How to Make a Donor Profile in 5 Easy Steps

Making a donor profile might be something that sounds reserved for larger nonprofit institutions with thousands of donors and prospects, a team of analysists, and a budget with room to spare. Truth is – you can absolutely make a useful and insightful donor profile with data from a few donors and a couple hours of your time. Before we go through the steps of making a donor profile, let’s talk a little bit about what they are and how they can be used.

What is a Donor Profile?  A donor profile is a description of the type of person that is most likely to donate to your nonprofit. There can be several types of profiles depending on the needs of the nonprofit.

How is a Donor Profile Used?  There are two main ways to use a donor profile: to identify new donors or classify current donors.

1. Identify New Donors: Donor acquisition can be one of the hardest activities for development departments. This is also where we tend to spend the most money, and a lot of time. When finding individuals to solicit, many nonprofits do not have a data-driven strategy. Instead, they collect prospect information because the prospect donated to a similar organization, the prospect might have a relationship with someone on the Board of Directors, or maybe they are just simply known to have a large philanthropic capacity. A donor profile will help find new donors with proven data, which will save money, time, and make sure you are approaching the right people with that beautiful/expensive mailing you spent so much time on.

2. Classify Current Donors: Your current donor pool may very well contain hidden potential major donors, planned giving candidates, recurring donors, etc. Plenty of nonprofits will classify their donors based on one or just a few criteria, which will overlook these hidden gems. An important thing to remember is just because someone has only made $100 gifts in the past, doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be your next major donor. And just because someone is above the age of 65, doesn’t mean they are good candidates for planned giving. Once you have made a donor profile to classify donors, you will be able to appropriate target people in your current donor pool. Again, saving time and money!

5 Steps to Make Your Donor Profile

1. What are you going to do with your Donor Profile?

This is what we were talking about above, and can be easily overlooked. The first step is to decide on what you want to do with a donor profile and the data you collect. Here are some ideas:

  • Identify New Donors for Your Direct Mail Program
  • Find New and Current Donors to Give to Your Capital Campaign
  • Identify New Donors to Participate in Your Crowdfunding Campaign
  • Classify Current Donors and Identify New Major Donor Prospects

2. Who are going to be the subjects of your research?

The easiest subjects of your analysis are going to be individuals in your own database. If you happen to have a very small pool of individuals, you could also turn to other similar organizations for additional subjects. For example: If you are making a Major Donor Profile, but don’t currently have any Major Donors for your nonprofit, look at Annual Reports from similar nonprofits. Many nonprofits will publish their donor list in their Annual Report, and then list those with particular gift amounts.

3. What data do you need to collect?

You are going to want to collect as much data as possible and even data that might not seem relevant. The reason for this is that you never know what patterns you may find. For example: Looking up someone’s gender may not seem particularly relevant to certain nonprofit, but if it turns out that most people donating are female – that will cut your prospecting pool in half! Here is a list of types of data you might want to collect, but this is in no means an end-all list.

Biographical: age, gender, marital status, education, employment industry, job title, children, city, state, zip code, political party, nationality, religion, siblings, hobbies, interests, volunteer positions, languages

Financial (FYI – this is where a prospect research tool really comes in handy):

  • Gifts to your nonprofit: 1st gift, largest gift, average gift, number of gifts
  • Gifts to other nonprofits: largest gift, types of nonprofits they support, number of nonprofits they support
  • Political Donations: number of political gifts, total amount of political giving
  • Other: Estimated Income, Real Estate Value, Estimated Major Giving capacity

4. Where are you going to get the data?

The lowest hanging fruit in the data world is going to be information from your nonprofit’s database. So start here. Next up would be data from a prospect research tool, but don’t worry if you don’t have access to one of these. At its most basic function, a prospect research tool is going to save you time scouring the internet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a lot of this type of information on your own with some basic search engine skills. For example: use of quotes, dates, etc. The next source of data would come from your research subjects themselves. As in – just ask your donors. Send out a survey or questionnaire. Plus, people love answering questions about themselves, so you could even use a survey as an engagement tool!

5. What are you going to do with this data?

If you have a statistician on hand, that is awesome and hand your spreadsheets over to them. My guess is that you don’t, so you will need to do some basic math yourself. In summary, LOOK FOR PATTERNS!!! Is there anything that jumps out at you right away? What do all of these people have in common? What don’t they have in common?

After finding the obvious similarities, you may want to do a little more analysis for some of the more subtle patterns. A way to start this process is by making your data easy to sort and categorize. For example, turn numbers into ranges and assign categories to employment information (like heath care, education, sales, etc.).

After finding your patterns and similarities, you have created your Donor Profile and will be the hero of your Development Department!

A Donor Profile Example

Quick Case Study: A healthcare nonprofit was looking to create a Major Donor Profile to identify Annual Donors as Major Donor Prospects. After looking at the data they collected, turns out that a majority of their current Major Donors are married, female lawyers who regularly make political donations and gifts of $20k+ to Higher Education Institutions. Now when purchasing data lists from other healthcare organizations, they only buy females with political donation histories.