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The Donor Acquisition Dilemma

By E. Dale Berkey, Ph.D.


I’ll give you the bad news, first:

The number of Americans making donations continues to decline, according to a recently released Giving USA 2018 study by Giving USA Foundation — a group that publishes data and trends about charitable giving and philanthropy in America. They found:

  • Two-thirds of Americans donated to charity in 2000.
  • But by 2017, this figure dropped to 52% …

… even though the number of registered charities in the United States is on the rise!

It’s what we call “The Donor Acquisition Dilemma”: more ministries fighting for the attention of a shrinking donor pool.

This trend is especially concerning because it means fewer people are experiencing:

  1. The joy of giving as an act of worship.
  2. The blessing that comes from releasing back to the Lord the resources He’s provided.
  3. The satisfaction that comes from partnering with ministries to advance the Kingdom.

So BBS & Associates set out to find a path out of this dilemma — to keep new dollars flowing into Kingdom work and to connect new friends to the God-given mission of the ministries we serve.

And here’s the good news: We have a solution — a method called “Donor Modeling” — which we’ve been successfully implementing for years and seeing strong results.

In Donor Modeling, we work with trusted, strategic partners to analyze your ministry’s data and build a model designed to find new donors similar to your active donors by using advanced statistical methods.

Yes, you do give your data to a third party. And while I recognize this can cause some ministries concern, as they are not permitted to share their internal data with those outside the ministry … this doesn’t need to be a red flag.

  • There are third parties who perform this service that will simply use the data to build your model and delete it shortly thereafter.
  • There are also trustworthy third parties you can allow to keep the data and add to their database in exchange for giving you access to all names from the database, including those from their other clients.

One such company is Wiland, and here’s how the process works:

  1. You give the necessary data to Wiland.
  2. Wiland uses it to build a customized model.
  3. They compare that model against their database of donors, compiled from other clients with the same goal.
  4. The resulting report can determine which names will likely be the best match to your ministry’s unique God-given vision.
  5. Wiland generates a list of names to include in your ministry’s acquisition mailing.

In working with Wiland, we have seen their models consistently outperform traditional rental lists.

And through that collaborative partnership, many new donors have been:

  • Introduced and connected to the ministries we serve, and their God-given mission.
  • Invited to steward their resources back to Him and experience the joy of giving.
  • Given the satisfaction of making a difference in the world for Christ in partnership with these ministries!

For this reason, we highly recommend Donor Modeling. It’s one of the most important steps your ministry can take to combat The Donor Acquisition Dilemma and begin relationships with potential donors who are passionate about changing the world!

If you’d like more information on Donor Modeling, or next steps you can take to improve your donor acquisition efforts, feel free to email me at