4 Data Types to Gather Before Making Fundraising Materials

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Fundraising can often feel like a shot in the dark. For many nonprofits, it can be difficult to quickly and accurately identify your target audience and determine the best way to get in touch with supporters. 

However, instead of making wild guesses about the direction to take your outreach efforts, data marketing—a strategy previously reserved for for-profit corporations—can help. Data marketing allows nonprofits to take a focused approach to reach a larger audience and fundraise more effectively.

Before you prepare outreach fundraising materials for your next fundraiser, plan to gather the following four types of data: 

  1. Donor contact information
  2. Donor demographics
  3. Communication preferences
  4. Previous fundraising campaign data

You don’t have to be a data whiz or marketing expert to get started with data marketing. With these four types of data in your pocket, you have a solid foundation to build out the rest of your fundraising strategy. In this guide, we’ll explain each data type and its usefulness for your marketing efforts. Let’s dive in!

1. Donor contact information

One of the most basic types of data you’ll need to gather before diving into a fundraising campaign is your supporters’ contact information. Without accurate contact information, you won’t be able to reach donors effectively and you’ll waste time reaching out to those who are unresponsive to your messages. 

You can gather accurate contact information through your in-house forms and database, or you can partner with a data marketing provider to access third-party prospect data. Either way, you should ensure that you gather donors’:

  • Preferred names: When sending fundraising materials to donors, it’s important to get their names right. When you gather donors’ preferred names, you can address messages with a more personalized greeting—rather than the generic “Dear Donor.” 
  • Email addresses: Email marketing is a cornerstone of any strong data-driven fundraising campaign. Scrub your database to remove any inaccurate or unresponsive email addresses. This allows you to focus your email marketing efforts on supporters who may actually engage with your content.
  • Home addresses: Having access to accurate home addresses allows you to send direct mail fundraising materials to real people. It’s also crucial to keep your supporter address book updated since people regularly move and change addresses. 

If you find throughout the process of reviewing and updating your donor information that you’re missing key data points, consider investing in data append services. Data append is the process of improving your in-house data with information pulled from external databases. For instance, you might conduct a data append to fill in missing donor phone numbers or email addresses. 

By partnering with a dedicated data marketing firm to help with appending data, you can save time spent hunting down accurate contact information. Plus, you can save money in the long run since you’ll be able to send messages to people who may actually respond. 

2. Donor demographics

Demographics are one of the key aspects of a data-driven fundraising strategy. It’s important to understand demographic information about your target audience members so you can craft messages that resonate with each individual. 

Moreover, understanding the demographics of your ideal supporters allows you to save marketing dollars by focusing outreach on those who are most likely to donate to your cause. 

NPOInfo suggests collecting and analyzing the following donor data to better understand your donor demographics:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Location 
  • Occupation
  • Employer
  • Hobbies 
  • Marital status (and anniversary date)
  • Parental status
  • Children (and names and ages)
  • Income
  • Homeowner status
  • Investments
  • Volunteer history
  • Donation history

Taken together, these donor characteristics can indicate a supporter’s interest and ability to give to your cause. When you have this data available, you can personalize your outreach efforts, tailoring your fundraising messages to speak directly to their needs and interests.

For instance, you may determine that your target audience is women ages 25-40 who live within 10 miles of your nonprofit. With this information, you can determine the best digital marketing platform to reach your target audience (Facebook is the most popular among this generation). You can use demographic information to craft targeted social media ads for this segment of your audience. 

Remember that the demographics of your donors will most likely change over time. As a result, plan to regularly update your donor demographics information accordingly in order to continue catering to your target audience.

3. Communication preferences

In addition to demographic information, plan to gather data on your supporters’ communication preferences—how, why, and when they want to receive outreach from your organization. When determining communication preferences, consider the following:

  • How do supporters want to receive fundraising materials? Though you should plan to take an omnichannel marketing approach to ensure your fundraiser is reaching the widest possible audience, focus on the platforms your customers use. Do they want to receive communications through email, direct mail, social media, text messages, or phone calls?
  • What content does your audience want to receive? AccuData’s guide to direct marketing for nonprofits distinguishes between three types of content: advocacy, appeals, and newsletters. Give supporters options to sign up for different types of communications about fundraising, volunteer opportunities, events, and general updates. 
  • How frequently do they want to receive communications? Daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly? Knowing the preferred frequency of communication will help you avoid spamming supporters’ inboxes.

In addition to tracking click and open rates for email messages, you can also send surveys to your current donors to gather this information. When you follow your supporters’ communication preferences, they’ll be more likely to respond positively to the messages they receive from your organization and more likely to donate when you ask.

4. Previous fundraising and engagement data

Finally, before launching a new fundraising campaign, assess your previous efforts. By analyzing your past victories and failures, you can craft a better marketing strategy that incorporates only the most successful elements of past campaigns. 

For instance, let’s say you’re working on fundraising for a capital campaign to start a new after-school program in your community. However, you’ve had mixed success with fundraisers in the past, and you want to ensure this campaign is worth the investment. 

In this case, you can analyze the results of your previous campaigns to determine the successes and failures. You might discover that your past marketing campaigns cast a too-wide net and that you sent direct mail materials to all the households in your vicinity as opposed to only those homes that fit your ideal demographic. You didn’t have as much success because your past efforts were not targeted enough.

For your upcoming fundraising campaigns, you’ll know to tailor your direct mail outreach to only cover households that fit your ideal donor persona to see better results. 

By analyzing past campaign results, you can ensure you won’t repeat the same mistakes but still maintain the marketing elements that work for your nonprofit. 

Data marketing isn’t a practice that’s reserved only for large, well-funded nonprofits. Small nonprofits can just as easily break into the data marketing realm to craft a strategic marketing plan that saves you money.

Whether you’re working alone or with a third-party marketing specialist, make sure you have a streamlined system for organizing and storing your data insights. You’ll be able to use them in current and future campaigns to guide your decision-making. Good luck!

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