Behind the Numbers: Using Your Data to Create Better Donor Experiences

Although we recommend talking directly with your donors to learn what matters to them, one-on-one conversations aren’t the only way to gain valuable information about your donors. Through data analysis of the information in your donor management system, you can obtain insights that will help you create a better experience for your donors and motivate them to give more over time. Here’s what you can learn from the numbers and how you can apply this knowledge to improve your donor experience.

Biographic and Demographic Information:

This data isn’t snazzy, but it provides you with important tools to use in donor communications. Here’s what you can do with it.

  • Preferred Name—Even something as simple as addressing your donors by their preferred names or nicknames will go a long way toward building a meaningful relationship.
  • Employment—Improve the timing of your emails by sending to full-time individuals when they’re at work.
  • Age—Millennials are more likely to check social media or text messages for communications, while Baby Boomers are more likely to use email or even snail mail.
  • Educational Background—The higher someone’s education level, the more likely she or he has disposable income that can be routed to charitable giving. But beyond the level of education, look at what your contacts were involved in while in school. Did they join clubs that provide a clue about their interests? Did they hold certain leadership positions that tell you what they’re committed to? What community service projects were they active in? This information can help you customize your communications more meaningfully.

Involvement History:

Monetary giving isn’t the only indicator of a donor’s interest in your organization. When you’re putting together your campaign lists, don’t forget to look at other historical indicators as well.

  • Volunteering—Often, donors who volunteer are some of the most committed. When they’re able to financially, they’ll enthusiastically send their charitable donation dollars to your organization.
  • Involvement in Advocacy Work—If an individual advocates for charities or causes, he or she is usually serious about making a difference and seeks to do so in other ways.
  • Corporate Sponsorships—If someone has organized a corporate sponsorship for her or his place of employment, the individual has demonstrated a willingness to go the extra mile for your organization.
  • Showing Up at Events—If you have regulars who appear at your events, they’re prime candidates to get more involved.

Network of Connections:

Prospective donors will always be more willing to respond if a friend or business connection has introduced your organization to them. If you think an individual would be willing to contribute to your nonprofit, look at who in your donor database is connected to that person and ask for an introduction. This strategy can also be used for raising corporate sponsorships.


Hobbies and interests will tell you who’s most likely to participate in your events. They’ll also give you ideas about what types of events will be most popular with your contacts. Here are a few ideas:

  • Games—Trivia night, bingo, or board games.
  • Outdoors—Run/Walk, golf or fishing tournament, or softball.
  • Food & Drink—Wine tasting, celebrity chef or bartender, or profit share at a restaurant.
  • Music—Benefit concert, talent show, or Battle of the Bands
  • Arts & Culture—Group night at the theatre, charity poetry reading, or author meet-and-greet.

Timing of Gifts:

When do individuals give? If someone tends to make donations at a certain time of year, your request will probably be welcomed (and successful!) if you ask at that time. Knowing the timing of gifts will also help you spend your marketing dollars more wisely. If someone has given within a year-long time period, that person is much more likely to give again than someone who gave two years ago. You can allocate your marketing resources more intelligently if you know who is more likely to donate.

These are just a few ideas on how to use your data to not only build a stronger donor experience but also increase your fundraising revenue.

Learn why the donor experience is vital to a successful organization and how to implement an effective donor experience program by downloading “A Better Donor Experience: Is it the Cornerstone of Donor Loyalty?

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