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Improve Fundraising Appeals with Prospect Intelligence

By May 30, 2019

Donor fundraising
By: Jennifer Liu-Cooper, Communications Manager, DonorSearch

Whether approached through mass channels (email, phone call, direct mail, etc.) or making an ask face-to-face, your prospects are more likely to respond when your messaging speaks to who they are and what’s in their hearts.

Personalize Your Asks to the Right Donor Segment

Personalization is key to engaging new supporters, as well as cultivating relationships with current donors. More and more, nonprofits are recognizing that successful fundraising appeals rely on two critical components if they are going to capture—and keep—the attention of their audience:

    1. Smart Segmentation – Information on donor demographics and motivations for giving translate to valuable intelligence that allows you to group or “segment” your donors by shared characteristics. This enables you to tailor content and calls-to-action accordingly.

    2. Targeted Messaging – Tell the story that speaks to what their hearts are telling you through their known philanthropy. And, make an ask based on their previous giving levels. For more on targeted messaging, see why nonprofits need marketing automation.

The ability to execute intelligently segmented, targeted campaigns rests on having complete and accurate data. More importantly, it needs to be the right data, which means you need more than just a current email or home address. It means you need the data that informs your understanding of the issues and causes they care about—what motivates them to contribute.

Use Past Data to Inform Fundraising

We all know this, of course – The best indicator of a prospect’s future giving is their past giving– either to you, or to other charities or political organizations. This is the intelligence that gives you the power to finely tune your segments and your message.

With the concepts of smart segmentation and messaging as the ‘given’, you can expect the kinds of results that an international NGO (with over 2 million constituents) had: An (estimated 20%) increase in response and an increase in the actual gift size. The keys to their success were segmenting and messaging:

  • They built precise audience segments using demographic and lifestyle indicators. Most importantly, they gathered and applied their constituents’ philanthropic ‘footprints’, which included giving amounts, recipient organizations, and fundraising categories.
  • They used the same intelligence to shape messaging that framed their mission in terms of the causes the audience cared about – and to set appropriate ask amounts.

Make it Easy to Access Relevant Data

Smart Segmentation is only possible if the critical data is easily accessible, so you can use it as selection criteria for whom to engage, what they should talk about, and how much they should ask for.

You’re likely halfway there with the historical giving, linkage, and engagement information that is in your Salesforce records. The objective of ultra-segmentation can really be achieved by blending external data that illustrates giving interests and capacity with what you already know. In other words, gather capacity and charitable giving data and add it to your constituent records in Salesforce.

Doing individualized research on whole constituent segments is unscalable and inefficient. Fear not. There are multiple ways you can do individualized research on constituent segments:

  • Do a Batch Prospect Screening
    Have a vendor like DonorSearch match wealth and charitable giving data to a list of your constituents. Your screening vendor should give you the amounts associated with their charitable giving, which will help you tailor the size of your ask.

    Most screening services will ask for some of your internal data (like address and giving history) to ensure high quality matches. Your results may also include and RFM (Recency, Frequency, & Money) score, which is a ranking of their affinity to your cause – another valuable flag to use in segmentation and the determination of ask amounts. The resulting data set can then be loaded into your database for use in segmentation and messaging.

  • Acquire a Research Application that Integrates Natively with Salesforce
    The Salesforce AppExchange offers a variety of options whereby you can gather this crucial prospect intelligence about philanthropic affinities and financial capacity within Salesforce.

Segment your audiences and personalize your messaging by giving interests.

And it doesn’t stop at the Annual Giving appeal level. You can fortify your major gift fundraising by applying this prospect intelligence to your portfolio assignments.

When making prospect assignments, higher educational institutions will typically use alumni degree and major. The idea is, of course, that a constituent would want to support ‘their’ school. One major Midwest research university contended that a graduate’s major or school is not necessarily where their interests are today. Instead, they used known charitable giving and current business/professional information to inform their Major Gift prospect assignments. The results were faster engagement and cultivation cycles and larger gifts. (For more on this topic, see this blog on Alumni Role Identity.)

The university employed the same intelligence gathering strategy recommended for targeted appeals – a batch screening – to realize these important gains. It is important to note that, the batch screening service should provide accurate and complete charitable giving information.

Make major gift prospect assignments that effectively align your purpose with their passion.

For more detail on technology to improve your fundraising across channels, check out this e-book on direct mail fundraising for Salesforce. It includes some handy tips on segmentation, reporting, and more.


PartnerDonorSearch is a AppExchange Partner that helps nonprofits succeed with Nonprofit Cloud. Find their app, 360io – DonorSearch on the AppExchange.

About the Author
Jennifer Liu-CooperJennifer Liu-Cooper is the Communications Manager at DonorSearch. Jennifer is a thought leader in Prospect Development who leverages 25+ years in the nonprofit industry to translate best practices into the products and services that help DonorSearch clients drive successful fundraising outcomes. Jennifer’s work reflects her belief that success in fundraising comes from the gathering and strategic application of data that illustrates a prospect’s motivations, in addition to financial capacity.