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How to segment donors: 3 nonprofit strategies for success

Bonterra Author
June 22, 2022
Three nonprofit professionals meet at a table with papers and coffee to discuss strategies for how to segment donors.

Dedicated donor outreach and stewardship efforts are essential for nonprofit organizations to successfully attract and retain donors. With just under 60 percent of the global population on social media, there is more potential than ever to spread the word about and secure support for your purpose.

However, to stand out amongst the increased noise online, your nonprofit must refine its strategies for identifying and cultivating supporters who will remain engaged year after year. That’s where donor segmentation comes in. As you gather information on new and existing donors in your database, organize them into relevant categories that allow for more meaningful interactions.

Let’s discuss the benefits of segmenting donors and delve into some impactful strategies that your nonprofit can implement today.

What are the benefits of segmenting donors?

By learning how to segment donors effectively, your organization will make more informed decisions about your outreach and build donor relationships that can stand the test of time. While your ultimate goal may be to secure as much support from as many people as possible, the key to long-term success lies in cultivating more personalized connections with each donor.

Segmenting donors allows you to send communications that are tailored to the individual preferences and interests of each recipient. This means that your nonprofit can:

  • Save time and resources when sending messages to supporters.
  • Include reasonable ask amounts when seeking gifts from donors.
  • Suggest additional engagement opportunities that will resonate with each recipient.

Your donor database software should facilitate the process of segmenting donors and personalizing communications to each individual supporter. To maximize the benefits of segmentation, ensure that your database can keep track of basic information, like donor demographics, and offers custom fields for gathering specific data relevant to your nonprofit as well.

3 strategies for how to segment donors

While there are no hard or fast rules around donor segmentation, there are a few ways your nonprofit can optimize the practice to generate the best possible results. Apply the following strategies across all of your marketing channels to appeal to as many of your donors as possible.

1. Review the different types of donors.

There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to how to segment donors, so first take stock of the different types of donors that your organization interacts with. Some notable types to keep in mind include:

  • Monthly donors
  • Major donors
  • First-time donors
  • Long-term donors
  • Donors who donated “Last Year But Unfortunately Not This Year” (LYBUNTs)
  • Donors who donated “Some Year But Unfortunately Not This Year (SYBUNTs)

Segmenting SYBUNT and LYBUNT donors, in particular, can go a long way toward securing substantial support that continues over the course of many years. Many times, a personalized, thoughtful reminder can be all it takes to revitalize a relationship with a supporter.

For instance, if a donor made a contribution during last March, but not this March, your nonprofit can send a short note saying, “Last year at this time, you supported us with a generous gift of $100. Would you consider renewing your gift this year?”

2. Create donor segments that align with your nonprofit’s goals.

Your donor segments will be unique to your nonprofit, as how you segment donors depends on your specific priorities and resources. For instance, you may organize your donor database based on the following categories:

  • Average gift size
  • Giving frequency
  • Age
  • Location
  • Volunteer history
  • Reason for giving
  • Interests related to your nonprofit or purpose

These can all be valuable segments, but be sure to spend some time identifying categories that might be meaningful to your particular nonprofit. For example, do you have a large pool of donors who give annually during the same month? Create a segment for them and reach out right around the time of their habitual gift to help them keep their momentum going.

3. Diversify your segmented donor communications.

When determining how to segment donors, another significant factor to take into consideration is communication preferences. Your organization likely already interacts with supporters through:

  • Email
  • Text
  • Direct mail
  • Social media

After you’ve crafted a personalized, relevant message to a donor, send it through their desired communication channel to ensure maximum engagement. For instance, some donors may be pleased with a phone call to acknowledge their gift, while others may simply prefer a follow-up email thanking them for their support.

Keep in mind that donors will also have different preferences for how often you communicate with them, so use donor segmentation to respect these wishes as much as possible when you’re sending follow-ups and updates.

Refining your donor segmentation efforts

Once you have these donor segmentation strategies up and running, consistently measure your results and re-evaluate your methods for improvement opportunities. This will allow you to maintain an organized and accurate database, which is key to successful donor communications and stewardship. 

Additionally, use your donor segments to gain insight into their behavior, such as looking for key indicators for which supporters may be interested in leveling up their gifts. So make the most of your donor data by implementing segmentation today!

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Written by

Bonterra Author
    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing