Donors shouldn’t be treated like one singular entity. Your donor population is made up of unique individuals who deserve to be treated as such.
Donor segmentation helps nonprofits make the impersonal personal without sacrificing too much time and resources on behalf of staff.
A donor segment consists of a group of donors and/or prospects who all fall into a similar communication category. By that I mean that all donors in a given segment are suited to a particular type of fundraising communication that is derived from a shared set of information.
You’re probably wondering, where do narratives fit in? Nonprofits tell their stories to connect with donors on a real and emotional level. That personal tie deepens a donor’s bond with your cause and further inspires support.
Storytelling is about getting personal and to the heart of what truly drives philanthropy. Imagine your nonprofit’s donors and prospects are all in a room filled with locked doors. Behind each door is a different story your nonprofit wants to tell. Without donor segmentation, keys are given out with no plan and doors are opened at will.
Sure a powerful story is always a powerful story and some of those donors will be moved to support your cause by what they hear, but others won’t feel as connected. With donor segmentation, it is like you’ve individually had keys made for the donors. Each story behind an unlocked door is particularly suited to that group of donors’ interests and histories.
Below you’ll find three ways donor segmentation can help unlock your narrative strategies.
Segment Type #1: Demographics
In many ways this is the most straightforward method of segmenting. It is about building an audience profile on your donors and using that to personalize communications.
When talking about demographic segmentation, it is referencing categorizing donors according to relatively basic groupings, like:
I started with this segment style because it’s special to see how such a simple grouping can aid directed storytelling.
Think about the many differences between a 25 year old and a 70 year old. They want to be engaged differently, they want to be spoken to differently, and a story that is powerful for a millennial might not strike the same chord with an older donor.
Location can also be a major factor in the level of narrative engagement. Say you run a human-services national nonprofit and you want to spread stories that epitomize your mission. You’ve gathered a collection of success narratives from people across the country who are involved in your organization as volunteers or as recipients of service or as donors, etc.
When you’re deciding what stories to tell which donors it makes sense to cater the narratives by geographics. For a supporter, news of success within that donor’s community is going to innately carry more weight than a similar story from another area, even if the supporter’s knowledge of that impact is subconscious.
Some demographics are easier to find than others. If you’re looking to find more pointed and specific information about prospects and donors, prospect research could be a big help.
Segment Type #2: Preferred Communication Levels
We all have one friend who takes a long time to make a big decision. He’s methodical. He likes to have all the facts in front of him. He compares nutrition labels on cereal boxes and applied to fifteen universities.
We also all have one friend who is the type that jumps first, checks for a parachute later. She commits and commits fully at that.
You’re going to have donors like those two friends and ones that cover every personality type in between.
Donors like the former are going to want a lot of information during your acquisition and solicitation of them. They are looking for narratives and they want them up front. They’re going to read everything you provide them and then some.
Donors like the latter are going to make the decision to contribute quickly and not look back.
If you can gauge on average where your donors fit on this spectrum, you can segment accordingly and give those extra narratives to the people who want them.
This type of segmenting might sound difficult to do in practice, but there are certainly ways that it can be accomplished. For example, you could take a mass group of donors and send out a series of newsletters through email, and then track what happens. Email campaign software, whether integrated with your CRM system or outsourced through a third party, should offer features to view and rank recipient engagement with the newsletters.
The people who consistently opened and engaged with the newsletters can then be categorized into a segment that reflects that.
Armed with that knowledge, your staff could put together a direct mail package to go out to those donors with the dynamic stories they so desire, and not waste time sending detailed information to the people who don’t want it.
Segment Type #3: Desired Communication and Giving Channels
Some donors prefer email, others prefer direct mail.
One donor may like to experience the stories of your organization on social media, whereas another donor may appreciate a phone call with an update.
If you know how a donor likes to be contacted, you know the method by which you should be telling your narratives. A donor who does not open emails will never read a narrative you put in one.
If donors haven’t specifically stated how they prefer to be contacted and you haven’t had luck with surveys, a good way to extrapolate the information is by examining their giving channels.
Giving can be handled in various ways, including:
- checks delivered in person
- checks in the mail
- donations online with a credit card
- cash donations
- donations over the phone with a credit card
In terms of segmenting for narrative distribution, an online donor is probably going to be responsive to email and social media, where as a mail-in donor will most likely appreciate direct mail.
These aren’t hard and fast rules, but rather, logical indicators. The best way to find out what a donor wants and likes is simple, just ask.
These three segmentation strategies are three of many. How segmentation factors into your organization’s storytelling is going to vary by donor preference and the stories you are telling.
The big takeaway here is an emphasis on the personal. Narratives engage donors on a personal level and segmentation lets nonprofits personalize contact. A working relationship between storytelling and segmentation is a valuable asset in this increasingly donor-centric fundraising world.
This guest post was submitted by Gretchen Barry.
Gretchen Barry, Director of Marketing for NonProfitEasy — Gretchen has been a leader in corporate communications and marketing for 20+ years. Gretchen has published numerous articles related to charitable giving and is a passionate advocate for public schools. Gretchen has donated her time to numerous causes including Relay for Life, Girls on the Run, Rebuilding Together, and just recently became involved with the local land trust. Gretchen graduated from the University of Nevada with a degree in English literature.