Part 2: 7 Crucial Donor Details to Improve Supporter Engagement


In Part 1, Sarah Tedesco of DonorSearch discussed the first three strategies for increasing supporter engagement for nonprofits. We're continuing with the final four!


4. Their RFM factor.

Did you know that it’s easy to analyze someone’s philanthropic giving habits to create a system of organization for your donors? You can use the donations that they’ve given to your organization to create an RFM score for them, or a recency-frequency-monetary amount score.

  • Recency indicates how recent their last donation to your organization was.
  • Frequency indicates how many times they’ve given to your organization during their relationship with the organization. This can also be known as donor retention.
  • Monetary amount is the size of their gift to your organization.

An RFM score, when used properly, can help your nonprofit encourage a donor to give recurring gifts or perhaps even become a major giver, because you can tell who is committed to your cause and has the means to give a lot.

Someone who donates semi-frequently might be the perfect person to suggest recurring gifts to.

Being aware of all of your nonprofit’s supporters’ RFM scores can also help you analyze your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy. For example, if you find that your supporters have low frequency scores across the board, perhaps you need to step up your recurring donation solicitation game.


5. Previous philanthropic behavior.

The best indicator of philanthropic affinity is previous philanthropic behavior! To strengthen your nonprofit’s relationships with its donors, employ prospect and donor research strategies to learn more about their interests.

Prospect and donor research is a fundraising strategy where a nonprofit finds and analyzes publicly available information to better understand someone’s affinity and capacity for giving. We’ll discuss capacity in more detail in the next section.

Affinity is someone’s willingness to donate or otherwise support a philanthropic organization, and the perfect way to understand someone’s affinity is to consider what organization they’ve already donated to!

Has your supporter:

  • Previously donated to your organization?
  • Previously donated to other organizations?
  • Given to political campaigns or other political groups?

This information doesn’t only tell you that someone is philanthropically inclined—it can also tell you what they’re most passionate about! Research the missions of other nonprofits that someone has donated to, and consider if there is a common theme.

For example, some people might donate to a wide variety of medical research nonprofits or hospitals, because they’re passionate about healthcare philanthropy. Others might give to multiple animal rescue nonprofits, because they love animals and can’t choose just one!

Similarly, consider the platforms of any political organizations someone has donated to. If you know what drives the donor to support a cause or organization, you can better tailor your outreach to them to emphasize the parts of your mission they would be most interested in!


6. Wealth indicators.

Conducting prospect or donor research usually reveals two aspects of someone: the first is their affinity, which we discussed above, and the second is their capacity.

Capacity for giving is understood by considering what traditional wealth indicators a person has. These indicators commonly include:

  • Home ownership.
  • Car, boat, or plane ownership.
  • Salary, if public information.
  • SEC holdings.

You can also consider the size of their donations to other nonprofits as well as your own when learning someone’s capacity for giving.

While someone can have a high capacity but low affinity, or low affinity but high capacity, it’s important to understand that neither of these indicators mean that someone is a guaranteed donor for your organization. They’re just pieces of a puzzle!

Having a well-rounded understanding of a donor is key to building a relationship and supporting their engagement with your organization.


7. Familial and personal information.

Donors are a nonprofit’s superheroes, so you need to have the best relationship possible with them. Don’t forget to learn more about their personal lives and interests alongside the more quantitative information!

Some important things to ask about are:

  • Marital status.
  • Children.
  • Siblings.
  • Hobbies and interests.

Knowing these personal aspects of your donors’ lives can help your organization connect with your supporters on a more personal level. Family is the most important thing to a lot of people, so it makes sense that knowing their familial relationships would help you understand them better.

Knowing how they spend their time outside of work is also vital! Their hobbies and interests are the things that they do to enrich their own lives—understanding your donors’ priorities is key to understanding their motivations to give.

If you’re having trouble thinking of ways to get to know a donor, check out these 23 questions to ask donors from Bloomerang. You never know what you could learn!

You can also gain a better understanding of your donors as individuals by learning about their social connections, like their alma mater, business connections, board membership, or elected official status. Their professional-social circles are important to their lives, so they should also be important to understand.


Supporter engagement is crucial for your nonprofit, so make sure you’re building the strongest relationships you can by collecting and maintaining key donor data.



Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.