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How to Create an Ideal Donor Profile

Improving the results from fundraising efforts is high on the must-do list for nonprofit marketing or development directors.

Tight budgets dictate that you do more with less, or at least get the absolute maximum return for what you put in.

One of the keys to creating more successful campaigns is to know your audience well. When you understand who you’re trying to attract, you can more easily craft messaging that appeals to those people.

A great place to begin with knowing your audience is by creating donor profiles. An “ideal profile” simply means that you’ve narrowed down the exact type of person or entity you feel will be the best and most likely to contribute. You create a detailed description of who they are and where you are likely to find them.

Most nonprofits will have more than one profile among their supporters. Different profiles may be more or less relevant for different campaigns that you run. Having those profiles helps guide your fundraising design and marketing so that you can get better outcomes. Here’s how they work:

Why create a donor profile?

Donor profiles are a valuable tool for informing every aspect of your fundraising efforts. They can help you to craft effective messaging and to devise campaigns that people want to contribute to.

Increasingly, nonprofits tend to be taking a donor-centric approach to their campaigns. Here are some good reasons for creating donor profiles:

Know what drives people to give

Different donors have varying motivations for giving to nonprofits. For example, year-end donations often represent some of the largest contributions of the entire year. Donors at this time tend to be higher net worth individuals or organizations that are looking to make the most of a tax incentive for donations.

On the other hand, some people donate because they have a deep affinity for the cause. Someone with a close family connection with heart disease or breast cancer is quite likely to want to support nonprofits that target those diseases.

Your donor profile should include some idea of the motivations of your target donor as this helps you to narrow down likely individuals.

Know how to engage with people

Where will you find these people, or how will they find you? What sort of language and messaging will draw them in and lead to them engaging with you? Your donor profile should give you a good idea of exactly what to say, how to say it, and the channels through which to get the message out.

For example, if you’re running a digital campaign, you’re much less likely to reach donors over age 70 than those in younger age groups. If you run advertisements in certain magazines, you will reach the demographics of the magazine audience. Your messaging in Cosmopolitan Magazine is likely to be more effective if geared to their audience, whereas that same messaging may be less effective if you run the campaign in National Geographic magazine.

Know what sort of campaign to run

A person who would like to set up a recurring monthly donation of $50 isn’t likely to be the same person who will bid $10,000 on an item at a charity auction. If you’re asking the first person to attend your big-ticket auction, then you’re unlikely to get many attendees.

You need a good match between the type of campaign you want to run and the donor profile you’d like to attract. A glitzy gala evening attracts a different crowd to a fun run. A guest speaker attracts a different crowd to a concert. We’d start with the donor profile first, before determining the type of fundraising campaign. This way you can ensure you keep it donor-centered.

How to create a donor profile

Your donor profiles should paint as complete a picture of your donors as possible. It’s often the small details that make a big difference in the effectiveness of your campaigns and your overall engagement. Real data is critical for helping you to build the most accurate picture.

Here are some steps for creating your donor profiles:

Analyze existing data

If you have existing donor data, then that’s a great place to start your analysis. You can examine demographics, behavior patterns, interests, concerns, and personal histories with your organization.

This can also be a great start for identifying key donor segments. For example, you might segment by donor type (recurring, large donor, etc.) and their key interests (environment, education, etc.).

Gather information from donors

The next step is to gather more information from your current donors. You might do this either by conducting a survey or by meeting with them directly. In either case, it’s important that you get answers from the different segments that you have identified so that you are getting a fair spread of information. If you were to only interview your high-value donors, then you won’t have a broad range of motivations and preferences.

Your aim should be to dig into the segments you identified and to define a handful of key characteristics for each type of supporter. Your questions should dig for demographic, psychographic, and donor behavioral information. Here are some examples of questions that help you to narrow down your donor profiles:

  • Demographic information: age, marital status, gender, occupation, family size, annual income, homeowner or renter, etc.
  • What are your main hobbies and interests?
  • How did you hear about us?
  • What types of events do you enjoy attending?
  • What inspires you to give?
  • How do you choose a nonprofit to give to? What characteristics do you look for?
  • What does your typical day look like?
  • Do you volunteer? If so, when, where, what…?
  • Where do you find your news or information?
  • What is your preferred method of communication?
  • What is your history as a donor? (Frequency, amounts, type of donations, etc.)

Check your social media insights

If you use social media channels, you have access to analytics. For example, Facebook Audience Insights provides you with “lifestyle” demographics and the typical traits of people in those categories. You can also see the types of content that get the highest engagement and consider how those relate to your donor demographics and fundraising goals.

Analyze your data

You now have a large amount of data to analyze and help you to identify any patterns. The goal here is to develop some defined personas by distilling that data into groups. In general, each persona should represent a segment of donors and should be narrow enough that you can hyper-target your messaging.

The common advice with personas is that they shouldn’t be so narrow that they only encompass a small handful of people, but in the nonprofit world, a very narrow persona may be relevant. For example, it might cover seven of the largest donors that you have, and every nonprofit wants to keep that segment happy!

Format into donor profile templates

A donor profile template should be straightforward and simple to share across your organization. Basically, anyone who reads it should understand in an instant who you intend to engage. This helps your marketing and outreach people to tailor their messaging accordingly.

Donor profiles are often built around an “avatar” that represents a single person. For example:

Profile Name:
Donor Jenny

Demographics:
Age: 45-60
Occupation: Full time, executive-level
Household income: $200k – $500k
Location: San Francisco, CA
Family status: Married – kids are teens or older

Traits:
Reads email newsletters and posts on Facebook
Learns about nonprofits through colleagues or direct appeals
Cares deeply about nonprofits dedicated to accessibility to higher education
Enjoys volunteering at workshops or cleanups

Giving habits:
Donates $50-$100 per month to educational funds
Donates online or by direct debit

Common objections to donating:
Needs to know more about the governance of the nonprofit

How iWave can help

Once you’ve crafted a defined donor profile, you’re ready to start using them to inform your messaging and campaigns. What we’ve just outlined here isn’t a short or easy process, but it is thorough so that you build accurate profiles.

Data-gathering can be very time-consuming, but that’s one thing iWave can help with as you create your donor profiles. For example, our Multi-Lens Scoring feature helps you to analyze donor profiles from several different angles, helping you to get a clear picture. It pulls data together automatically so you don’t have to spend unnecessary time scraping it manually.

With articulated donor profiles in hand, you’ll be ready to reach more of the right people, at the right time, via the right channels. Request your free demo of iWave here.

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What You Should Do Now

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