By Ryan Carpenter, Vice President, Client Success, Pursuant

On average, we see around 10,000 ads each day. Each time we open our inbox, a social media app, a search engine, and even our mailboxes, we’re met with marketing messages from businesses aiming to drive more revenue.

Your nonprofit competes for donors’ attention alongside dozens—or even hundreds—of other organizations each day. This is why personalizing donor experiences is so crucial to your success.

Each of your donors has a personal connection to your cause, whether they adopted their pet from your animal shelter or had a family member affected by the disease you’re researching. To continue inspiring donations, use your data to create tailored messages that speak to donors’ unique reasons for giving.

The Importance of Donor Data

Donor data encompasses all the information your nonprofit collects and stores about its donors, including contact information, demographic details, interests, giving history, communications, and more. When you deeply understand your donors, you can engage them more effectively and speak to the exact reasons they support your cause.

Data-driven, tailored communications tend to be much more effective than mass-market, generic attempts at donor engagement and retention. For example, let’s say your environmental conservation nonprofit wants to engage Sophie, a donor in her thirties who gives because her family instilled a strong sense of environmental stewardship in her since childhood. Here’s how Sophie may interpret different communications from your organization:

  • Generic: You share a mass email with all your supporters with the subject line, “Join us in protecting our planet!” The email vaguely thanks donors for their continued support and invites them to donate to your initiatives aimed at continuing to preserve the natural world. While Sophie appreciates this expression of gratitude and the underlying message, she does not feel particularly motivated to give and scrolls to the next email.
  • Personalized: Your nonprofit shares an email with a segment of donors who have a similar philosophy as Sophie. The subject line is, “Sophie, make your environmental legacy live on!” and the email copy acknowledges how Sophie shares your deep-seated commitment to environmental stewardship, lists the tangible differences her support has made, and invites her to join a volunteering trip to clean up a local beach. Sophie is touched by how the message addresses her personal connection to nature and starts researching the volunteer opportunity.

You can also use your data to overcome fundraising challenges like declining revenue. In this case, your nonprofit might overcome the obstacle by tailoring your fundraising appeals to donors’ giving history. This way, you’ll ask for an amount they are comfortable giving without leaving potential funds on the table.

Marketing Strategies for Personalizing Donor Experiences

Many nonprofits can only provide hyper-personalized experiences to their major donors. However, the right digital marketing tools can help you achieve personalization at scale. Implement the following strategies with the help of a robust CRM, a clean data file, and specialized tools that add personal touches (e.g., an email marketing platform that automatically greets each supporter by name).

Segment your donors.

Go beyond segmenting donors by how often or how much they give. After all, this doesn’t tell you much about why they give, which is what you need to know to drive them to take action.

Instead, create segments based on the characteristics that truly give you a deeper understanding of your supporters. GivingDNA’s guide to donor segmentation recommends starting with these categories:

These are five common donor segmentation categories (detailed in the text below).

  • Demographics: This includes socioeconomic traits like gender, age, marital status, occupation, income, and location. While these characteristics can seem surface-level at first, careful analysis can reveal deeper insights. For example, women use Pinterest at a much higher rate than men, but X (formerly Twitter) tends to be male-dominated.
  • Psychographics: These traits reveal more about a donor’s lifestyle, hobbies, interests, and values. For example, an eco-conscious donor would likely recycle, avoid single-use plastic, and spend their spare time outdoors. Use this data to better understand a donor’s deeply-held values and communicate how your cause upholds them.
  • Giving behavior: Track your donors’ average gift size, donation frequency and recency, preferred giving method, and affinities for specific projects. Use this information to personalize your appeals and calls to action. You might ask a donor who normally gives $50 if they’d like to upgrade their next donation to $65 or share about your sustainer program with a frequent donor.
  • Communication preferences: Identify what platforms donors prefer and how often they want to receive communications from your organization. Sharing messages through the platforms donors use often increases the chance they’ll see your communications and convert. The proper message frequency ensures that your nonprofit is on their mind but they don’t feel bombarded with constant asks for more support.
  • Engagement level: These traits summarize how committed and engaged your donors are. Consider event attendance, volunteer hours, advocacy, committee participation, and more. Your most engaged donors are the most likely to lend their support during emergencies or help spread awareness of campaigns.

Once you segment your donors accordingly, use these groups to customize donors’ experiences on a large scale. Sharing thank-you messages, for example, that greet donors by name, acknowledge their specific donations, and highlight the impact of their gifts will make them feel just as appreciated as major donors.

Innovate on traditional marketing tactics.

While traditional fundraising and marketing tactics can be effective, your nonprofit needs to put a unique spin on these strategies to make your communications stand out and cultivate deeper engagement with your constituents. For the best results, make sure your nonprofit is implementing creative, personalized marketing strategies and communications as often as you can.

Audit the marketing strategies your organization is currently using, and try out innovative variations, like:

  • Making the message interactive. Motivate readers to be active participants by adding interactive elements to your communications. For example, you might format your annual report into an interactive infographic like this one from National Geographic. Or, you could add embellishments to your direct mail like metallic foils, different textures, inserts, or even scents.
  • Incorporating gamification. Gamification involves applying elements of gameplay to non-game scenarios. You might create leaderboards that highlight your top donors or track fundraising progress in a public fundraising thermometer.
  • Asking donors to take a more active role. Make donors feel like a part of your team. Encourage them to fundraise on behalf of your organization via peer-to-peer campaigns, accept supporter-generated content to share on your blog, or allow a donor to take over your social media for the day. Since not every nonprofit offers these opportunities, donors will truly feel like they are getting a one-of-a-kind experience.

Embracing these innovative approaches to digital marketing for nonprofits shows donors that they are getting a unique experience by supporting your organization. Additionally, these tactics can transform a more passive donor who simply watches from the sidelines into one who is ready to take action.

Experiment with emerging technology.

New technologies can help you thoroughly analyze your data and make accurate predictions about how donors will react to your communications with them. Specifically, artificial intelligence (AI) can translate large amounts of data into actionable insights.

As BWF explains, AI leverages predictive analytics to anticipate future outcomes or actions based on trends and patterns in historical data. You can use predictive analytics to optimize processes like prospecting, major data identification and qualification, audience persona development, and giving behavior modeling.

Generative AI tools can also develop customized content for you, cutting down the time and resources required to create personalized experiences. For example, tools like ChatGPT produce text outputs based on your prompts while platforms like DALL-E develop images.

Customized experiences make donors feel like a valuable part of your nonprofit’s team. By acknowledging their individual impacts on your cause, appealing to their interests, and showing that you are making an effort to understand and connect with them, you’ll form genuine relationships built on trust and mutual respect.