Donor data collection: 5 ways to do it right

May 8, 2019 - 12 minutes read

Imagine my delight when I woke up to a gift-wrapped book at my door on a Saturday morning.

No, It wasn’t my birthday, nor did Christmas sneak up on me in the middle of July.  It was from one of my favorite charities, as a thank you for a sizeable donation I had made the previous month.

So, how did they know what to send? I recalled a conversation with one of the organizers at a fundraising event. We had chatted at length about hobbies and interests when I had mentioned reading. And she remembered, being kind enough to send one of her recommendations my way.

Needless to say, I was more than happy to double my previous donation for the next month.

That was just one example of the extent of the personalization possible as a result of an offhand discussion. Imagine what you could do to if you had a strategy to collect data about your donors, and make it a part of your fundraising process. You could definitely send more personalized and meaningful thank-you and anniversary gifts, which will keep your donors happy and show them you care.

However, what kind of donor data will give you those insights? How to go about collecting it? More importantly, how can you collect donor data, without putting off potential donors? Well, that is what I have addressed in this post.

Let’s take a look at how you can collect donor data while making it a pleasant prospect for both you and your donors.

On your Donation form

Yes, the most obvious time for you to ask is generally on the donation page. Here, the more relevant your questions, the better. So you can get the most basic information on your donors, like their name, email address, phone number and payment information and that are required to process the donation.

The trick however, is to add a couple of optional questions, asking for additional information.  As long as they don’t distract your prospects from completing the donation form, you are golden! 

How to do it:

Set up your donation form, making sure it’s as easy as possible for donors to complete the donation. That means, ask easy questions, using simple language. Even if you want to dig for a little more information, don’t make them think too much. So avoid asking questions that require them to type out a long answer. Whenever possible, let them choose from a list of options or answer with a brief ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

What to ask:

  • Consider including recurring gifts as an optional alternative to a one time gift, allowing donors to automatically contribute every month.
  • Ask them about their preferred communication method, so you can reach them later.
  • Ask them which of your programs they find interesting.

After a Donation

Often, once a donor has contributed through an online donation, they are redirected to a page with a simple “Thank you for your donation” and that’s it. The work is done as soon as your organization receives a donation from the donor, right?

Wrong! If you want to keep them coming back to support your campaigns, you need to try harder than that! And that means using every opportunity to learn a little more about them.

Flush with the happiness of donating to a worthy cause, your donors will be amiable enough to answer a few quick questions. Setting up a short questionnaire on the thank you page after a donation is a perfect way to capture some information while your donors are in a good mood.

How to do it:

Ask a few questions on the thank you page, right after your donors complete a donation. Ensure that the questions are not repetitive (as in, don’t ask them what you have already asked on the donation form).

A quick tip here. Also remember not to ask questions they expect you to know the answer for. Eg. “Is this your first time donating for this cause?” – this can be extremely off putting to recurring donors. It also gives a very poor impression of you to your first time donors – it shows them that you cannot bother to keep up with your donors. So, don’t let your questions backfire.

What to ask:

  • Ask them about their motivation behind donating to your cause, while it’s still fresh on their minds.
  • You can also ask about their preferred mode of communication with your organization, so you can be sure about how you can reach out to them next.
  • Find out how they would like to be involved with your cause in the future – through volunteering, fundraising or other ways.

Through short Surveys

Surveys are usually intended to be a more comprehensive way to collect donor data. But that doesn’t mean you need to stuff all the questions you want to ask into a single survey. According to research, shorter surveys are more likely to give a higher response rate. Spread out your surveys over time so your donors don’t feel overwhelmed.

Before anything else, you need to convince your donors to actually take the survey. That means you need to let them know how the information they give will benefit them and your cause.

Once your donors have clicked onto your survey, they are likely to finish it (as long as it’s not too long). That gives you the flexibility to ask a number of questions that can give you insight into your donors and help you target them better.

How to do it:

As soon as a donor completes a donation, send out an initial survey with a thank you note via sms or email (depending on your donors communication preferences), If you are using SMS, try to conduct surveys directly through sms and send the donors data back to your database with CallHub. This will give you a much better response rate.

What to ask:

Ask strategic questions that will help you communicate with donors:

  • Ask questions about your donors specific areas of interest.
  • Find out why they care about your cause.
  • Ask for feedback on your organizations performance.

Before and After Events

For a nonprofit organization, events are the best way to not only raise funds, but also talk to donors face to face in a comfortable environment. Striking up the right kind of conversation will enable you to get insights about the donor as a person – which is not possible via forms. Just remember to make a note of what you have learnt and use it in your future communication with  them – it will show them that you care.

Don’t delay following up with your event attendees with a post event survey, which you can use to gauge their interest in attending, donating or even volunteering at your next event.

How to do it:

Set up an event ticketing system that will make it easier for your attendees to register as well as provide valuable information on your guests. A system like Eventbrite can collect attendee data, and send a follow-up survey after the event.

What data to collect:

  • You ticket registration system can create new profiles on first-time donors and supplement details of existing donors.
  • Find out when your attendees buy tickets, informing you about how you can promote your next events.
  • After hosting a few events, you can identify which of your events are popular among your donors.

Using Donor Data research tools

Online services for prospect research are great for collecting relevant information on your donors en masse without directly asking them. However, care should be taken to ensure it is respectful of the sensitive nature of certain donor information. (eg?) Eg. what income slab your donors fall in.

How to do it:

Hire a prospect research company, an independent consultant, or even do it yourself

What data to collect:

  • Past donations to your nonprofit, in order to estimate the likelihood of a donor giving again.
  • Participation at nonprofits, perhaps as a volunteer or as a board member of other nonprofits.
  • Political donations, which is a strong indicator of charitable giving.
  • Real Estate ownership is the most available marker of wealth for prospects.

The data you collect provides a ton of potential for your organization to continue to connect with your donors and build lasting relationships.  Hopefully, this article has helped you identify what data you want to collect and how. Once you collect that information, don’t hesitate to use it and show your donors you care. Every thoughtful note, every gesture counts. It will make them feel more involved with your cause and not be thought of as a wallet on demand.

Once you do, drop me a note and let me know how it works for you. I would love to know!

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