How can you be donor-centric if you don’t know who your donor is?

As the thousands of gifts poured in following a membership appeal I prepared a few years back for a local nonprofit agency going to approximately 70,000 individuals, one donation in particular stood out.

It wasn’t the largest donation our organization received, not by a long-shot.  No, it was the amount that set this gift apart from the others.

A local business owner had written out a check in the amount of $137.33.

The amount had no bearing on our organization.

We ran a check of our database.  Nada.  This fellow had never donated before.  We wondered if perhaps he had meant to pay a bill and accidentally written in our name.  It was a conundrum.

So I paid a visit.  Turned out to be a delightfully eclectic antique shop located in the heart of town with, as you might imagine, an equally eclectic owner, Harry.  When I thanked him for his gift and inquired about the amount he laughed.  Every year, he explained to me, he would make a charitable gift to a charity he had never donated to before.  The amount?  He was off in reconciling his bank statement and had exactly $137.33 left over.

Chances are you won’t run across a donor like Harry.  But many organizations forget that all donors are not created equal.  While our focus is largely on crafting the perfect story-telling donor-centric piece of writing, we never want to forget that we’re writing to different groups of people.

Mal Warwick reminds us that:  “segmentation is based on one simple truth:  some people give more money than others.”

Think about how you might segment your own organization’s database:

  • Major donors
  • Loyal donors
  • Lapsed donors
  • Prospective donors
  • Donors who have made a one-time tribute or memorial gift, perhaps via Facebook
  • Vendors and local businesses
  • Board members and friends of board members

Every one of these donors have different motivations for giving to your organization and should be treated differently.

I loved this post from one of my favorite people, Steve Thomas, who, together with his lovely wife Kris Hoots, run the fundraising firm Oneicity.  Steve made a one-time gift to a local animal organization as a tribute to a friend of his.  The resulting stream of communications, however, was geared to ….well, a donor.   This organization definitely dropped the ball in their communications.

Given the technological tools of even the tiniest nonprofit organization it pays off to segment, segment and then segment some more.  How far can you go in segmenting your organization’s database?

2 Responses to “How can you be donor-centric if you don’t know who your donor is?”

  1. Pam,
    Thanks for the lovely story about Harry. How great was that they you were able to visit.

    I’m glad to see loyal donors on your list. There are so many loyal donors who will never be big donors but are giving heartfelt and maybe even stretch gifts given their limited income. These lovely people need as much recognition as anyone… even if they are only giving $5-$25 a year. It’s too easy to overlook their generosity. don’t you think?

  2. Pamela Grow says:

    Absolutely. Often times organizations view their donor data strictly on the basis of the size of the most recent gift … neglecting to realize that that donor who has given $50 a year every year for the past 15 years has, in fact, given $750. What about inviting these folk into your organization’s monthly giving plan?