Learn From Your Donors

If you’re like most non-profits, you’re probably currently at some stage in the process of sending out a year-end appeal. Perhaps it’s an email appeal, or a phonathon, or a traditional mail appeal, all intended to take advantage of the most giving time of the year: December. My guess is that you’ll be sending it to anyone who hasn’t been specifically disqualified for some reason (requested no mail, deceased, etc.). In fact, it’s probably a really good time to use a ‘hail Mary’ approach for your appeal to anyone you know.

But when you’re done with that approach, I’d like to suggest you move to the other end of the spectrum and look very specifically at some important segments of your database. What you glean from these segments can prove to be essential to your future plans.

First-time donors

Take a close look at the list of donors who made their first gift to your organization in the past year and look for patterns and common characteristics. Were they related to the constituents you serve? Were they young or old? Were they brand new to your organization or have you been communicating with them for many years?

ResultsPlus query:  Folder.FirstGiftDate between 01/01/2012 and 12/31/2012

Last-time donors

These are the donors that you are just about to lose – your Lybunts. They gave last year, but have not (yet) given this year. These are critical constituents for your organization because it takes far fewer resources to maintain them than it does to acquire new donors. Plus, if you can communicate with them directly and find out why they are considering leaving the fold, you can potentially gain invaluable feedback on how your organization and its mission are perceived in the community.

ResultsPlus query:  Folder.LastGiftDate between 01/01/2011 and 12/31/2011

Frequent donors

There is a special significance for people who make more than one gift to your organization in a year. It suggests that your relationship with them goes beyond a once-a-year giving routine. If they give two or three gifts during the year, they are at least open to your repeated requests for support. If they give monthly through a sustaining gift, then they have incorporated your organization into their monthly lives with their other household activities. Either way, take a look at these key constituents and find out what they share, then go look for others with similar characteristics.

ResultsPlus query:  Folder.YrToDateGiftCnt greater than 1

So after you’re done casting a wide net to gain new donors, don’t forget to get out the magnifying glass to take a closer look at the ones with whom you already have relationships. Evaluate any criteria or demographic you can think of and look for indicators that will help lead you to other potential donors. These segments of your donor database can teach you a great deal if you invest the time to ask and learn.