Fundraising and nonprofit marketing can overlap in lots of different places. Why not share the data love as well? Using donor data in your marketing initiatives can move your organization closer to the common goal across the nonprofit sector: increasing donations.

Whether you’re responsible for fundraising and marketing for your organization or only wear the marketing hat, you’re speaking to donors on a regular basis. Digging into what you know about your donors — the donor data — with a marketing mindset can improve your communications with these folks and result in more (and larger!) donations. 

In the most basic sense, this entails making an extra effort to include personal donor details and donation information in various communications. This helps maintain donor relationships, assuring each supporter that they’re genuinely appreciated and not just one of many.

You can take this a step further by incorporating prospect research data into your marketing strategy. Prospect research is a technique used by fundraisers to learn more about their donors and get a better sense of how likely they are to give (giving affinity) and how much they are able to give (giving capacity). This is a great way to identify high impact donors and focus your marketing campaigns to be more productive and high-yielding.

What is Prospect Research?

Prospect research takes a look at specific metrics and indicators within your donor database that can give a clue into how each donor will act.

You can do this on your own, but longtime fundraisers will likely want to invest in a tool that screens their donors against reliable and accurate prospect research databases. Effective and successful prospect research will look at the following data points:

  1. Wealth markers. A big part of prospect research is trying to determine and evaluate each donor’s wealth status. You’ll be screening your donors based on their real estate ownership, stock ownership, and business affiliations. This gives you a better understanding of how much each donor owns and what they do with their existing money.
  2. Philanthropic indicators. Along with how much a donor makes, how charitable they are also plays a big part in what kind of donor they could potentially be. Consider screening for things like past giving, political giving, and other nonprofit involvement.

Taking into account both wealth and philanthropic data gives you a better sense of who your high impact donors are. For instance, people with both a high affinity to give and a high capacity to give are more likely to become major donors. Grouping these people together in your marketing efforts can help you nurture and encourage that transition to major donor status. You might even create a target audience persona for this group to help you speak directly to them and their needs and challenges through your outreach.

Using Donor Data in Marketing

Nonprofits already know the importance of getting to know your donors. But what can you do with that donor information to help increase fundraising and raise awareness of your mission? See three ways to use donor data to move your marketing forward.

Identifying Major Gift Donors

The top way that nonprofits incorporate prospect research into their fundraising and marketing efforts is to help identify and nurture major donors. Major donors are some of the most important people to your nonprofit, their gifts likely accounting for a large portion of your yearly revenue. According to some fundraising professionals, 76% of giving comes from just 4% of donors, which is why many nonprofits will already have some sort of major gift strategy in place.

Once you’ve identified your major donor prospects using your prospect research tool, you can incorporate this information into your marketing initiatives. Start by segmenting your major donor prospects for more targeted, personalized communications and other meaningful engagements. By focusing your efforts on these prospects, you can help build a foundation for future giving.

Once these donors have been segmented:

  • Send more personalized appreciation and thank you emails when they make a gift.
  • Offer early invites to future events.
  • Keep donors regularly updated on the impact of their gift
  • To add an extra element of personalization, consider writing a letter as well as sending emails.

Focusing on your major donors and keeping up with this relationship will do your nonprofit wonders.

Promoting Matching Gift Programs

Another way you can take advantage of your prospect research data is to narrow down matching gift opportunities.

Corporate matching gift programs are when employers match a gift given by one of their employees to a charitable organization. Each program varies in the matching level as well as specific rules on which charities are eligible and so on. This is a great way to increase funds for your nonprofit, but only if your donors know about it!

According to one study, an estimated $4-7 billion in matching gift funds goes unclaimed per year. That’s a huge chunk of revenue that could have gone to good causes. Company matching gift programs aren’t advertised as much as other company initiatives, so donors often don’t even know that they’re eligible. A good way to supplement this gap is to send out matching gift information yourself!

Your prospect research data can let you know which donors are eligible for matching gift programs by screening each donor’s business affiliation. Once you’ve determined a good list of matching gift donors, you can reach out with a targeted email outlining the steps:

  • First, explain how the donor can increase their donation without adding any more of their own money.
  • Let donors know that they should ask their HR department if they’re eligible and for any deadlines and other rules. 
  • Then, they submit their request to their employer! 
  • After the employer reviews the request and approves it, the funds will be donated to your nonprofit without any additional work. 
  • Once your organization receives the funds, send an email confirming the donor’s matching gift has gone through and thanking them for the extra effort.

You might also consider looking into a capable matching gift database to embed into your donation pages and marketing materials. This way, donors can easily look up if they’re eligible and not endure the back-and-forth with HR. There are even some tools that can automate this process for you — screening your donors, figuring out who is eligible, and sending them the appropriate materials.

Targeting Donor Advised Funds

Donor advised funds (DAF) are the fastest growing form of philanthropy today. A DAF account is a form of philanthropic giving where someone deposits their contributions of cash, stock, or other assets into a dedicated savings account for charity. However, they don’t always choose a recipient right away. 

Since the donor has already made the decision to give it to charity, you just have to convince them that they should be giving it to your organization.

Use your prospect research tool to determine which of your donors have DAFs. This can usually be determined during the wealth screening process. From there, if you do have eligible donors, carefully start cultivating and fostering that relationship. 

That doesn’t mean asking them straight out if you could be the recipient of the funds. It simply means spending the extra effort in positively engaging them during your communications. Continue to personalize your outreach, send appreciation letters, or even invite these donors to events thanking them for their support. That way, when it comes time for them to pick their DAF recipient, your nonprofit will be at the forefront of their minds.

Fundraising outreach and marketing campaigns can get a little blurry around the edges at points. When you share data about your audience of donors, you can work together and use that information to improve and target emails and other communications to this important segment of your audience. 

Hopefully, this article helped give you some clues into how you can successfully use prospect research and segment your email audience for your nonprofit. Good luck!