Check out these four ways to incorporate data into your donor communications strategy for better supporter engagement.

4 Ways to Use Data in Your Donor Communications Strategy

As a nonprofit fundraising professional, you understand the importance of donor recognition. Donors are at the core of your fundraising efforts, contributing the funds necessary to fuel your mission.

However, it can be difficult to keep track of so many individuals, let alone figure out how to communicate with them on a personal level. This is where data comes into play. 

Your data reveals important information about supporters that can help you craft a communication strategy that builds genuine, long-term relationships with supporters and boosts your donor retention rate

Use these four data strategies to guide your donor communications: 

  1. Personalize messages using your donor database. 
  2. Segment donors based on shared characteristics.
  3. Boost your marketing outreach with data appends. 
  4. Request and store donor feedback. 

Before we begin, let’s dive into the basics of data-driven communication.

1. Personalize messages using your donor database.

No one likes to feel like a number in a crowd. Your donors have decided to devote some of their hard-earned money to your cause, and they deserve to be recognized personally for their contributions. 

You can foster this personalization by using your constituent relationship management (CRM) database to identify specific information about individual donors. 

Not only will this information allow you to personalize donor communications, but it will also help increase donor engagement. When donors feel appreciated and understood, they’re more likely to continue supporting your organization.

With the help of your donor database, you’ll be able to: 

  • Use donors’ preferred names in communications. Addressing communications with supporters’ preferred names, such as “Dear Deborah” or “Dear Elliot,” is much more impactful than using a generic “Dear Donor” greeting. Supporters will see that you’ve taken the time to learn their preferred name and use it in your outreach. 
  • Reference donors’ personal history with your organization. Perhaps you have notes in your CRM about supporters who’ve recently volunteered or donated during your last #GivingTuesday fundraiser. Reference these activities in your communications with supporters to show that you appreciate their involvement. 
  • Connect with donors on their preferred communication channels. Let’s say you’ve reached out to a supporter via text and email but only received a reply over email. Storing this information allows you to continue connecting with this supporter via their preferred communication channel. 

Be sure to adopt good data hygiene practices so your donor database stays clean—or error-free. These practices include auditing your CRM, standardizing data entry procedures, reconciling errors, and establishing clear data maintenance guidelines for your team. 

Following a regular data hygiene routine will give your team access to accurate, updated information to use when personalizing donor communications. That way, you can ensure you respect donors’ preferences and reach them with the correct contact information.

2. Segment donors based on shared characteristics.

Not all communications will be relevant for every supporter. For example, your long-time donors don’t need to see information about your organization’s history and mission, since they’re already familiar with what you offer. 

So, how can you ensure you communicate relevant information to each supporter? You can practice donor segmentation

Segmentation is the process of dividing your supporters into groups based on similarities. When you create groups based on shared characteristics, you can send each group information that they’re likely to engage with. 

You might choose to group supporters based on their: 

  • Engagement type: Not all supporters engage with your nonprofit in the same way. Your organization’s audience is composed of donors, volunteers, and advocates. Grouping supporters based on engagement type allows you to tailor messages to each supporter’s involvement. 
  • Giving history: Once you’ve created a subgroup of donors, you may want to further segment that group based on giving history. That way, you can ensure you target the right supporters for your campaigns. For example, if you’re hosting a capital campaign, you may want to reach out to major donors since they’re more likely to contribute a large sum.
  • Demographics: You may group supporters based on age or geographic location. Then, you can send event details to your local supporters. Or, you can engage with different age groups using common phrases and pop culture references they’re most likely to respond to.
  • Interests: While it may make sense to separate donor, volunteer, and advocate data, in some cases, it may be beneficial to segment supporters based on their relevant interests. Some organizations offer many different services, and you’ll want to communicate information to the right supporters. For example, animal shelters may have different segments for people interested in supporting pet adoptions, improving life for animals at the shelter, and rescuing animals in need.
  • Communication preferences: Your supporters may express a preference for one communication channel or another, whether in a survey or through their actions. Creating segments for different communication channels allows you to take a more targeted outreach approach and streamline communications.

You can create overarching segments that apply across your CRM, or create groups for specific marketing campaigns. 

For instance, you can create groups of new and long-time supporters and use those characteristics to design your regular communications. Then, create groups based on communication preferences or engagement type ahead of an upcoming fundraising campaign.

Whichever method you choose, segmenting your supporters will allow you to better cater to their interests and preferences, thereby increasing supporter retention

3. Boost your marketing outreach with data enhancement.

AccuData defines data enhancement—or appending data—as the process of filling in gaps or adding new information to your donor database with the help of external sources. With data enhancement, you can:

  • Fill in missing information, such as phone numbers or email addresses. Perhaps you sent a form to audience members that only asked for their phone numbers. However, you’d like to add their email addresses to conduct an email marketing campaign. With a data append, you can add this information to your donor profiles.
  • Reveal information about a new segment of your audience. If your nonprofit is expanding its donor outreach into new communities, you can learn more about your new audience members with data enhancements. Then, you can conduct targeted outreach to connect with these individuals. 
  • Target a more specific audience. Data appends can help you narrow down your target audience even further. For example, if you’re running a fundraising campaign, you may want to target past donors. However, not all past donors may be willing or able to give at this point. To only promote your campaign to donors who are most likely to donate, you can append data about their capacity to give and target donors who are currently in a financial position to contribute.
  • See a greater marketing ROI. With a data append, you can upload accurate contact information for your audience members to your internal database. You can rest assured that your marketing materials will reach your intended audience since you’re using the correct email addresses and phone numbers to get in touch. This ensures you don’t waste time or money trying to connect with people using incorrect information.

Connect with an external data provider to help gain access to crucial third-party data that can round out your internal database. With these services, you can gain a complete picture of your target audience and start reaching out to new audiences.

4. Request and store donor feedback. 

Sometimes, the best way to gain new information about your supporters is to simply ask. Reach out to supporters directly to solicit their feedback. Then, add this information to your supporter database to reference in future marketing or fundraising campaigns. 

Create a short survey, and send it out using your email marketing platform and social media pages. Ask supporters questions like: 

  • What is your preferred method of communication? Provide options such as email, text, social media, and direct mail.
  • How often do you read our newsletter? What would make you more likely to read our newsletter?
  • How often do you check our social media pages? What would make you more likely to check our social media pages? 

You can also create surveys that specifically ask about the effectiveness of your communications surrounding a specific event or activity. This will let you know if supporters felt they had all the information they needed to get involved. 

For example, after an event, MemberClicks recommends asking supporters to rate different aspects of their experience, note how they heard about the event, and indicate how they think future events could be improved.

Crafting a two-way conversation helps you get to know your donors better and design your communication strategy with supporter feedback in mind. This also helps supporters feel like they have a greater voice within your organization, encouraging them to stay engaged long-term.

Your supporters interact with your organization all the time, revealing valuable information about their motivations and interests. Make the most of this data by using it to enhance your communications strategy. This shows supporters that your organization values them and strives to keep their preferences in mind. In turn, you’ll see higher supporter engagement and a greater marketing ROI, allowing you to successfully carry out your mission.

Author: Gabrielle Perham, MBA, Director of Marketing

Gabrielle is the Director of Marketing & Sales Operations for Deep Sync and its family of brands: Compact Information Systems, HomeData, AccuData Integrated Marketing, AlumniFinder, ASL Marketing, CollegeBound Selection Service, and DeepSync Labs. She joined the organization in 2017 and possesses more than 15 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding, communications, and digital marketing. She earned a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A in Marketing Management from the University of Tampa.

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