Ask Maureen: Collecting Information from Nonprofit Supporters

Nonprofit digital strategist and technology coach Maureen Wallbeoff gives advice to social good professionals in this new sgENGAGE series. Have a question you’d like Maureen’s help with? Leave a comment and you could be featured in an upcoming post!


Dear Maureen,

What information should we collect from our nonprofit’s supporters? We don’t want to ask for too much, but right now we’re gathering just first name, last name, and email address. Donors also give their street address. Should we be asking for more? What would we use it for?

Just the Basics


Dear JtB,

Great question! When it comes to simple things like an email sign up form, less is definitely more. Just first name and email address (and maybe zip code) might be all you really need.

Once someone is signed up for your email, you may want to collect more detailed interest information from them through a short survey. You can ask questions like, “What’s your connection to our mission?”, or “Which of our programs are you most interested in?”

Another useful piece of data to consider collecting is cell phone number. Many nonprofits are beginning to use SMS, or text messages, to communicate with their supporters. This can feel a little scary for some teams – after all, you don’t want to turn people off by communicating through a channel that your supporter doesn’t want you to use. By getting permission and doing some testing, you can figure out which audiences are pro-SMS and start to leverage that channel for them.

One place where nonprofit organizations can struggle is having a ‘single source of truth’ about their constituents. This means knowing all the ways that a supporter is involved with your mission. Do you know how many of your donors are also advocates, volunteers, or peer-to-peer fundraisers? Look outside of your own team’s data and try to get a clear picture of how engaged your supporters are.

Free on-demand webinar: Tap Your Supporter Base for New Donor Acquisition

Finally, be sure that you’ve got a plan to use the information you’re collecting! If you ask for permission to send text messages but you never actually send text messages, it can feel disappointing to your supporters. Nonprofit teams generally collect A TON of data and don’t use more than 10% of it. While it can be tempting to gather and store a lot of information, it’s not beneficial to you or your supporters if that data is just sitting in your database taking up space.  Because your organization isn’t collecting a lot of info now, you should be able to think strategically about the data you need and how you’ll use it.  Hope this helps!