4 Ways to Use Data in Your Donor Communications Strategy

Your nonprofit might have hundreds, if not thousands, of supporters. As a nonprofit fundraising professional, you feel a deep sense of appreciation for every donor who has contributed to your cause. 

However, you may struggle in your efforts to communicate that appreciation effectively. 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 can play a major role in your donor communications strategy. 

Your data reveals critical information about your supporters that helps you get to know them better. You can use this knowledge to 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 enhancement. 
  4. Request and store donor feedback. 

According to AccuData Integrated Marketing’s guide to nonprofit direct marketing, it can take between 18-20 touchpoints to reach a new donor for the first time. Although it may not take quite as many touchpoints to reach current supporters, they still require frequent communication to stay updated on your organization’s fundraising activities. 

You’ll be able to make each donor touchpoint count with these communication tips.

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. 

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 recently volunteered or donated during your last #GivingTuesday fundraiser. Reference these activities in your communications with supporters to show that you appreciate their involvement. For instance, if you’re conducting outreach for an upcoming fundraising event, craft a message along the lines of “Thank you, Rebecca, for contributing $100 to last year’s #GivingTuesday campaign! We wanted to let you be the first to know about our exciting upcoming fundraising opportunities.” 
  • Connect with donors on their preferred communication channels. Perhaps you’ve reached out to a certain supporter via text and email, but only received a reply over email. You’ll know to continue connecting with this supporter over email in the future. You can also use demographic information to determine a supporter’s preferred communication channel. For instance, younger supporters may prefer social media, while older audiences may prefer email or direct mail. 

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

This will give your team access to accurate, updated information to use when personalizing donor communications. 

2. Segment donors based on shared characteristics.

Not all communications will be relevant for every supporter in your audience. For example, your long-time donors don’t need to see information about the history of your organization and mission — they’re already familiar with what you have to offer. However, your new supporters would benefit from this background information.  

So, how can you ensure you’re communicating 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 most 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 engaged advocates. Grouping supporters based on engagement type allows you to tailor messages to each supporters’ interests. 
  • Demographics: You may choose to group supporters based on their 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.
  • Communication preferences: Your supporters may have expressed a preference for one communication channel or another, whether in a survey or through their actions. For instance, you may have noted certain supporters engage with your social media, while others prefer direct mail. 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 as a whole or create groups for specific marketing campaigns. 

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

3. Boost your marketing outreach with data enhancement.

Perhaps you’re already doing all you can when it comes to personalizing and segmenting your communications. However, your marketing outreach messages, such as your emails and phone calls, still aren’t receiving many responses. In this case, you may want to turn to data enhancement services to help supplement your organization’s internal donor database. 

Data enhancement, also known as data append, is the process of filling 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. For instance, perhaps you sent a form to audience members that only asked for their email addresses. However, you’d like to add their phone numbers to conduct one-on-one outreach. With data append, you can add this information to your donor profiles.
  • Reveal information about a new segment of your audience. For example, 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. 
  • See a greater marketing ROI. With 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 actually reach your intended audience since you’re using the correct emails and phone numbers to get in touch. This ensures you aren’t wasting 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 more complete picture of your target audience and start reaching out to new audiences as well. 

4. Request and store donor feedback. 

Have you simply hit a rut with your communications strategy and don’t know what to do next? 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, direct mail, and so on.
  • 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? 
  • What is your age? 

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. 

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 for the long term. 

Your supporters interact with your organization all the time, revealing valuable information about their motivations and interests. You can make the most of this data by using it to enhance your communications strategy and meet supporters where they are. This shows supporters that your organization values them and strives to keep their preferences in mind. 

Author: Gabrielle Perham is the Director of Marketing for AccuData Integrated Marketing. 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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