Back to Blog List

Fundraisers! Don’t Be a Stranger – Implement Your Data Effectively

This post was originally featured on American News Report.


As fundraisers, we know that our donors are the driving force behind everything we do. They are the compassionate people who are connected to our causes and invest in our organizations. So why waste a moment talking to them as if they were strangers? Instead, we should be implementing the information we know to create customized direct mail packages that communicate with our donors in a meaningful way… Sounds easy enough, right? A great place to start is by assessing your existing data, then supplementing your data as needed, and deciding what you want to learn for future implementation. Almost every mailing is an opportunity to test an idea and become better acquainted with your donors – and that’s what makes direct mail so exciting! Yes, I said exciting…




You can start to get to know your donors by testing basic information you already have on file. For instance, you could test the impact of addressing donors formally with their title and last name against addressing them by first name only. You may just find that an informal tone is more engaging to your supporters. Inversely, if you have a donor file consisting primarily of active or veteran military, they may be proud of their hard-earned ranking and appreciate being addressed with their military titles. Other staples on your file, like references to anniversary dates or previous gifts, could also boost your results. For packages with a supporter card or certificate of appreciation, consider strengthening that piece by including a reference to how many years that individual donor has been a supporter. Or test a reference within the copy of your letter to the anniversary date of joining your organization, and thank them for their number of years of support. Just be sure that your direct mail and online data bases are synced for references like this so that you’re using the most up-to-date and relevant data for your multi-channel donors.




Another approach to strengthen your messaging is supplementing the information you already have with additional data. In most cases, you know the donor’s city and state, so you could research statistics to help localize your message. Rather than saying, “Your donation will help children affected by poverty in [donor’s city/state],” tell your donors how many children are actually affected by poverty in their city or state, if that figure has increased or decreased in recent years, or what impact your organization is making in that specific area.

When enhancing your data like this, make sure you investigate your source’s credibility, and cite them within your package when appropriate.




Finally, identify what information you don’t have that would be effective for customized messaging, and develop strategies to capture that data. For instance, it could be useful for animal welfare groups to identify people on their file as pet owners, determine what kind of pet they own, and perhaps even ask for their pets’ names. With that information, you could customize your package to speak to the interests of that particular donor. If a donor with multiple cats receives a letter featuring a dog, they may find it less compelling than a package featuring a cat story, and that could impact results. But if you send the dog lovers a featured dog package and the cat lovers a featured cat package, it could increase your response rates or gift amounts. Additionally, companies that track data on an individual level, like Acxiom and Experian, can be incredible resources. You can append their data to your file and learn more about your donor demographics as well as hundreds of characteristics on an individual donor level. For example, you can use characteristics like gender to customize the messaging or art for a package. Or you can utilize key identifiers such as magazine subscribers and strong credit card users, which could be indicators of promising candidates for a monthly sustainer program. As we continue to identify donor behaviors and accumulate data, the testing opportunities are endless, and connecting with our donors in a meaningful way becomes essential. So let’s push the envelope (pun absolutely intended) and get creative with how we implement our data

Laura Jahn