Donor Acquisition Strategies

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me… You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus. (2 Timothy 1:16-18).

The greatest challenge for many non-profits is finding more donors. Onesiphorus could be the patron saint of donor research. He was Paul’s colleague in Ephesus who searched for him until he found him in Rome. You may need to revive old friendships like Onesiphorus with Paul, or you may be searching for new ministry partners. A successful donor acquisition strategy involves analyzing your database for lapsed donors, networking and relationship building, and marketing and promotional campaigns. Start with the strategies Onesiphorus used.

Search Hard

We are blessed to live in the information age, but there is no one magic database to answer the question, “Where’s Waldo?” Recruit a team of volunteers to research Facebook, LinkedIn, and your old student directories to update your donor information. Consider subscribing to an address search service. Enlist someone who has been with your organization for years and knows everyone and their cousin and task them with namestorming a list of past and potential donors.


Onesiphorus was persistent. He didn’t have our modern research tools. Instead, he had old-fashioned sandal-leather and began knocking on doors and talking with anyone who would listen. Encourage your board members to identify potential donors. Networking is your best donor research strategy. One donor scrolled through his iPhone address book and shared thirty-five potential donors he would be willing to introduce to the ministry.


What is your motivation for finding new donors? Is it so they can help you, or is it so you can help them? Our overarching donor engagement perspective should be to help donors grow in the grace of giving (2 Cor. 8:7). Your donors will benefit more from your conversation than you will. Paul said, “Not that I desire your gifts, what I desire is that more be credited to your account” (Phil. 4:17). Your mission should be to help your donors “lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:19).


Onesiphorus refreshed Paul again and again. One way to refresh your donors is to share good news about everything God is accomplishing in your ministry. Donors love to hear stories of changed lives. “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land” (Prov. 25:25). Do you encourage and reenergize your donors? Are they invigorated by your mission, vision, and results? Do your donors love to see you coming because of the joy you bring them? Encourage your donors and they will encourage you. “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25).

Think About This:
A board member made this great observation, “Everyone in our organization needs to be constantly in conversations with people to find out where God is hiding money!”

Father, please give me persistence to find new donors. Lead me to the ministry partners you’ve assigned to help us.

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for  Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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