You are here

white background with silver balls in groups and red arrows pointing from left to right between each group

Donor Segmentation: Your Top Marketing & Fundraising Weapon

In the nonprofit world, donor segmentation is a term that’s thrown around when it comes to nearly every kind of donor outreach. From sending appeals to long-time supporters to inspiring new audiences, segmenting your donors is the backbone of effective marketing and fundraising. 

But what exactly is donor segmentation and how—specifically—can it make your donor outreach more effective? Donor segmentation is the process of breaking up your donor base into smaller groups based on key characteristics, such as giving or engagement history. 

This makes it easier to send out personalized communications and guide your target audience to take specific actions. In particular, let’s dive deeper into how a strong and well-organized segmentation strategy enables your nonprofit to:

  • Create personas and identify new audiences.
  • Personalize your messaging and engagement opportunities.
  • Determine donors’ preferred communication channels.
  • Guide donors into higher levels of giving.

Whether you want to launch more sophisticated year-end giving campaigns or improve your ongoing marketing efforts, these segmentation insights can shed some light on how best to inspire, engage, and connect with target donors.

Create personas and identify new audiences.

When it comes to acquiring donors, segmentation is the first step to creating comprehensive personas, identifying new prospects, and engaging potential donors. 

Donor personas are fictional characters built from the donor data in your CRM to represent a typical type of donor. For example, you might create “Laura,” a 53-year-old mother of two who works in the healthcare sector with an annual salary of $70,000, based on the information you’ve gathered about your average mid-level donor.

This allows you to visualize your donors’ identities and their interests, which gives you a better grasp of new audiences that might be receptive to your messaging. By using “Laura,” as a model, you can start looking for similar individuals who are more likely to flock to your cause.

So, how do you build donor personas? As we mentioned, you’ll need to begin with segmentation. With a vast amount of donor data in your database, segmenting your donors allows you to cut through the clutter and start forming more specific donor profiles based on unifying characteristics. 

This Meyer Partners guide to donor acquisition explains how—in addition to giving and engagement history—personal donor demographics like age, profession, and location are important factors to consider when creating these donor segments and personas.

Determine donors’ preferred communication channels.

Another way segmentation allows you to better utilize donor data is by identifying the best communication channels to reach out to your supporters. After all, you’re far less likely to engage donors if your messages are sent through platforms they never check or hardly use.

Instead, use donor segmentation to focus your fundraising appeals, event invitations, and other outreach into the channels donors not only check but are excited to receive content through. For example, you can create segments based on:

  • Each channel’s conversion and engagement metrics. How often does each donor look at messages sent through specific channels? How many emails are being opened, and how many likes and click-throughs are your social media posts getting? Segment donors by their engagement level with each channel to find out the types of messages and platforms they best respond to.
  • Age demographics. Age can play a big role in what channels your supporters use and how they like to receive content. For example, according to Double the Donation’s nonprofit fundraising statistics page, social media is the top platform that inspires Millennials and Gen Z donors to give. On the other hand, email is the most inspirational channel for Baby Boomers.

Furthermore, send out surveys to your supporters and directly ask them what their preferred communication channels are. This is a great stewardship opportunity to show donors that you care about their individual needs and it allows segment donors by their responses to create a more organized outreach plan.

Personalize your messaging and engagement opportunities.

When a supporter receives a message directly from your organization, they should get the sense that their participation matters to your mission and that they’re being personally called upon to step up and take action. This helps to ensure that donors, volunteers, or advocates for your cause stay involved and stick with your cause.

Of course, it’s hard to make supporters feel like they’re being personally addressed and valued by your organization if all they receive are generic appeals or opportunities they can’t participate in. 

To overcome this hurdle and connect with each donor, use segmentation to personalize your outreach. More specifically, you can use this donor data to tailor your outreach to each supporter: 

  • Giving history. When you have a range of what donors have been willing and able to give in the past, you can create reasonable ask strings and appeals that donors will be more receptive to. Additionally, knowing how much each donor has given enables you to be more specific and personally impactful in your campaign updates and thank-you letters
  • Involvement in specific fundraising campaigns. Is a donor more active during particular types of campaigns, or do they seem attracted to specific projects? For example, maybe a donor is more responsive to online peer-to-peer fundraising than events or they are especially active in the funding of a specific construction project. With this data, you can share more information and opportunities about the campaigns they care most about.
  • Volunteer program participation. Volunteers offer valuable support to your mission in the form of time, energy, and labor and their dedication to your nonprofit shouldn’t be overlooked. Be sure to segment communications for volunteer participants based on projects they’ve worked on, how long they’ve participated, and other key details to personalize the opportunities and messaging you send them.

The last thing you want to do is make your supporters feel like they don’t really matter to your organization. With a personalized communication strategy, you can improve your nonprofit messaging to make donors feel valued and more connected to your mission.

Guide donors into higher levels of giving.

Take a moment to think about your nonprofit’s outreach plan for donors. Now, once you’ve visualized your fundraising and stewardship matrix, ask yourself this: Does the plan for minor donors, mid-level donors, and major donors look the same?

Hopefully, your answer is of course not. After all, why would you allocate the same resources to engage, steward, and fundraise for a donor who gives $50 a year versus one who gives $5,000? This is where segmentation yet again becomes an invaluable asset, enabling you to divide your supporters up by their affinity, capacity, and propensity to give. 

Additionally, be sure to consider donors’ frequency of giving, the times around which they give, their cumulative total of giving, and their largest gift size. These details allow you to segment donors even further, better understand their individual value, create more effective stewardship plans, and ultimately guide donors up the fundraising pyramid.

This is especially important for mid-level donors, the core of your donor base that have the greatest potential for upward growth. While you probably already have major gift officers and detailed outreach plans for major donors, segmentation and stewardship matrices allow you to make the most of your fundraising potential among mid-level supporters.

It doesn’t matter if your organization is a local nonprofit with a small donor base or a large charity with an international reach—your donors include people from all walks of life with different interests, giving levels, communication preferences, and identities. Trying to effectively market your brand and ask for their donations is practically impossible if you don’t acknowledge the things that make your donors unique.

That’s what makes donor segmentation such a powerful strategy for your organization. And with these segmentation insights, your nonprofit should be ready to take full advantage of this strategy to find new audiences, connect with donors, and bring in more revenue for your cause.

Black and white photo of a white woman with straight ear length hair

Guest Author: Bonnie Meyer

Bonnie brings to her role at Meyer Partners more than 30 years of fundraising experience, with a special emphasis in multimedia approaches to new donor acquisition and development. Her expertise encompasses several facets of direct response fundraising, including copy writing and creative direction, market research, strategic planning, and comprehensive results analysis.