October 31, 2018
Your donor base and volunteers breathe life into your organization. They keep your lights on, provide all the hands necessary to handle your fun runs and bake sales, and help support your mission.
The more you know about your volunteers, the better chance you have at cultivating flourishing relationships with them. So, what exactly should you know about these people?
You may think all you need is a name and email address. While that’s a good start, there’s so much more to discover about your donors! If you aren’t doing it already, this is a good time to consider starting some prospect research.
There are many characteristics you’ll want to know about your donors:
1. Biographical and contact information.
2. Connections to your organization.
3. Connections to other nonprofit organizations.
4. Business and education connections.
5. Wealth indicators.
6. Social media or online presences.
7. Family and personal information.
While this might seem like a lot, with a good system for managing contacts and a bit of care, you can streamline donor data to save time on fundraising efforts and nourish genuine donor relationships. Time to transform your donor relationships from boring to brilliant. Let’s get started!
1. Biographical and contact information.
This is the first step toward collecting useful donor data because it’s the simplest! Your organization probably already does this by collecting names and email addresses to track involvement.
What else should you be collecting?
• Salutation (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, Mx., Dr., etc.)
• Home address or PO box
• Email address
• Phone number
With this information, you’ll be able to contact your supporters no matter how you’re conducting your current campaign. Phone-a-thon? Direct mail campaign? Benefit dinner? No problem!
These details also help you segment donors. Segmenting just means dividing your whole population of donors by things like age, marital status, region, or level of giving. Segmentation allows you to tailor campaigns to specific people, optimize your communication strategy, and increase campaign efficiency.
The most important thing about this group of data points is keeping it updated! A disconnected phone or old street address is useless, resulting in wasted time and money during campaigns. Consider an annual ‘contact information update’ drive - just email or call your constituents to see if their information has changed.
BONUS: This also keeps your organization top of mind.
2. Their connections to your organization.
Consider this embarrassing situation: you call a potential donor and start explaining your mission, only to have them inform you they’ve been a dedicated donor and volunteer for over three years! Uhhh, oops.
This situation would make you feel uninformed, and make them feel unappreciated. By managing your donor data in a clear and updated manner, this won’t happen to you. In each donor profile, keep track of these key data points:
• Their history of volunteer work for your nonprofit.
• Their previous donations to your group, tracking the recency, frequency, and monetary value of their gifts.
• Their history of attendance at your events.
• Any other information about their involvement. Are they a board member? Are they a business owner who partnered with you in the past?
Knowing this information keeps you in the loop on their involvement with your organization. This data also allows you to track their patterns of engagement.
For instance, can you rely on them during the winter season, but they tend to be out of town in the summer? Then, let them know about upcoming autumn or winter events! Have they previously contributed the same amount every year, but you haven’t heard from them this year? Call them and let them know you appreciate their past gifts and want to follow up.
By understanding what these donors have done for your organization in the past, you can make them feel acknowledged and appreciated, and therefore more willing to continue working with your nonprofit.
3. Connections to other nonprofits or fundraising organizations.
Another important tidbit to track is your donors' philanthropic history with other nonprofits. How does this help your organization? It can be beneficial in a few ways.
First, here’s what to look for:
• Contributions to other nonprofit organizations
• The recency, frequency, and monetary value of those contributions
• Contributions to any political organizations like parties or campaigns
This information helps you understand both your donor's giving capacity and motivation.
If your donor gives frequently to organizations focusing on environmental protection or animal welfare, use that knowledge to lead your next conversation with them. Demonstrate how your organization’s mission aligns with their values. Their contributions to political campaigns can help in the same way.
Finally, by knowing the last time they gave, the number of times they’ve given, and the amount they’ve donated, you can optimize your donation requests.
Recency indicates they’re still passionate about the causes they're donating to and are open to supporting your mission. Frequency indicates they might be willing to sign up for a recurring gift. Monetary amount is useful in a few ways. First, it allows you to understand a donor’s giving capacity. Different people contribute in different ways: some with time and effort as a volunteer, and some in a financial capacity through donations.
Large donations indicate a habit of financial support. Knowing how much they’ve given in the past is useful because you can ask for that same amount, removing the guesswork on their behalf. By analyzing their history, you can ensure to reach donors who are most connected to the heart of your cause.
4. Business and education connections.
When learning about your donors, it's helpful to know where they went to school and where they currently work.
