Donor Management: Putting your data to work in the new year


Guest post by Sarah Tedesco of DonorSearch

Your donor data is the lifeblood of your nonprofit. Without the proper information, you can’t contact your donors, process their donations, or let them know about the campaigns and events they would be most interested in supporting.

Smart nonprofit professionals use their donor data to maximize their appeals throughout the year. Knowing ahead of time which communication channels donors prefer, for example, can save fundraising teams time and money by taking some of the costly guesswork out of solicitation.

As we move into the new year, it’s time to take a look at your data in a new light. Instead of just increasing the efficiency of your existing appeals, you can also use your donor data to actually guide your fundraising strategy.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to try something new, whether that’s a different type of fundraising event or an innovative fundraising platform. In this post, we’ll go through these fundraising strategies and help you decide which are the right ones for you:


  • Crowdfunding.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising.
  • Corporate philanthropy.
  • Text-to-give campaigns.


But before we get into the nuts and bolts, you have to make sure your data is clean. You can’t build an effective fundraising strategy on out-of-date information. Use these prospect profile templates from DonorSearch to get organized if you’re not sure where to start.

Ready to plan your fundraising strategy? Let your data guide you to success!

1. Crowdfunding.

What’s this fundraising strategy?

Crowdfunding is of the most popular fundraising strategies to explode on the scene in the past few years. The process is actually very simple: an individual or organization sets up a site on one of many available crowdfunding platforms, which anyone can donate to.

Much of crowdfunding’s popularity can likely be attributed to its simplicity. Of course, because setting up a crowdfunding site is so easy, the internet is flooded with campaigns aiming to raise a wide variety of amounts for individuals and organizations.

So while the lack of difficulty of launching a crowdfunding campaign is tempting, you have to make sure your donors will be receptive and your marketing is up to scratch. Otherwise, your campaign will get lost.

What can the data tell me?

There are many factors that contribute to a crowdfunding campaign’s success, from the preset giving levels to the branding and images (to learn all about that, check out Fundly’s post on the topic). But one of the most important factors has nothing to do with the campaign page itself.

Organizations that are the most successful with crowdfunding are those with a far-reaching and engaged social network. That’s because the average gift size of crowdfunding donors is relatively small compared to other types of fundraising. Major gifts are far more common during the quiet phase of a capital campaign, for instance, for privacy and other reasons.

Therefore, to support an initiative with crowdfunding, you need a larger number of overall donors to offset the lower gift size.

How do you get higher participation? Get your message in front of as many potential donors as possible, including those who might have never given to your organization before. The best place for that is social media.

To determine if your nonprofit can support a crowdfunding campaign, check the strength of your social networking by investigating:

  • Engagement rates from your most recent social media posts.
  • Engagement rates from your most recent social media fundraising campaign.
  • Average gift size from social media donations.
  • Number of followers and engagement rates across social media platforms.

And before you launch a crowdfunding campaign that relies heavily on social media, be sure to investigate your results from #GivingTuesday.

2. Peer-to-peer fundraising.

What’s this fundraising strategy?

Sometimes confused with crowdfunding, peer-to-peer fundraising (P2P) also relies on social networking. But instead of your nonprofit’s online presence, it’s your donors’ own friends and followers that count.

Nonprofits organizing a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign set up individual pages for each of their donors who want to participate. These donors become the fundraisers. It’s their job to send their own family, friends, and followers the link to donate to their pages.

What can the data tell me?

Peer-to-peer fundraising is most effective when paired with a fundraising event. It’s always helpful to have a goal or competition element to peer-to-peer campaigns, otherwise it’s difficult to sustain them long enough to collect enough donations to support an initiative. With an event, your donor-fundraisers earn their ticket by raising a certain minimum amount.

Many nonprofits choose to build a peer-to-peer fundraising element into charity runs or walks, though the possibilities are practically endless.

If your social media metrics from the last section stack up, then you have half of your strategy accounted for. But if you want to make your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign truly spectacular by pairing it with an event, you also need to check in on the following:

  • Attendance: Will your donors actually show up at a peer-to-peer fundraising event? How high was attendance at your last fundraising event? If you’ve never hosted one, have you sent out a survey to ask if they would attend, or discovered whether they attend other nonprofits’ fundraising events?
  • Type of event: What are your most popular events, and could they be paired with peer-to-peer fundraising? If not, can you send out a survey and investigate your donors’ profiles in your database to find out what other kinds of events your donors would like to attend?
  • Feasibility: How expensive will it be to host an event? Do you have a venue, registration software, and staff or volunteers to set up and clean up? Do enough of your donors live closeby to fill up your venue?

If you’ve found the perfect fundraising event for your donors but don’t know how you’re going to pull it off, maybe it’s time to think about where you could get some extra help. Read on!

3. Corporate philanthropy.

What’s this fundraising strategy?

Many corporations set aside some of their resources for charity when developing their budget. Corporate philanthropy programs can take many forms, including:

  • Matching gifts
  • Dollars for doers
  • Team volunteering
  • Event sponsorships
  • In-kind donations
  • Profit shares

Corporate philanthropy works because it benefits both parties involved. Nonprofits receive funds, time, and other kinds of support from companies, while companies get to promote their charitable spirit.

While the name “corporate philanthropy” does indicate (correctly) that large corporations are the primary bestowers of these types of programs, smaller businesses also participate. They might be more likely to offer in-kind donations such as venues, staff, or food for events instead of employee matching gift programs.

What can the data tell me?

Corporate philanthropy is a profitable fundraising strategy once you’ve established a relationship with a corporate partner. The more difficult part is initiating that relationship.

If you want to ramp up your corporate philanthropy strategy in the new year, these donors in your database can tell you whether you have the connections to get it started:

  • Donors employed by companies who offer corporate matching gift programs.
  • Donors who hold C-level or board positions, or who own their own businesses.
  • Donors who are acquainted with C-level employees, owners, or board members.

Be sure that you look for direct and indirect connections — not just the employees who can have their donations matched, but also current donors who have personal connections to company decision-makers. Executives with busy schedules are much more likely to respond to solicitations from someone they know.

4. Text-to-give campaigns.

What’s this fundraising strategy?

Text-to-give is a specific subset of mobile fundraising. Nonprofits set up a phone number that their donors can text a specific code or donation amount to, and in a few clicks, they’ve made a donation!

Some nonprofits sustain text-to-give campaigns year-round, but these campaigns are most commonly organized on an ad hoc basis for disaster relief or political advocacy, or in conjunction with a live fundraising event.

It’s important to have a reliable text-to-give fundraising strategy before beginning a campaign. Most software providers set pricing levels based on capacity — that is, how many donations you can accept or how many donors you can contact.

To ensure your fundraising is cost-efficient, you need a targeted outreach strategy for text campaigns.

What can the data tell me?

You might be tempted to target your youngest supporters for text-to-give campaigns. It’s an understandable impulse. Young people are stereotypically attached at the hip to their phones, so it follows that they must be the target audience for texting campaigns.

That assumption, however, would be incorrect. In fact, the most likely text donor is a college-educated, married woman in her 50s.

So before taking on text-to-give, make sure you house all the following information in your donor database:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Employment status
  • Educational background
  • Location

Once you have this information, compare it to known mobile donor statistics. If you have a significant number of donors who would statistically be receptive to text donations, then give it a shot! If not, you might want to try something else this year. It’s easy to put off your donors with too much marketing about a fundraising channel they aren’t interested in.

This year is your year to try something different. But before you take off in a completely new direction, make sure that your donors will follow. These data-driven considerations can help you make the smartest decision for your nonprofit.



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