thankQ Resources

How to create a great donor portrait

We’ve all heard of Gwendolyn Giver – the stereotypical supporter (just in case you haven’t, she’s female, aged 45 to 60 and loves to give, preferably with cash). But what if we told you she doesn’t exist? Would it make a difference to your nonprofit’s communications? It shouldn’t, because Gwendolyn Giver never existed. She is a typecast donor that has no place in your fundraising strategy because every organization is different. To fundraise successfully, you can’t rely on industry averages. You need to get to know your donors and create your own donor profiles so that when you’re designing your next campaign you know exactly who you’re talking to.

Donor portraits do just that. They don’t have to be an actual image, but they do need to conjure one—to consolidate everything you know about your donors, give them personality and form. They are your audience, the people reading your direct mail, visiting your website, or following you on social media. If you don’t know who they are (yes, there can be more than one segment or portrait) you are fundraising in the dark. Essentially talking blindly to an assumption that may or may not be correct.   

Collecting the data* you need to create your donor portrait

Let’s face it, people are complicated, and donors are no different. Making assumptions, using stereotypes, and sweeping generalizations are no substitute for actual knowledge. That means you need to put some time aside to look at what your data—qualitative and quantitative—is telling you. Not sure if you’ve got the right information to work with? Here are five ways to collect the data you need to get started.

Ongoing data capture: It might sound obvious, but to collect data, you need to plan for it. With every campaign, every new event, you should be thinking ‘data capture’. Website pop-up screens, donation forms, resource downloads, newsletter sign-ups, event registration, cookies, social media polls and questionnaires – when you think fundraising, think data and make sure you’ve got the systems in place to catch it (and the permission to use it!).

Integration: Doing a one-off spot analysis is fine, but you’ll get better, more insightful data if you can link incoming information straight to your CRM. Imagine, your online, direct debit and payroll donations, website analytics, email campaign engagement and social media stats all automatically input into your CRM database–with quick-click reporting giving you a 360O view of data in a matter of minutes. Actually, you don’t have to imagine, with thankQ CRM, you can do it!

Analytics: The great thing about data is that it’s everywhere. Google and each of the major social media channels offer users at least a very basic analytical function and insight. These are a great place to start, and if you want to dig deeper there’s no shortage of online platforms or providers that can offer a ‘deep-dive’ into your analytics.

Relationship building: Of course, not everything happens online. It’s important to keep a log of key meetings, conversations, email threads, and notes. These little gems of information are a great way to start bringing the people behind your data to life.

Market research: If you don’t know much about your donors, there is no harm in asking. Why not include a short questionnaire in your next newsletter or email, or run a social media campaign to find out more about the people that support you—who they are, what they do and why they chose to support your organization.

What information to include?

The only thing worse than not enough data is too much of it. Seriously. If you’re swimming in numbers, it can be hard to make sense of them, so think carefully about the fields you need, and keep your analysis focused. Here are some of the key pieces of information we think a good donor portrait should include:

Demographic information: As a starting point you need to make sure you’re capturing all the headline information you can: name, gender, date of birth, a current address, and contact information.

Professional details: Do you know what your donors do for a living? What sector they work in or what business interests they have? Learning and logging professional details is a great way to start building out your donor profile and creating a picture that goes beyond headline demographics.

Networks and connections: In a world where you’re just six degrees from your next big opportunity, you need to be flagging those networks and connections so that you can see (and start to join) the dots.

Giving history: A person’s giving history tells a story, so it’s important to make sure that every donation is recorded. It isn’t just about their latest gift, it’s about their history with you, the number of times they’ve given, how they give, and the average gift amount are all important factors to consider.

Interests and motivations: Understanding someone’s ‘why’ isn’t easy, but it’s a whole lot easier if you’ve made a note of their main hobbies, family situation, and motivation for giving. You might not find these in your online analytics, but the more opportunities you have to engage with your donors, talk to them and find out why they give to you, the more notes you can add to their profile.

Using your data to create a great donor portrait

Once you’ve collected your data, you need to use it. So put some time aside to look at what it’s telling you and start creating that donor portrait. Of course, with thousands of donors in your system, we don’t expect you to create a profile for each one. Instead, you should start by analyzing your data as a whole. Look at your headline numbers. Can you see a picture forming, an outline of your typical donor? As you start to find the basic shape, dig into the details and look for commonalities across your supporter base. Are there any trends (location, interests, family situation, occupation) that stand out? Follow these and use them to create sub-groups and start segmenting your audience. You could even create specific portraits for select, high-value donors and supporters. Yes, it’s a process. But over time you will build not one, but a series of donor portraits – a data-driven analysis of your audience and a deeper understanding of the people that give to your cause. All you need to do now is start talking to them.

So, what are you waiting for? Dive into your data and start designing a donor journey that lasts! Contact us to set up your personalized demo today! 

*A note on GDPR: In order to collect, process, store, and use personal data and information for supporters located in the EU, you need to have the right consent (a specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the subject’s wishes). It should be easy for someone to manage and withdraw their consent at any point, and you should be prepared to exclude and delete information if you do not have the permission you need.