Using Donor Profiling and Data Mining to Grow Your Donations

How well do you know your donors? The generous folks who have made financial contributions to your organization are not a monolithic group. If you treat them as such, you are not realizing the full potential of your giving campaigns. Segmenting your donors into groups based on the way they give, communicate and their relation to your organization and then targeting special messages to each group can greatly increase your fundraising potential.

Gathering Donor Data

To maximize your fundraising efforts, it is imperative that you track as much data about your donors as you can. You will want to gather this information through your online giving forms, surveys and good old-fashioned legwork (i.e. if a donor mentions that they are the parent of two young children, open up the donor database and add that to their record).

Some of the most important data points you will want to know about your donors include the following:

How you acquired each donation.

Did this person donate by text? Did they respond to a social media campaign? Donate through your website? Did they donate via another member in an online fundraiser? Did they make a donation at one of your events? Did they respond to a mail campaign? Knowing how you received your donations is essential in determining how best to target each person for future giving.

Whether it was a first-time donor or a repeat donor.

First time donors will need more careful attention to attempt to convert them to serial contributors.

How much they gave.

On some campaigns you may want to alter the messaging and communication styles for smaller donors versus large donors and sponsors. You can also use a variety of techniques to encourage donors to increase their contributions a bit each year. Knowing the amounts each individual made will allow you to personalize communication to them appropriately as well as see which messages are working to move people up the giving ladder.

When they gave.

Some people like to give one large lump sum at the end of the year, others prefer to give smaller sums at intervals throughout the year. If there is a particular time of year that someone tends to give, you can use this information to target a giving message to them at just the right time.

Communication style.

Some members are very active on social media, others prefer email, some like to text, and some prefer in-person events or traditional mail. Take note of how your donors have communicated with you in the past, what social media platforms they are on, and so on. When they donate or sign up as a new member, you should always ask how they prefer to receive communications from you. If they love email, don’t bombard them with texts!


Any information you can acquire regarding age, gender, martial/family status, income level, zip code and more can be helpful in choosing the messages, causes and media that will resonate best with various groups.

Why they support your organization.

Your organization probably engages in a variety of activities to support your mission. Knowing whether an individual is particularly interested in education, large projects, networking and so on will help you in deciding who the most likely supporters of a specific project or campaign might be.

Relation to your organization.

Is this person someone who supports your association through monetary contributions only, or are they also a member, part of the board or a volunteer? Their extra involvement may warrant specialized messaging.

How to Use Your Donor Data

Now that you have a bunch of data on your donors, how do you use it effectively?

First of all, unless you are a truly enormous organization, you aren’t going to have time to create specific messages and campaigns for every possible subgroup of your donors. So most nonprofits create groups of people that have some similar characteristics in common and call these “personas.”

A typical persona might be something like, “Upscale Millenial: Married 30-something professional living in 2-income household with young children. Vacations a few times a year, joint household income over $100,000 per year. Gives generously at end of year, tech-savvy, prefers text and social media over email.”

You should begin looking through and sorting your data to find commonalities that you can use to begin grouping your donors into personas. You may find that your baby boomer donors tend to prefer email and snail mail to social media, like in-person events and tend to respond to campaigns that are focused on causes around children and family. Perhaps you will get lucky and find that you can group most of your donors into two main groups, but likely you will want to break things down a bit more than that. Some of your donors will not fall neatly into a persona group and will have to be placed into whatever group is the closest match.

Once you have your personas, craft campaign strategies that you think will work best with each. Be sure to review the results, modify and tweak as you go. But don’t put blinders on and think that you should never target older donors with the techniques that you are using on the younger donors and vice versa. Just because one group prefers email doesn’t mean you should never try to reach them through social media and just because a donor usually prefers to give at the end of the year doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contact them about a spring fundraiser. Use the personas and the data you have mined to inform your decisions, not dictate them.