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How to create donor personas for more efficient fundraising

November 03, 2021By
Two young donors with their dog

Every donor is unique. Some may be avid volunteers, a few may have the capacity to contribute a major gift, and others may be ideal peer-to-peer campaign leaders.

As a fundraiser, knowing what makes your donors unique provides you with the opportunity to craft personalized appeals tailored to their interests and preferences. In order to understand what qualifies a donor for a specific type of appeal, it’s best to create donor personas that categorize your donors into different avenues of giving.

This article will explore five different donor personas:

  1. Potential major donors
  2. Ideal peer-to-peer leaders
  3. Future legacy donors
  4. Lapsed donors
  5. Viable recurring donors

Each of these personas represents distinct sections of your donor base. Additionally, within each section below, the indicators necessary to discover each persona and best practices for solicitations will be unpacked.

Let’s start with the major donors hidden in your database.

Potential major donors

In an efficient fundraising organization, 80% of your funding will come from 20% of your donors. What’s more, it’s not uncommon for large nonprofits to receive 95% of their funding from only 5% of their donors.

While these numbers might not reflect that of your organization’s, they tell you that securing major donations is vital to fundraising success. So, it’s critical for fundraisers to know the profile of a potential major donor.

Within a major donor persona, there are three main indicators to pay attention to:

  1. Real estate ownership: A prospect who owns $2M+ of real estate is 17 times more likely to give philanthropically than the average person. Additionally, keep an eye out for other big-ticket items like yachts or expensive cars, they may also be indicators of significant wealth.
  2. Previous donations: Someone who’s previously donated $110K to a similar organization is about 32 times more likely to contribute than someone who hasn’t. Aside from indicating someone’s wealth, previous donations demonstrate someone’s general interest in giving. Someone who routinely donates is much more likely to give to you than someone who has yet to make a contribution.
  3. Political campaign contributions: A prospect who’s given at least $2,500 to a federal political campaign is about 14 times more likely to donate to a nonprofit than someone who hasn’t. Furthermore, pay attention to the campaign they contributed to, as it might indicate the causes they’re aligned with.

Finding potential major donors

In order to uncover these indicators, you’ll need a wealth screening tool such as Windfall, DonorSearch, or WealthEngine. These tools have massive philanthropic and wealth indicator databases that allow fundraisers to identify a donor’s capacity and inclination to give.

And, they’re easy to use. Just by putting a contact’s information into a wealth screening tool, you’ll receive giving information that will help you craft your next appeal. These tools can even handle the import of a donor database or CRM.

Soliciting a major gift

Once you find a promising prospect, you’ll need to make an appeal in the right way.

The process of major gift fundraising shouldn’t be rushed. Don’t expect a major gift after the first conversation. Instead, use the meeting as an opportunity to get to know the donor better and understand their motivation for giving.

If you find that your mission aligns with their goals after the first meeting, try to set up a call on a Friday or a day with good weather.

Although this may seem like a strange strategy, research shows that Friday is the most charitable day of the week. This is likely because, for many people, Friday is payday. Alternatively, Friday could be the best day because donors are in good spirits heading into the weekend.

Additionally, a study found that a decrease in temperature from 12.5 degrees Celsius to 4.5 degrees Celsius resulted in a 24.6% decrease in charitable giving. Warm weather may just help you in your next appeal.

It can't hurt to try both of these tactics and stack the odds in your favor, so book your next conversation on a sunny Friday.

Ideal leaders for peer-to-peer fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising (P2P) has become increasingly popular alongside the rise of digital fundraising. In fact, 39% of Americans reported that they’ve donated to a charity based on a request from a friend or family member.

If you haven't already tried it for your organization, P2P fundraising is a great way to motivate your current donors to take on a leadership role, expand your donor network, and raise more for your cause. However, one of the challenging parts of P2P is finding the perfect people to be your leaders.

When figuring out who to ask, consider those that fit the ideal P2P leader persona. Here are the indicators that make up the persona:

  1. History of donating: A P2P leader having a pre-established history of donating to your organization is crucial so they can preach to those in their network about the joys of giving.
  2. History of engagement: Beyond just giving, donors with a track record of volunteering, attending events, or helping out in other ways will make excellent leaders as they have already shown an interest in your cause.
  3. Established online presence: Part of P2P success is based on finding donors with an established online presence. E-giving saw a massive boom in 2020. In fact, Total online revenue grew by 32% year over year from 2019. So, having P2P leaders who can confidently navigate Facebook and other social media giving platforms will most likely allow them to reach the largest audiences and use all of the tools at their disposal.

Also, don’t forget to pay special attention to your millennial donors, as 45% of millennials have already given online and are likely more comfortable with the various giving platforms than other donors.

Finding ideal P2P leaders

In terms of identifying the P2P leader indicators, you’ll likely need a CRM. Using just a spreadsheet, you won’t be able to easily find donors who have given recently, engaged with your organization in other ways, and who are young. However, within your CRM, you can filter your contacts to find P2P prospects in a matter of seconds.

Your P2P leadership appeal

Call your P2P prospects if you have time. Conveying your excitement about the opportunity through your voice will always be more effective than through email.

However, if you don’t have time to make calls, segment your young, engaged donors and send an e-blast. Within most CRMs, you should be able to segment a group of donors and send an e-blast all within one workflow.

