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Identifying Your Donors: Where To Start?

Identifying Your Donors: Where To Start?

You know that identifying your donors is important. But do you know where to start?

Easy: With your own lists, and some basic categories that are meaningful to your organization or fundraising in general.

Your data may be well-organized, or you may have a bunch of lists that identify some basics, such as who donated during your last push, which contacts have opened your email communications, and so on. Regardless of the state of your data, this is where you start  your donor-identification process.

Among the most important things you should be tracking and segmenting on: when your donors (or prospects) give. Are they annual donors? Lapsed donors? Prospects? Figuring out the frequency of when your audience gives will help you tailor messages that fit. A lapsed donor will need a different sort of coaxing than a prospect, and a regular supporter should be treated altogether differently.

Another key attribute: the cause that convinced them to donate their money. If you don’t have different causes, this probably won’t apply to your organization. But if you have different reasons for your pushes–an annual building fund for facilities vs. a targeted campaign to help provide scholarships to young people, for instance–you should be able to tell who gave to what cause. This information can help you cut down on unwanted communication to donors that favor one cause over others. It could help you uncover willing donors by communicating to them the value of supporting other causes, too.

Data Audit and Action Plan

Once you understand the categories of donors and potential donors you have, and their giving patters, it’s time to start determining what motivates them to give. This isn’t easy–trying to understand what triggers a person’s desire to support a cause is guesswork at best (unless you’re conducting a survey, which is a great way to gain periodic insight). But you can begin to understand what triggers the give by paying attention to how your audience interacts with your messaging.

Start with the obvious–tracking how donations come in. People sending in money in a reply-to envelope were clearly moved by that campaign’s message. Electronic communication, especially emails, provides important insight as well. Track who is reading your messaging and cross-reference their donation patterns.

Perhaps you’ll learn that donor frequency does not correlate with the amount of interaction a donor or potential donor has with your messaging (though this would be unusual). What you are more likely to find is that a subset of your infrequent donors is in fact reading your messaging, liking your Facebook posts, etc., but they are not quite motivated enough to give. This type of insight gives you a very specific target of engaged, compassionate candidates that merit a very specific campaign.

The same types of patterns can help glean what moves your prospects from potential donors to first-time donors. Are you getting more via direct mail vs. online? What about at specific times of year?

The science of donor identity is both effective and can be very complex. But it does not have to start out that way. Understanding the basics of your current prospects will give you ideas on how to begin targeting your messages and your tactics. This is an ideal way to start as you’re determining how you will move into more sophisticated categories.

Helping clients build donor-identity datasets is one of our specialties.

If you are looking for ways to jump-start your donor-identification process, or take it to a higher level, we’d be happy to talk to you!