Your donor data is the insight that you have into your supporters. It tells you who your donors are and how best you can reach them.

That’s why data-driven marketing is important; it takes these insights into consideration so that you can create the most effective appeals for your donors.

Data deteriorates at a rate of 25% per year if left untouched1.

If your nonprofit isn’t using your data, then you’re losing your data. Take advantage of what you have, and amp up your marketing strategies.

To do so, follow these tips:

  1. Create clear goals.
  2. Segment your donors.
  3. Pay attention to preferred communication channels.

Let’s get started with the first – and please stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, sharing more tips!

1. Create clear goals.

Before you can send targeted marketing appeals, your nonprofit needs to know what you’re aiming for.

Setting clear goals can help you use your data to its full potential. After all, your donor data is simply information, and knowing what to look for can help you interpret the information you have.

Specifically, having goals can show you which donors you need to target with your marketing appeals.

For example, if you’re looking to grow your planned giving program, then you can search for relevant data, including:

  • Past giving history.
  • Philanthropic involvement.
  • Real estate ownership.
  • Personal information, such as age or gender.

Once you’ve looked into your donor database, you can look for these indicators and send your most promising planned giving prospects targeted appeals for your legacy program2.

That way, you save time, money, and resources by only sending marketing materials to those who are most likely to respond.

As such, goals are important because they allow you to send the most relevant appeals to your most likely donors, increasing your marketing ROI3.

Apart from planned giving, there are several other goals that your organization may set.

A few possibilities include:

  • Retain more donors.
  • Increase average gift size of mid-level donors.
  • Raise email open rates.

The more specific you can be with your goals, the better (i.e. retain 20% more donors). That way, you’ll have criteria to evaluate your marketing strategy.

In summary, setting goals allows you to identify what data will be most relevant to your marketing strategy so that you can target donors appropriately.

2. Segment your donors.

Once you understand what you hope to achieve, you’ll need to segment your donors accordingly.

Segmenting your donors means separating them based on certain traits. You may, for example, segment donors by their average gift size. In this case, you may end up sending different appeals to major and high-level donors, mid-level donors, and new or infrequent donors.


Your donors will expect different amounts of stewardship based on what they’ve given to your organization.

Likewise, your nonprofit doesn’t have unlimited resources; you need to dedicate more attention to your high-impact donors who carry the largest portion of your fundraising.

Hosting in-person meetings with major donors, for example, would be more appropriate than sending an email.

You can also segment your donors for communications within the same medium. For example, you’ll want to ensure that new donors are introduced to your organization when they sign up for an email newsletter, while long-time supporters will want current and new updates about your progress toward your cause.

This is true for campaign emails, newsletters, drip campaigns4, mailed materials, and any constant contact with your donors.

As such, segmenting your donors can help you communicate most effectively with each donor group. It can also help each individual donor reach their full potential within your organization.

After all, giving size is only one type of data that can be used for segmentation. In the day of social media, posting frequency or other social response rates can be used to identify which of your supporters could be your strongest political and philanthropic advocates5.

As with the first point, the key is to know what and who you’re looking for so that you can send them the most personalized and relevant information.

In summary, segmenting your donors allows you to market to multiple donor groups at once while specializing each communication to meet the needs and expectations of each group.

3. Pay attention to preferred communication channels.

One of the most important pieces of data in your database is your donors’ preferred communication channels.

Many CRMs offer integration with your communication channels so that you can track how donors respond to what you’re sending6.

This data can include:

  • Email open rates.
  • Response rates.
  • Average gift size per channel.

By looking at this data holistically, you can determine how your donors prefer their communications on the whole. If one channel is particularly effective, then it makes sense to direct your most important marketing materials into that channel.

Of course, most marketing campaigns will see more success if they’re multi-channel7.

It’s important to know where your strengths lie so that you can reach your donors through a proven method. But it’s also important to see where your weaknesses are so that you can improve donor engagement for a more effective multi-channel approach.

For example, you may find that your donors aren’t particularly receptive to your social media channels. Perhaps it’s not because your donors don’t enjoy social media as a communication channel, but because the content you’re posting doesn’t engage donors.

That’s why it’s important that you take the data you have to formulate a marketing plan that can help you maximize all of your channels.

To do so:

  • Integrate your marketing efforts. Invite donors to follow you on social media in emails. Or, you can offer a printed newsletter on your website. The point is to intersect your marketing materials so that donors are aware of all of the ways they can communicate with your nonprofit.
  • Call donors to action. In any communication strategy, calling donors to action can persuade them to follow through with the action that you’re requesting. For example, you can tell them to “Follow our Facebook page for frequent updates” or “Subscribe to our email newsletter to stay up-to-date!”
  • Test your channels. If you’re lacking data, or if you need to pinpoint exactly why your donors aren’t responding, then you can perform tests to try to improve your communications. A/B subject line testing (or sending out two different subject lines to different donor groups and testing their open rates), for example, can help you figure out which email headlines are most effective.

The point is that you can use your donors’ preferred marketing channels to boost your other channels.

That said, you should still send your most important appeals and asks through the channel that your donors most prefer. After all, that’s where you’ve been able to reach them most effectively in the past.

In summary, use data on your communications to craft a multi-channel marketing strategy that will help you reach and engage your donors from a multitude of opportunities.

Three more tips are coming tomorrow, in the next part of the series, so don’t miss out!

Sarah Tedesco's headshot

Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.

AlumniFinder Team