First, it allows you to encourage your donors to leverage connections among their social networks. Maybe you have a few donors who all went to the same school. Your organization could reach out to them about doing a school-specific campaign, where members can fundraise among their school friends for your cause.
If you know their alma mater, you can also use this information to inform your seating charts at any charity events you might hold! Encouraging your donors to make personal connections with other donors is a great way to ensure they remain engaged with your organization?
Knowing where your donors and volunteers work is also an important part of understanding them. Why is this?
1. If you have a lot of donors who work for the same employer, you could reach out to the employer about a partnership, sponsorship, or other connection.
2. You can research your community’s employers’ matching gifts policy, potentially doubling the impact of their donation.
3. You can learn if your donors are eligible for volunteer work grants, where an employer will give money to a nonprofit based on the number of hours their employee worked for that nonprofit.
Being aware of your donors’ educational networks and business affiliations allows you to make those connections work for your organization.
5. Their wealth indicators.
Knowing your donors’ wealth indicators is a great way to maximize your fundraising ability.
First, what is a wealth indicator? These indicators can include:
• Real estate ownership
• Vehicle ownership
• Boat ownership
• Stock ownership
Okay, so a few of your donors might live in a fancy house, or occasionally escape to a cabin in the mountains. What does this have to do with your organization?
While the cabin might be just a cabin, it does indicate a certain level of financial wealth. Knowing your donors are at this level empowers you to make more effective fundraising requests by understanding which donors have the potential to make a major gift.
By tracking these indicators, you can more effectively plan your fundraising efforts by identifying who to ask for lower-level gifts, mid-level gifts, and major gifts.
6. Their social media or online presences.
If your organization is hip to the times, it probably has its own Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram alongside a traditional website. You might even have someone on your team who plans your posts and tweets. So what do you need your donors’ social media handles for?
Following someone on social media is the first step in getting to know them. By knowing what your supporters talk about online, you can better understand their priorities and values.
Second, you can ensure you’re communicating with your constituents across the board. Many companies nowadays interact with their customers via social media regarding anything from product control to applying for jobs. Why shouldn’t you?
If you’re engaged with your supporters on social media, they'll be more engaged with you. They can be encouraged to use your hashtags, share your events, and spread your message!
Finally, everyone likes to feel acknowledged and appreciated. Give donors a #shoutout if they come to your events, participate in volunteer days, or otherwise support your cause.
7. Their family and personal information.
Our last tip on the important types of donor information to collect seems a little strange, but we promise it’ll pay off. Your organization should try to collect personal information about your donors!
This can include anything, and we mean anything:
• Wedding anniversary
• Children, and their names and ages
• Hobbies or special interests
Their birthday, which you likely already collected, can also be classified as a useful piece of personal information! This knowledge gives you the opportunity to build genuine connections with your donors! They’ve proven their passion for your cause by giving their time and money to your organization.
Your team should work to include them in your organization’s family. Use this information to make your supporters feel included and loved.
Is it a donor’s birthday? Shoot them a short but sincere email, or a stick a postcard in the mail! Same goes for an anniversary. Personally reach out and invite donors to events you think they would be specifically interested in, like walkathons if they’re avid exercisers, or a dog day if they’re pet-friendly!
Getting to know your donors on a personal level may seem unusual, but it is a great way to keep them engaged with your organization as well as make your organization a fully integrated part of the community.
People, from your staff members to the regular volunteers to the recurring donors, are the backbone of any nonprofit. While you and your team know how much you appreciate the people you work with, make sure they know as well.
This list might seem daunting, but once you break all these pieces down, it’s really quite easy to implement in your nonprofit.
Collecting this information will benefit your organization, from optimizing your fundraising asks to improving the relationship between your group and the community. There are so many ways to stay involved and engaged with your donors, so don’t let this list be the end of your search.
If you’re looking for some more information on any of the topics covered in this article, never fear. We’ve got you covered. Here are some links to resources that we love:
• Focus on the donor not the donation
• Donorly: Donor Research Guide
• Ymca uses Funraise Reader at their Annual Gala
• Increase Donations From Your Current Donors
• Donorly: Donor Prospecting Tools
• How to get awesome feedback from your donors
• Free Wordpress Plugins
• Reasons To Advocate
• Building a recurring donor program that works: A conversation with Charity: water