyssmann summarizes, “Digital has become prominent. It’s skewing generationally—everybody’s engaging with devices. Multichannel is key. Direct mail isn’t going anywhere, but it’s important to supplement and layer. We’re doing a better job not waiting for the campaign to cycle back around, but developing a drip campaign and cadence of content year-round to speak about impact.”

Embracing a Culture of Philanthropy to Improve Donor Acquisition

The people drawn to your mission are passionate and committed. They have the potential to be your most loyal advocates for your cause. But how can you unlock that generosity and unwavering commitment? Along with creating personalized, data-driven donor journeys, responsive fundraising requires embracing a culture of philanthropy.

For successful donor acquisition, it’s crucial to convey to potential donors that they are joining a community of like-minded individuals equally passionate about your cause. Emphasizing this shared passion in your communications can significantly help in meeting your acquisition targets.

So, ask yourself: Does your team have a strong, genuine connection to the cause? And is this connection reflected in the way you reach out and communicate?

“Sometimes the culture of philanthropy really has to start within the foundation itself and truly approaching your donors with genuine curiosity. I think it’s contagious throughout the entire health care system,” Voltz says.

Show Donors Your Gratitude

Examine your public communications, such as your website and social media platforms. Ask yourself: when a first-time potential donor visits these platforms, can they clearly perceive the gratitude and appreciation you hold for your community of supporters?

“Donors genuinely appreciate being thanked in a timely manner. To have that personalized thank-you, saying, ‘I noticed that you gave. Thank you so much. We would love to learn more about what what motivated you to give. We just appreciate it. You’re making our work possible.’ It goes such a long way, and it helps with building trust and helps them understand your organization on a deeper level and for you to understand your donors,” Voltz explains.

Showing off a little gratitude can be done several ways:

A campaign update

Once a campaign ends, update the campaign landing page on your website with how much was raised, what projects are now possible with the funds raised, and how thankful you are to active donors’ generosity and commitment.

Social media shoutouts

Take the chance to publicly acknowledge your donors on your social media channels, always ensuring you have their permission. Additionally, many of your supporters may post about their contributions on social media. Engage with these posts by liking, commenting, and sharing them to foster a sense of community and appreciation.

Impact stories

Focus on the individuals your organization helps. Share their inspiring stories and how your donors’ support and generosity have positively impacted their lives. This approach motivates potential donors to contribute and assures them that their donations can create meaningful change.

For instance, the Epilepsy Foundation has a landing page dedicated to sharing individual stories.

The Epilepsy Foundation uses a landing page of impact stories as one of their donor acquisition strategies.

“Looking at the brand of our health system, philanthropy is a thread within that brand. It’s not an exclusive thread that sits somewhere else and outside the tapestry. It’s woven in throughout and gratitude grows over time through experiences and that involves everyone,” Wyssmann shares.

Wyssmann also recommends getting the frontline workers—the nurses, the doctors, the healthcare practitioners involved to show gratitude.

“It starts with trying to orient our physicians to think about philanthropy. Not that they have to be right there on the solicitation, but just to recognize gratitude. It’s a huge thing to have that relationship to raise their hand and say, ‘This patient might be worthy of a conversation.”

Jason Wyssmann, Director of Development of Saint Luke’s Health System

A Responsive Mindset Levels Up Online Donor Acquisition

Responsive fundraising empowers nonprofits to keep up with the modern engagement strategies of the constantly innovating for-profit world. By listening to what donors are asking for, learning from those donor signals, connecting with donors based on those signals, and suggesting actions to take next, nonprofit health organizations can acquire new donors, build better donor relationships, and retain their support.

Ready to learn more about taking the responsive approach to fundraising? Download Responsive Fundraising by Gabe Cooper, Virtuous Founder and CEO. From it, you’ll learn how to pair modern technology with human connection to engage donors and unleash their generosity.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

See the Virtuous platform in action.  Schedule a call with our team for personalized answers and expert advice on transforming your nonprofit with donor management software.

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

If you know another nonprofit pro who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via Email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

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