Donor acquisition in the age of personalization: tailoring your approach

May 6, 2024
Sage Avarda

Strategy matters when your organization is trying to match the right donors to the right giving opportunities. Not every campaign will resonate with every audience, so many nonprofits are personalizing their donor acquisition efforts to connect with new donors and prospects through tailored marketing or networking opportunities.

In this blog post, we explore how personalizing your organization’s outreach strategy can improve donor acquisition and retention by creating an individualized donation experience.

What is personalization?

Personalization is a marketing strategy that uses data to target potential donors with content and messaging that directly and relevantly speaks to each donor’s interests, demographics, and past behavior.

For example, people whose lives have been touched by cancer are likely to donate to cancer research. Individuals who have witnessed food insecurity within their communities may want to support their local food bank.

The goal of personalization is to connect with the donor on an individual level, create an exceptional experience, build loyalty and trust, and establish a relationship that ultimately results in conversions.

Examples of personalization your organization can incorporate into its marketing efforts include:

  • adding personalization tokens, such as the donor's name, donation history, or location, into messaging
  • highlighting specific projects or initiatives that align with the donor's interests
  • customizing landing pages to speak directly to the donor’s interests or motivations
  • using AI to personalize ask amounts and encourage recurring donation

5 tips for getting the best results from personalized marketing

The power of personalized marketing lies in its ability to engage with donors at both an intellectual and an emotional level. Here are five ways to forge connections that convert to donations.

1. Understand what motivates donors

Effective personalization requires insights into what makes individuals want to support your organization’s cause. For example, a donor may be passionate about a particular social program, a specific issue, or creating positive change in their community.

Collecting feedback through surveys—or even social media—can provide valuable data that your organization can use to personalize messaging based on donors' individual motivations and preferences.

2. Segment your organization’s audience

Fundraising outreach isn’t one-size-fits-all. Use data to segment current donors and potential donors into smaller groups, then craft personalized messages that are relevant to each group.

Possible segmentation criteria include:

  • demographics (age, gender, location)
  • geography
  • past interactions with the organization
  • interest area
  • motivation
  • donation frequency/amount

3. Target messaging

Reduce friction in the donation process by tailoring messaging and marketing strategies to meet donors where they are.

  • Lifecycle stage: Maximize donor engagement and retention by customizing communication to match where donors are in their relationship with your organization—new donor, repeat donor, recurring donor, major endowment.
  • Communication channel: Reach out to potential donors through their preferred communication channels—email, social media, direct mail, phone, SMS—and tailor messaging to fit each channel.

4. Create compelling content

Customize content to resonate with each audience segment and the things that motivate them.

Focus on creating content that:

  • highlights the impact of your organization's work and how that donor’s support can make a difference
  • uses language that aligns with the donor’s values and interests
  • illustrates the impact of your organization's work through storytelling
  • shares real-world success stories to create an emotional connection

For example, the celebration of Ramadan is traditionally a time of giving back for the Muslim community. Many nonprofits look for meaningful ways to connect with Muslim donors during this time to facilitate their shared spirit of giving.

5. Track engagement and impact

Data is key for measuring the success of your organization’s engagement campaigns and pinpointing what works and what doesn’t work for each donor. This information allows your organization to refine its personalized messaging and targeting strategies over time.

There are several ways to measure donor engagement:

  • donations (of course!)
  • email open rate
  • conversion rate
  • response rate
  • donor acquisition costs
  • event attendance
  • volunteering
  • social media shares

Make personalization part of your organization’s donor acquisition tool kit

Personalizing donor acquisition efforts is a powerful tool for nonprofits that want to increase donor engagement and retention and connect with prospective donors on a more individual level.

The key to succeeding with personalization is fostering a deep understanding of donors’ interests, preferences, and motivations. Using this knowledge, nonprofits can deliver more targeted messaging and customized donation experiences that are proven to increase giving.

For a real-world example of how personalization drives greater giving and deeper impact, check out the Stand Up to Cancer case study.

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