Print Page | Contact Us | Sign In | Join Giving Institute
News & Press: Member Insights

Maximize Your Donor Data: 5 Sensational Strategies

Friday, March 3, 2017   (0 Comments)

Bill TedescoBy Bill Tedesco, DonorSearch

Your donor data is the heart of your organization. All those little details about who your donors are and how much they’ve contributed to your organization can add up to give a holistic picture of your donor base.

Understanding your donors is the foundation of your fundraising strategies.

Maximizing your donor data can give you valuable insights that can help you reach your donors most effectively and help them fulfill their potential. In short, you can find gold in your donor database if you take the time to look.

To make the most of your donor data, you can:

  1. Identify high-level donors.
  2. Engage recurring donors.
  3. Search for corporate philanthropy opportunities.
  4. Communicate effectively with donors.
  5. Polish your data.

Let’s get started with the first point.

1. Identify high-level donors.

Identify High-level Donors

Major and high-level donors, such as planned gift donors, are likely hiding in your donor database.  
You can use your donor data to find out which donors have more giving potential, so that you can target them effectively. 

Specifically, you can look holistically at both wealth and philanthropic indicators to determine who has the ability and affinity to give a high-impact donation.

Wealth indicators include:

  • Real estate ownership.
  • Political giving.
  • Business affiliations.
  • Stock ownership.

Philanthropic indicators include:

  • Past giving to your nonprofit, including size and frequency of gifts.
  • Past giving to other nonprofits.
  • Philanthropic involvement (i.e. volunteering, serving on a nonprofit board, etc.).
  • Personal interests that align with your cause.

Together, these indicators can help you identify donors with more giving potential. The key is to use the data you have to gain insight into your most likely prospects. 

If you have a very loyal mid-level donor, for example, you may check the value of the property at their listed address to better understand their giving capacity.

Doing so can help you focus your resources on moving donors with untapped potential into greater giving tiers. Using your data to understand who they are can help you build a genuine, personal relationship that allows your donors to grow into your organization.

Takeaway: Your donor data holds indicators of your donors’ ability and affinity to give, which can help you identify high-level prospects and build relationships with them.

2. Engage recurring donors.

Engage recurring donors

When it comes to assessing your donors’ value, it’s easy to focus on major donors. However, loyal and recurring donors are just as important for your general fundraising efforts.

Though recurring donors may give less per donation, overall, they’ll give more to your organization. According to Brenda Asare, recurring giving “helps break down larger gifts into more manageable sizes, and still allows donors to give significantly over the course of a year.” 

That’s why these important donors shouldn’t be overlooked.

After all, one of the most significant pieces of data for identifying high-level donors and donors with planned giving potential is past giving history. 

Those who have already given to your organization are prime candidates to give again. Those who have given significantly over a period of years are likely to want to leave behind a legacy or otherwise invest in your organization more fully.

You can use your donor data to engage your recurring donors, so that they remain loyal to your organization.

Here are a few strategies to get started:

  • Thank donors with automated receipts. Check your database to see which donors have set up automatic recurring gifts (typically through an online donation page). It’s important that you continue to thank and engage these donors each time their donation is received. If you’ve set up automatic receipts, include a personal thank you so that donors can see that your organization appreciates each and every gift.

  • Identify successful campaigns. Your recurring donors can also provide you with valuable information on your campaign strategy. Pay attention to which campaigns have garnered donations from recurring donors. You can even send surveys to ask donors about your past campaigns. Which aspects compelled them to give, and how can you replicate those strategies for your next campaign?
  • Reference donation history. If a donor has given more than once to your organization, you can show your appreciation by thanking them for their loyalty, as well as for their individual gifts. Personalize your outreach so that recurring donors receive acknowledgement for their continued donations.

Takeaway: Use your donor data to stay engaged with recurring donors and identify the campaign strategies that were most effective with this loyal donor base.

3. Search for corporate philanthropy opportunities.

Search for corporate philanthropy opportunities

To get a complete picture of who your donors are, it’s important that you trace their business affiliations, which may include their employers as well as any relevant connections to corporations or businesses that could be beneficial to your nonprofit.

