How well do you know your donors?

How well do you know your donors? And what are the advantages of getting to know them better? These were some of the big questions debated last week when NPC convened a group of charity fundraisers to discuss how our Money for Good UK research can be used to help charities fundraise more effectively. From a survey of over 3000 UK donors, we identified seven donor types based on donor motivations and attitudes—to work out why a ‘loyal supporter’ or an ‘ad hoc giver’, for example, gives (or does not give) to charity.

Our hope is that this research gives fundraisers an insight into how to appeal to donors with different cares and preferences. Knowing that your donor likes to receive detailed information about the impact of your work might encourage a focus on communicating the findings of your evaluations to show the difference you make. Or knowing that they want to give in a social, public context might prompt inviting them to more events.

At our event we grappled with how to apply this knowledge in practice; how can you actually tell whether your donor is an ‘ad hoc donor’, a ‘loyal supporter’ or a ‘thoughtful philanthropist’? The challenges are very different for different types of organisations. Organisations with huge supporter databases have fantastic reach, but they may not know very much about those donors’ preferences, let alone what motivates them to give. So one of the areas we’re currently exploring is how to link the Money for Good UK data with charity databases. This has involved thinking about whether it’s practical to ask donors a few questions from the survey in order to allocate them to segments. Or rather to try and create a bridge between the research data set and the charity’s database directly, based on information already contained in their database. It’s quite complicated and I’ve learnt more about data fusion in the past couple of weeks than I ever thought I’d need!

Some of the most interesting discussions concerned using the segmentation to better understand the donors you already have a personal relationship with. For big charities, this might be your major donors. For smaller community-based charities, your supporters might tend to have a personal connection to the cause. What came across clearly in discussion is that although charities know some of their supporters really well, it’s always a struggle to have the depth of relationship you need with them all.

We are now gathering interest from a number of charities who want to work with us to test the findings, and shaping a proposal for piloting the segmentation approach so we can take it to funders. We’re very keen to continue having conversations with fundraising charities, so please do email if you’d like to hear more about this work or consider participating in these pilots.

We’ll be looking at how our Money for Good UK research feeds specifically into the role trustees can play in fundraising, as advocates for the work of the charity, in tomorrow’s blog.