CAF logo

CAF Advisory


Charities Aid Foundation

How can my charity find new donors?

23 January 2020

With a little thought and consideration, you can begin to build a loyal base of supporters for your charity. Our charity advisory team share some top tips on where to start.

Where can we find more donors? This is often a question charities ask when looking to grow their income. 

The answer can be found by thinking strategically about who might be interested in your work, understanding their needs and then using the fundraising tools that are most appropriate for that audience.

The types of donors

There are many different kinds of donors, but they broadly sit under four categories:


Private citizens who, for one reason or another, choose to donate their own personal funds through charitable giving.
Trusts and foundations

Charitable organisations themselves that exist specifically to distribute funding to other charities via grants.

Private businesses often make donations and/or encourage staff and customers to take part in charity fundraising.
Local organisations

Church groups, community networks, schools and other groups united by geography or interest are often willing to raise money for or alongside charities.

Each will have their own motivations for donating and will offer different forms of support, ranging from cash in buckets or regular gifts, to legacies, volunteering and access to their skills and networks. In turn, this means that the way in which they want to be approached and should be approached will differ from donor to donor.

Understand who would be interested in your cause

This means first looking internally at the work you do and ensuring you have a clear vision, mission and programmes that will help attract interest in your cause. You don't want to be funding-led, instead you want to focus on doing good quality and impactful work that will lead to support.

It is also important to consider how your values and identity translate into something that fits with the audience.

For example, if you're a local organisation and the key value is local connections, then tying into local people is really important – be it through posters in the doctor's surgery, press coverage in the local newspaper or events at community centres.

Drilling down into specific demographic characteristics can help further. Targeting local newspapers can be really effective but you have to understand the demographic. Younger generations may not read local papers, but older generations still do.

Link the type of donor to your goal

Also important is how much money is needed and the speed at which the funds are required. Major donor fundraising, for example, can result in large gifts but the relationships can take many months and even years to strengthen.

Meanwhile, crowdfunding can generate income quite quickly but for it to be successful a strong social network is needed. Crowdfunding does have the advantage that you don't require any pre-existing fundraising infrastructure to use it but a lot of people need to see your page in order to raise the funds.

Return on investment

Equally, charities should cost out the fundraising activity and make sure that the time, energy and resource required to deliver it is worth the effort. Events are a prime example – they can be good but expensive. In-kind support from local businesses or other community groups – such as free room hire or free refreshments, can make them much more manageable.

Similar principles apply when considering the return on investment of other fundraising tools and techniques, such as databases and staff.

If you're a small charity and you have no paid members of staff it may seem disproportionate to invest in a fundraising staff member. However, if you're a larger charity with ten or more staff, it's likely to be worth investing in a member of staff to be a designated fundraiser.

The key is to analyse your need, research the value the team member or database could add, and then assess how much time and resource is required to enable the investment to deliver more income for you. For instance, volunteers give their time for free but if you have to spend a lot of time recruiting them, training them and managing them, it may be more cost effective to invest in a member of staff who knows what they're doing.

Investing in fundraising expertise

There can be big decisions to make when it comes to investing in fundraising, particularly if you're an organisation that is venturing into this area for the first time. As such, it can be very useful to have board-level expertise to draw on.

There has been a big drive for accountants and professional financial services to ensure you are financially resilient. Often there is a gap in trustee boards with regards fundraising – they don't have background on how to generate income from within the third sector. I would encourage the organisation to recruit some fundraising experience onto the board to get expertise.

Ultimately, attracting supporters means understanding how you can match your work with their needs, and determining what you are willing to do and spend in the process. With some thought and planning, you can find your audience and raise the funds you need to change the world.