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7 Ways to Get to Know Your Donors

Getting to know your donors

Nonprofit fundraising isn’t just about asking individuals and groups for contributions to your organization. To be successful, it requires careful planning and effective strategies. One key element in planning your campaigns is knowing your donors. The more you know about them, the better you can understand how they can support your mission.


Here are 7 ways to get to know your donors:


1.      Conduct surveys

Surveys are one of the most convenient ways to learn more information about  your donors. However, you must allocate time to analyze the data and incorporate it into your donor database. You should also avoid asking donors to provide information that you already have.   When kept short, concise, and targeted, surveys can be highly effective tools for donor analytics, particularly a planned giving survey. Surveys can inform you of who is interested in leaving a gift in their will, while also identifying which donors need a little extra nurturing. You may discover that many donors have some interest, but are not currently ready to make the commitment, or they just don’t know how. It can also identify reasons why some donors have no interest in doing so. Surveys like this enable you to collect feedback and constructive criticism which you can use to improve your organization.


2.      Ask open-ended questions

Another way to get to know your donors is to ask them about themselves. While it is fine to ask if they see themselves as major donors, never ask them about how much money they are donating or what their investments are worth. Instead, focus on their values and passions. Ask open-ended questions that lead to real conversations. Encourage them to share their personal stories and philanthropic ideas with you. Instead of asking them when they began supporting a specific cause, ask them why they decided to support that cause. You can also ask them how they would like their donation to be used or what other causes they would like to support. Generally, avoid questions that are answerable by yes or no. Start your questions with why, how, or what to lead real conversations.


3.      Use donor analytics tools

Advanced analytics tools such as DC Analytics can automatically sift through your donor database to find top donors. These tools go beyond wealth screening and consider several other factors to determine donor affinity. Donor analytics give you a glimpse of what values each donor espouses and how they choose to support your organization.


4.      Organize list screenings

While there are tools that aid in donor analytics, organizing small list screenings provide another way to conduct donor research. Organizing list screenings accomplishes two things. It allows some donors to be involved during the early stages of the campaign, and it enables you to gather more information about other potential donors. List screenings involve a small group of existing donors who share personal knowledge on who is likely to support certain advocacies. They provide insights beyond what automated tools reveal. As your group of donors go over your prospect list, they also feel a sense of involvement in making the fundraising a success.


5.      Enlist a prospect researcher

You can research your donors online; however, that can be a lengthy process that does not always produce the results you need. Skilled prospect researchers are more familiar with how and where to look for more comprehensive information. They’ll be able to uncover a wealth of information including the boards they serve on, their passions, and the gifts they have previously made. This enables them to create more detailed profiles on individual donors.


6.      Make a discovery call

An early meeting with potential donors gives you the opportunity to engage them in meaningful discussions, gain their feedback, and find out more about them. Your discovery calls should be centered on your potential donors. Do not turn these visits into presentations about your organization. Focus on establishing a friendly relationship and discovering their interests. Encourage them to talk about their previous and current involvements to better understand what inspires them to donate.


7.      Participate in empathy-mapping exercises

Empathy-mapping exercises enable you to see issues through the eyes of your donors. They help you understand what your donors think, feel, do, say, see, or hear. With greater empathy for what they feel, you gain a better understanding of how to motivate them to support your cause.

You can conduct these exercises through small group workshops within your organization. Have a facilitator use empathy-mapping guides to get the best outcomes from the activity.


Forge Lasting Relationships with Donors

Understanding your donors isn’t simply a way to raise more funds for your organization, but rather it is the key to fostering lasting relationships with them. It helps you to understand how your donors feel about your mission and your organization. By understanding your donors, you will know which activities they are interested in and are likely to support.

Personal impact, targeted communications, and interactive relationships have a long-term positive impact on future donations. Donors who see your effort in getting to know them on a deeper level are more likely to stay as your supporters for years. They become more engaged and more involved in your advocacies. Ensure that this one of your key focuses in your campaign plan, and you will see the benefits in no time.