When you reach out to your donors, you want to connect with them, making them feel like you know them, value them, and are talking to them, not to some void on the internet.  Donor segmentation helps you form that crucial connection.

Donor segmentation is the process of categorizing your donors based on similar characteristics and using those segments to tailor your outreach. It helps you meet donors where they are—the first step in building that all-important relationship with your donors.

With segmentation, you can ensure you don’t accidentally offend a major donor by asking them to chip in for the first time or that you don’t flood the inbox of a monthly donor. You can show your donors you listen to them, respect them, and appreciate them.

Segmentation, and getting serious about using your data to improve your outreach and outcomes, can be intimidating, so let’s break it down.

First, decide how you want to segment.

What specific groupings will help you accomplish your goals? If converting lapsed donors into current donors is your highest priority, you can target individuals who used to give regularly, but stopped a year ago.

Some simple ways to start include segmenting current donors, potential donors, and lapsed donors, but then you can get even more specific.

For existing donors:

  •      How were they acquired: in person, online, by mail, at an event?
  •      What was the size of their donation and the total of their lifetime giving?
  •      How regularly do they make donations?
  •      When do they donate: what time of year, after what kind of appeals?

For lapsed donors:

  •      Were they one time donors or did they give more often at some point?
  •      When did they lapse?
  •      What was the size of their donation and the total of their lifetime giving?

For prospective donors:

  •      How did you acquire their information?
  •      How are they involved with the organization?

These are just a few of the ways you can segment your data—you can get incredibly specific and pull a list of women volunteers who donated at an event or keep it simple, but still effective.

Next, determine what data you need to collect.

Depending on the information you collect when you receive donations, you may not be able to segment in every specific way you hope to, but the data you inherently collect in your donor management system every time you receive a donation provides a huge wealth of information you can use to fine tune your outreach.

If you’re interested in respecting the communication preferences of your donors, consider asking them to tell you how often they want to hear from you (don’t give never as an option!). If you want to use a message and a messenger that will resonate most powerfully, consider asking why they care about the organization and became a donor.

Set up your segments in your donor management system.

This crucial step of making sure your donor management system is ready with the tags you specify ensures that once you have all this data, you can actually use it without writing a personalized email to every single donor you want to speak to.

Now that you’re ready to go, how can you use segmentation?

Use the right messenger.

With segmentation, we often think only about the message we’re delivering, but the messenger is just as important. Perhaps your female donors respond more positively to an ask from a woman or your elderly donors are more likely to give when they hear from the president of your organization.

Experiment to see not just what works best, but who works best.

Make the right ask.

Avoid asking 20 year olds who give $20 at a time to donate $500 or asking a donor who gives $100 each month to chip in $5. You can also make sure you ask in the right way—avoiding asking a volunteer to step up and do something for the cause when she is already committed to your work.

Recognize your donors appropriately.

Segmentation doesn’t just help you when you’re recruiting donations, it can help you thank your donors in a way they deserve—highlighting what their gift did for your organization. Use segmentation to ask your most loyal donors to a thank you picnic or to join a leadership society.

Get creative.

If you’re focused on building your cache of donors, target prospective donors and find a way to help them get to know your organization. Ask them to an event that will highlight your work or have an existing donor be the messenger that explains why they should support your organization.

Donor segmentation helps you use your data to make you smarter. It not only helps you maximize what you’re asking, but maximizes what you’re receiving in return. How can you start using segmentation today?