Also, make sure to personalize your emails! A recent study on personalized messaging revealed that recipients open and read emails 26% more if they contain relevant and personalized subject lines.

Future legacy donors

Legacy giving is considered the top of the donor pyramid and the highest expression of commitment to a cause. Additionally, a study on legacy giving found that when a donor commits to a planned gift they also end up giving 75% more in annual gifts during their lifetime.

To find the perfect planned giving candidates, make sure to add these demographic indicators to your legacy donor persona.

  1. Donor loyalty: 50% of legacy donors give to their organization for more than 20 years before leaving behind a planned gift. So, your most loyal donors are your best bets for potential legacy gifts.
  2. Age: Donors aged 44 and older represent more than 75% of all wills and more than 80% of the total value of all charitable bequests made. Keep in mind that if you approach donors younger than 44, they may not have wills prepared yet.
  3. Parental status: Among donors aged 50 and over with no children, 50% have charitable estate plans. However, among similar donors with children, only 17% had philanthropic plans. Prioritize donors without children to best organize your appeals.
  4. Marital status: Similar to planned gifts from non-parents, planned gifts from single, never married donors are about 13% larger than married donors.
  5. Pet ownership: Strangely, pet owners are about 70% more likely to give. In addition, while pet owners write only 25% of all wills, 70% of these wills include a charitable bequest. Make sure to keep track of pet ownership in your donor database, as it may benefit you in the future.

Finding future legacy donors and making a planned giving appeal

Similar to finding your P2P donors, in order to find these prospects, a CRM is your best bet. Having the capacity to filter for specific criteria like age, marital status, and giving history is crucial to identifying future legacy donors efficiently.

However, when it comes to making your appeal, planned giving is much more daunting than P2P. Because of the gravity of the topic, you should set up an in-person or virtual meeting to discuss a donor’s future with the organization. Here are a few tips for soliciting planned gifts:

  • Don’t ask for a planned gift in your first face-to-face conversation…or even your second. It’s vital to first build a relationship of trust over the span of multiple gifts and years before asking for something so significant.
  • Bring up planned giving as an option among several others for their future with the organization. This approach will make the donor feel less ambushed by the topic and give them a greater sense of optionality.
  • Don’t mention death specifically or even hint at it by asking them to “leave a legacy behind.” Instead, ask them to “create a legacy” or “make a gift.” This strategy will keep donors focused on the positivity of their present rather than a grim future.

Lapsed donors

Although we all want a fundraising relationship to last a lifetime for both the donor and the organization, in reality, the vast majority of donors only give once. In fact, around 85% of first-time donors will never give again.

As lapsed donors will likely represent a massive proportion of your donor database, it’s essential to take some time to engage this population to re-spark the passion they once had for your mission. Additionally, there is only one criterion for a lapsed donor persona: they haven’t given in over a year.

Within most CRMs or even spreadsheets, finding your lapsed donors should be relatively easy. You just need to filter your database to find donors who have given in past years but not this year, also known as your SYBUNT donors. Again, having a filterable CRM is critical for finding your SYBUNT donors quickly and organizing their contact information so you can send out mass appeals.

Re-engaging lapsed donors

Once you have their information, there are a few ways you can effectively reinvigorate lost donors.

  • Identify what impact areas or campaigns they’ve contributed to in the past and provide them with an opportunity to give to a similar impact area, if possible. Because they likely have some level of passion for that impact area, they may be more likely to give again.
  • Try to get a major donor to match donations up to a specific amount; this may re-engage lapsed donors who can’t turn down an opportunity to double their donation. What’s more, research shows that an astonishing 84% of prospects said they’d be more likely to donate if a match is offered.

Viable recurring donors

Recurring giving provides nonprofits with the ability to accurately project cash flows and develop a rich relationship with donors over an extended period of time. Converting one-time or multiple-time donors to recurring monthly donors is a huge advantage for nonprofits.

Here are the two most important factors to include in a recurring donor persona:

  1. Gift recency and frequency: Regular donors who’ve made two or more gifts in the last six months are more likely to commit to monthly giving than those who haven't. As their gift will still be fresh in their mind, they’ll be more interested in continuing their relationship with your organization.
  2. Age: 60% of Millennials are interested in monthly giving. And, as previously mentioned, 45% of millennials have already given online, indicating their comfortability with virtual giving technologies required for monthly giving.

Engaging your recurring giving candidates

In your CRM, simply organize your donors by those who have given most recently and most frequently. Additionally, if you have time to call your donors to ask them to sign up for monthly giving, prioritize your millennials, as they may be more willing.

However, sending out an e-blast would also work well for this group. Similar to lapsed donors, try to personalize emails by segmenting your communications by impact areas or campaigns that donors have previously given to.

Last, especially for young audiences, make sure you have a mobile responsive donation form in your email appeals and on your website. Mobile visitors account for 50% of web traffic, 35% of digital transactions, and 25% of digital revenue for nonprofits.

Driving more efficient fundraising in 2022

Crafting data-driven donor personas isn’t only useful for raising more for your cause. By creating targeted appeals, you also provide each donor with a much more personalized giving experience, ultimately deepening their relationship with your organization. Through this relationship, you’ll truly be able to bring others along on your mission to make the world a better place.

Want to uncover valuable donors hidden in your database? Book a demo with Fundraising KIT today and learn how to drive more donations by harnessing the power of your data.

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