Your organization can capitalize on this data by searching for opportunities to engage with corporate philanthropy. Corporate philanthropy refers to the ways in which businesses can support nonprofits.

Here are some of the most pivotal programs that your nonprofit can initiate:

  • Matching gifts. 
  • In-kind donations.

Let’s take a look at each in more detail.

Matching gifts

Matching gifts occur when a business doubles, triples, or quadruples the donation of one of its employees. Many companies have matching gift programs in place, but employees must apply to receive these valuable donations. 

You can search your donor data for employees who work at matching-gift compatible companies, so that you can encourage these donors to apply the next time they make a donation.

Raising awareness is key to capitalizing on matching gift opportunities. Identifying matching gift potential in your database can allow you to target donors and send them informational materials that inspire them to act.

For comprehensive information on matching gifts, you can check out this DonorSearch guide.

In-kind donations

In-kind donations occur when a company donates a physical product or service to your nonprofit.

In-kind donations can be incredibly valuable for events, such as charity auctions, that depend on soliciting items. In-kind donations can help cut your event costs so that you can focus on fundraising.

You can identify opportunities for in-kind donations by seeking out connections to local businesses in your donor data. 

Local businesses are great targets for in-kind donations because these companies can showcase their products and services to your community.

For example, a restaurant can donate catering services to a fundraising event, which in turn allows the community to taste their food. Successful service can help the restaurant reach more customers, creating a ripple effect of benefits.

Local business owners in your database may be your best bet at identifying in-kind opportunities, but you can also look for local businesses that employ several of your donors, or that have otherwise supported nonprofits in your community. The key is to find the connections that you can leverage.

Takeaway: Identify your donors’ business affiliations so that you can pinpoint opportunities for corporate philanthropy, such as matching gifts and in-kind donations.

4. Communicate effectively with donors.

Effectively reaching your donors means that you communicate with them on their terms.

Your database is filled with information that can help you identify the best ways to engage your donors. You can look at your donors as a whole or as individuals to understand how best to communicate.

For instance, if you have high email open rates in your organization, then you may conclude that email is an effective means of reaching your donors. Taking note of your donors’ preferred giving channel can help you maximize your communications with donors as individuals.

Sending donors communications via their preferred channels increases the likelihood that they’ll read and respond to what you’re sending.

It’s also important to look at your data holistically.

For example, donors may prefer to receive information about your nonprofit through the mail, but they may prefer to give with their credit cards via online donation channels.

That’s why it’s important to create multi-channel marketing, so that donors who prefer one channel can still receive information and support your organization through other channels. 

For example, you may encourage donors to follow your social media pages in your printed newsletter or allow donors to subscribe to a mailing list via email.

Doing so ensures that your donors know all of the ways that they can engage with your nonprofit, so that they can choose the channel that best suits them.

Reaching your donors where they already are is important to the long-term success of your organization. After all, communicating with your donors is how you’ll ask them for direct donations.

For more information on crafting your asks and appeals, you can reference this Fundly guide.

Takeaway: Knowing your donors’ preferred communication channels and general habits can help you send them communications that they’ll read and respond to.

5. Polish your data.

Polish your data

To maximize the data in your database, it’s important that all of your information is relevant, accurate, and organized.

Keeping your data healthy can ensure that anyone who needs to can access your database and use the information you have.

To polish your data, you can:

  • Consolidate duplicate profiles.
  • Delete supporters who have been inactive for two years or more.
  • Double check the accuracy of your information.
  • Identify holes in your donor profiles.

Completing this process at least once a year can help ensure that your organization is ready to use the data you have. 

Many organizations clean their databases during the beginning of the year, so that they can create an annual fundraising strategy based upon accurate, up-to-date information.

Takeaway: Polishing your data ensures that the information you’re using is correct, which streamlines the fundraising process.


As philanthropic trends change, and donors enter and leave your organization, your donor data can provide the insight and stability that you need to fundraise consistently. 

Your donor data is the sum total of the information that you have on who your donors are. Maximizing that data is more than common sense; it’s the means to reaching your donors and growing your organization!


225 W. Wacker Drive | Chicago, IL | 60606