How to Create Data-Driven Donor Segments

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By Mckenna Bailey

The lists you make in your donor database or nonprofit CRM can help you target your fundraising efforts, share relevant content with interested donors, and deepen your donor relationships. But too often, because of a misunderstanding of donor segmentation, nonprofits miss out on the potential to bring value and meaning to their donors.

For example, some donor segments have more fundraising potential while others may end up being the most loyal champions of your cause. When you segment your list by donor behavior and preferences, you can engage all of your donors in a tailored way that was previously reserved only for major donors. When you meet your donors where they are and provide them with relevant, personal communication, you’ll grow both your donor’s connection to your cause and your revenue.

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Segmentation Makes Communication More Meaningful

Donor segmentation improves fundraising results by ensuring that the right message goes to the right person at the right time. Instead of sending a blanket message to your entire email list, you can customize your communications to include the most relevant content for each group of supporters.

For example, imagine you run an arts nonprofit with programs in several verticals. You may find that some of your donors care most about arts in education, while others are only interested in your artistic development programs. If you send the same fundraising appeal to everyone, you have to choose between being less specific, and thus less personal, or leaving out the major interests of one group.

Instead, if you create segments based on your donors’ interests, you can send customized appeals that speak directly to the causes they care about most, thus increasing the chance of driving engagement and donations.

Brands have trained your donors to expect personalized experiences and tailored communication helps provide the authentic interaction your donors crave while cutting through the noise of modern life. Since one-on-one outreach isn’t always scalable, your nonprofit can turn to segmentation and automation software which can help you send customized communications on a large scale.

Read Next: The Quick Start Guide to Data-Driven Fundraising

Data-Driven Donor Segmentation That Goes Above and Beyond

The most valuable donor segments go beyond the contact information and giving history you have in your CRM. To truly understand their interests and behavior you need to pay attention to their signals and track as much unique donor data as possible. Every email opened, link clicked, or social media post shared helps you form a more complete picture of them as an individual donor.

You can record some donor signals using the notes function in any database, but in order to collect and organize the above-and-beyond donor data we describe above you will need some automated help from responsive nonprofit CRM that enables:

  • Appended wealth, location and demographic data
  • Integrated social scraping
  • Tracking donors by their interests, donor persona, group affiliations and communication preferences.
  • Easy sorting and segmenting based on the characteristics of your choice

5 Types of Data That Can Help Create the Right Donor Segments

Not all donor data is equal in terms of increasing revenue or improving donor relationships. Tracking certain donor behaviors or preferences will provide better insights than simply knowing the last time someone made a donation. If you’re looking to create the most effective donor segments for your next fundraising push, here are 5 types of data you can use to inform your segments.

1. Website Behavior

Whether you use Google Analytics or another program to track user behavior on your website, it’s important to know how people interact with your content. Trackable URLs and pixels can help you understand how each individual donor moves throughout your website. Look for which individuals consume more than 5 pages of content per visit, and which ones jump from your homepage to your donation page and then leave. This can show what your donors are interested in and inform what kind of messages you send them.

Ask Yourself:

  • Which pages of your website are most important to your donors?
  • Where are they flocking and what are they ignoring?
  • What pages do they visit before and after making a donation?
  • In what order do they view content?

Potential Website Behavior Donor Segments:

  • Interested in a specific program
  • Regular site visitors
  • Regular blog readers
  • Clicked on landing page
  • New email subscribers
  • New volunteer sign-ups

2. Social Media Engagement

Tracking your donors’ social media behavior helps you provide content they’ll like on the platforms they use. Social scraping allows you to catalog their public social media behavior, while observing interactions with your own social media content will let you know what’s resonating.

Ask Yourself:

  • Which platforms are donors active on?
  • Do any donors have a large following or audience?
  • Who are they connected to?
  • Which posts are most liked, shared, or commented on?

Potential Social Media Donor Segments:

  • Specific platform users
  • Influencers
  • Regular sharer of your posts

3. Content Downloads

Do you offer supporters downloadable content like white papers, guides, or a digital copy of your annual report? Who is downloading these resources? This segment of donors is more educated about your organization and cause and they’re ready for a deeper and more complex conversation.

Ask Yourself:

  • Which piece of content is most downloaded?
  • What’s the next best step to follow that content?
  • Who downloaded which pieces of content?

Potential Content Download Donor Segments:

  • Regular downloaders
  • Content-specific downloads
  • Topic-specific

Free Download: Nonprofit Digital Marketing Checklist

4. Age Group

While each of your donors is an individual, there are generational trends in fundraising that are worth paying attention to. Different modes of communication and content resonate with specific age groups. Your donor’s behavior is more important than their age, but segmenting by age group is a good starting point for testing different fundraising techniques.

Ask Yourself:

  • Which age groups do you donors fall in?
  • What are the giving trends for these groups?
  • How should we tell the same story to different age groups?

Potential Age Group Donor Segments:

  • Silent Generation
  • Baby Boomers
  • Gen X
  • Millennials
  • Gen Z
  • College students
  • Retired
  • In the workforce

5. Preferred Communication Channels

How do your donors want you to communicate with them? Do they prefer email or a phone call? A once-a-year mailing, or quarterly appeals? Do they want a print newsletter, or a monthly email? Communication preferences are another area to segment your donors to ensure they’re getting exactly what they want from you.

Ask Yourself:

  • What are the communication options for donors?
  • How can I tell the same story across different channels?
  • Which channels do donors prefer?
  • Which channels do donors of [X] generation prefer?
  • Am I communicating on channels that nobody wants?

Potential Communication Channel Donor Segments:

  • Email
  • Phone
  • Direct mail
  • Social media
  • Text message
  • Website updates

Better Segmentation Means Better Communication

It’s easy to see how dividing your donors into segments is good for your organization—it puts your messages in front of people who are more likely to act on them, saves time and effort, and ultimately helps you to work smarter. But donor segmentation is also good for your donors. It gives them a direct line to what they care most about, respects their time, and helps them connect more deeply with your organization.

Donor segmentation improves communication and donor relations because it helps you treat your donors like humans, instead of a number on your list. Instead of impersonal mass messages, your donors receive highly-targeted communications that respect their preferences, engage their interests and, ultimately, inspire their generosity. 

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