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Enrich Donor Communications for your Nonprofit with 4 Data-Driven Strategies

From fundraising appeals to event invitations and acknowledgment letters, donor outreach is a critical part of practically every campaign that your nonprofit carries out. Effective communication is the glue that holds together donors’ relationships with your organization, which is why it’s so important to make your nonprofit messaging impactful, effective and personal.

That’s where data comes into play. Data is one of the most powerful tools you can use to guide and improve your communication strategies. By collecting, tracking, and acting on the right pieces of data, you can improve any and all forms of outreach that fall under the umbrella of donor communications.

It’s all too easy to underutilize your nonprofit’s collected data and allow metrics to collect dust in your CRM. However, these critical data-driven strategies will empower you to communicate more effectively with supporters, solicit greater gifts, and steward donors up the donor pyramid:

  • Use demographic data to personalize outreach.
  • Leverage donors’ giving and engagement histories.
  • Study the performance of past campaigns.
  • Invest in predictive modeling.

Ready to revamp your approach to donor communications, engagement, and outreach? Let’s dive in.

Use demographic data to personalize outreach.

Personalization is the act of tailoring your outreach to its recipients. This gives donors the feeling that they’re being recognized and appreciated on an individual level, which is important considering how easy it is to feel like a nameless ATM that your nonprofit occasionally keeps in touch with.

The first step to personalization is fairly simple: stop addressing donors as “dear donor,” “to whom it may concern,” and other generic introductions. Instead, use their real names.

Additionally, NPO Info’s resource on donor data management stresses the importance of collecting other important demographic details on your donors, namely:

  • Age and gender. Both gender and age are personal identifiers that can have a surprising impact not only on how you address donors but also on their giving habits. For example, female donors tend to be more inspired by social media marketing, and direct mail donations are more popular among baby boomers than other generations.
  • Employment. Knowing where your donors work can both clue you into additional events and programs they may be interested in such as corporate volunteering opportunities, and alert you to corporate matching gift opportunities.
  • Geographic location. Understanding where your donors live can have a ripple effect on their interests and the opportunities you alert them to. For instance, If your nonprofit hosts live events, you might encourage local donors to attend in person. At the same time, you can use virtual events to increase revenue and appeal to your wider audience, broadly engaging donors who live away from your base of operations.

You can organize and segment donors based on these demographics to create appeals, share event invitations, and offer volunteer opportunities that resonate with their personal experiences and identities.

Leverage donors’ giving and engagement histories.

It’s not enough to know who your donors are, where they live, and what they do for a living. These parts of their personal and professional lives can broadly indicate how they might respond to your nonprofit’s messaging. However, their history with your nonprofit will always be the most concrete evidence of how they feel about you and how they’ll continue to interact with you.

The first data set that illustrates donors’ relationship with you is their engagement history. This includes previous events they’ve attended, volunteering opportunities they’ve participated in, and various other ways they’ve engaged with your nonprofit over the days, months, or years you’ve been in touch. 

Taking a look at these past engagements will give you a better idea of what kinds of programs and outreach each donor has responded well to in the past—and will probably enjoy going forward. For example, identifying which donors have attended your virtual events can help you to overcome the challenges of marketing other virtual events.

The other data set to pay close attention to is donors’ giving histories. These are metrics that clue you into donors’ past donation habits, such as gift size, recency, and frequency of giving. 

Understanding a donor’s financial background and activities—from past gifts to their employer to real estate ownership—can reveal potential opportunities to steward donors into higher levels of giving. 

To get an even better idea of donors’ propensity, affinity, and capacity to give, you can even enrich the data that you have on donors with data appends. For instance, to learn more about a donor’s professional history, you might request employer appends.

Study the performance of past campaigns.

In order for future donor communications to succeed, you need to look back and address your past failures, missed opportunities, and wins. In particular, we recommend paying attention to the following key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics:

  • Email open and conversion rates, which is a critical set of email marketing data that indicates whether recipients opened your messages and then clicked through to linked web pages or forms.
  • Direct mail response rates, which can demonstrate the effectiveness of your direct mail fundraising campaigns.
  • Event registration and attendance rates, which can shed light on the performance of your event marketing strategies.

From one-time event marketing initiatives to your critical year-end giving strategies, all campaigns can and should be reviewed to understand their success and failures. This allows you to constantly push yourself towards improvement and better track the long-term performance of stewardship, fundraising, and marketing strategies.

Additionally, remember to track the progress of current campaigns as they unfold, which empowers you to proactively address issues in real-time and avoid failure before it occurs.

Invest in predictive modeling.

Predictive analytics or modeling refers to the use of current and past data to predict future outcomes and actions—which, in your case, is donors’ giving and engagement behavior. 

This comprehensive approach to data analysis goes a step beyond anything we’ve discussed. It’s a more involved, mathematical strategy that can uncover hidden patterns in donor behavior that would have been impossible to see just by thumbing through your donor database and glancing at the numbers. 

In particular, the Meyer Partners guide to nonprofit analytics describes how predictive modeling can more accurately predict “how frequently, how much, and when exactly donors are most likely to give. In particular, it can help identify donors with hidden potential who are likely to upgrade their giving into the mid or major donor level.”

This information can have an incredibly meaningful impact on your donor communications, revealing everything from the best times to carry out your fundraising appeals to the best donors to target with intensive stewardship strategies.

To start synthesizing donor data into these intuitive predictive models, nonprofits have the option to either try to take on their own in-house data analysis or seek out the help of dedicated nonprofit marketing and data service providers.

The ability to consistently engage and retain dedicated donors is something that many nonprofits struggle with, scrambling to establish personal connections through their outreach and messaging. 

Fortunately, there’s no reason for your nonprofit to blindly take shots in the dark to try and appeal to your donors. These powerful, data-driven strategies should give you the insights you need to effectively connect, communicate, and form relationships with your supporters.

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