5 Things Every Nonprofit Must Know About Their Donors

KindfulJanuary 22, 2018

5 Things Every Nonprofit Must Know About Their Donors header image

When you’re trying to raise funds for your organization, few things are more important than identifying what you need to know about your donors.

The more deeply you understand your audience, the better you can tailor your outreach to their priorities.

However, not all research is equal. There are certain things to know about your audience that are more valuable than others. Here are 5 things nonprofits should know about their donors.

Additional resources: The Ultimate Guide to Knowing Your Donors


1. What’s their “Aha” moment?

Fundraising expert Kay Sprinkel Grace presents great insight. “Something happens when you see a donor connect with the values, mission, and vision of your organization. Sometimes it’s as though there’s an audible ‘click’. Suddenly, the desires of the organization and the desires of the prospective donor are wedded.”

This moment is a concept software companies understand well, and they define it as the Aha moment. The Aha moment is the point in a person’s experience with a product when the product’s value becomes apparent to them. By studying the factors that led to this moment, software companies have become experts at making their value apparent to their audience.

While nonprofits are fundamentally different than startups, the concept still holds a tremendous amount of value. If you can understand what causes people to become donors, then you can focus your marketing and communication efforts on the messages that are most effective.

The key is to find patterns. When you survey your donors next, ask them what got them excited or passionate about your organization, searching to uncover what led them to donate.


2. How do they want to be engaged?

Research into donor preferences reveals an uncomfortable truth: nonprofits often ignore how donors want to be engaged.

A study by Edge Research found only 34% of nonprofits said they segmented communication based on donors’ age. This is particularly important when you consider 55% of Millennials said text messages from nonprofits were acceptable, but only 24% of Baby Boomers wanted texts.

The good news is segmenting your donors is marketing 101 — it’s not that difficult to accomplish, and it can have big results.

When it comes to segmenting, it’s recommended to start with a preferred communication channel, e.g., email, text, direct mail, etc. Grouping donors by channel ensures that whenever you reach out, you’re engaging each person in a way they appreciate. This should result in higher engagement rates, which will lead to more contributions and longer donor retention.


3. Where do your best donors come from?

Creating personas for your donors is important. Understanding your audience’s goals, communication style, and common objections can deliver tremendous value to your marketing efforts. But the most important thing to understand about your donors is where the best ones come from.

What channels do you use to bring new donors into the organization? Which channels deliver the highest giving donors? For example, do you get most of your top donors from referrals, or did that direct mail campaign bring in some great contributors? Discovering these habits is another vital thing nonprofits should know about their donors.

By tracking the channel source of donors in your nonprofit software, you can run a report that quickly shows where you should concentrate your efforts.


4. Do they think you’re making a difference?

Let’s face it: today’s donors are increasingly interested in outcomes rather than recognition. Edge Research’s study into donor preferences also found that 71% of donors want to know that the money they contribute is used wisely, supporting an actual difference.

Donors both young and old want to back organizations and causes they believe are effective. Instead of receiving an invitation to a gala, they would prefer to read stories about the results their contributions helped realize. OK, a gala might be nice, too – but you get the idea.

So how do you adapt? Put the success of your organization front and center in your marketing and outreach efforts.

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana provides an excellent example. In a video highlighting their oyster recycling program, they immediately touch on the impact the program is having. They show their success: restoring the 70% of oyster beds that are depleted in the Gulf Coast.

The narrative is clear, and the outcomes are apparent. In your communication with donors and potential donors, be sure to continuously emphasize the impact your organization is having. It will help your donor identify the impact they’re having as well.


5. Why do they stop giving?

While it may be uncomfortable, it’s a fact that a significant number of donors — around 52% according to recent data — will not contribute next year.

The key to addressing donor loss is to understand why someone stops giving. Were they off-put by your latest campaign? Did they become disconnected to the cause over time? Knowing the answers to these questions is critical to maintaining a healthy donor database and discovering how you can improve retention.

Donors are well within their rights to stop giving. But if they believed in your cause once, they’re likely to be forthcoming with why they stopped. You can capitalize on this fact by creating a list of donors who stopped giving and ask them why they didn’t renew their contribution. While it may be intimidating for them to answer a direct ask (e.g. a phone call), they’ll probably be willing to fill out a simple survey.



Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.

Filed Under:   Fundraising