Creative Ideas for Using Data to Turn Today’s Crisis Donors into Tomorrow’s Leadership Donors

There’s an undeniable shimmer and attraction to everything new! I, myself, have experienced that draw more than once.

Now it is the influx of crisis donors who made their first healthcare gift during the pandemic who are grabbing the spotlight. New donors deserve their rightful consideration, yet I would encourage fundraising professionals to not forget the modest, sporadic, or one-time past donors who responded by stepping up their giving.

Donors who upgraded may be indicating they are ready to emerge as a potential, more significant, long-term partner through their philanthropy. More so, new sustaining donors are sending a clear signal that they value the work you are doing during extraordinary times – and beyond! Not all of these newly heightened donors will remain and grow with you, so let’s make smart, data-driven decisions and plan.

First let’s identify these donors:

  • Use Your Giving Dates and Dollars: Query for donors whose first gift was prior to January 1, 2020 and modest (maybe less than $100) as well as the largest gift is on/after January 1, 2020 with a higher dollar amount.  Use dollar amounts and a differential that are significant to you. You might also consider leveraging cumulative giving within distinct timeframes.
  • Use Your Gift Types: Identify those donors who may have changed their gift type to you from cash to recurring or even stock gifts.
  • Use Your Giving Frequency Data: Run a query to identify donors who gave one or fewer gifts in 2019 or prior and more than one gift in 2020.
  • Use fundraising software or analytics tools that offers a straight-forward, ‘calculated for you’ label (or score) to indicate if donations are trending down, holding steady, or rising (over a three-year period).

Now that you have gathered a group(s) of donors of interest, use your data and analytics to prioritize these crisis donors and create opportunities for them to become leadership donors.

1. Identify and study the ”cream of the crop” donors.
Donors who increased their giving during a crisis need further examination to rise to “best prospects” consideration. A combination of love for your mission along with wealth capacity to make an impact will raise up a critically-important subset, which should be the priority for your limited resources.

Short on staff? Ask your board of directors or fundraising volunteers to augment your staff’s ability by helping to steward on a personal basis and even assist with qualification of this priority group for major giving, answering the question “Is this donor worthy of being included in our organization’s realistic-sized, major gift portfolio?”

Dig Into the Data:
Use your data and analytics to take a closer look at these upgraded donors. Lean into your most recent (in the last 12 months) custom models to identify those most likely to donate to your organization and even determine an aspirational target gift range and likelihood. Has their recent giving brought them closer to their customized, aspirational target gift range?

Review these donors of interest as individuals as well as by larger segments. Are there commonalities in this group that you can use to inform your messaging or requests? Can you identify a clear segment of potential major donors from their invested assets, net worth or affluence persona? Have you tracked in your CRM other meaningful datapoints such as event attendance or past volunteer hours? Remember that different data sets provide unique data ‘lens’ to consider.

Lastly, update or screen for the first time your top donors of interest to gain even further knowledge on wealth and other indicators to further prioritize and deepen your understanding.

2. Effectively communicate.
Before you even ask donors for further engagement with time and money, take an honest look back. Have you thanked them in a timely, authentic, and meaningful way? Have you moved beyond sending messages to them and tried to open a two-way dialogue? Are you listening as well as responding? You have a significant and timely opportunity with these donors in allowing them to self-identify as someone who wants to be more involved, engage at a high-level with your organization, and learn more about who they are and what matters most to them.

Dig Into the Data:
Use personas help to identify similar characteristics among your upgraded donors and offer ideas for messages that will resonate. See if there is a common persona that emerges and use that insight to compose your communications.

Take your communications to the next level with personalization using data you are already tracking in your fundraising software. Use the timing of the donation (early in the pandemic or motivated by the vaccine roll out?) to speak about the impact of their gift. If the donor made multiple gifts, be sure to acknowledge that, perhaps in the first paragraph or the P.S. Encourage two-way communication such as being open via email, phone, or text. Consider probing questions either in large or more focused groups to gain further understanding with thoughtful responses. (No one likes speaking to a void!)

3. Deepen the engagement.
Volunteers tend to give at a higher level, are more loyal donors, and are more likely to make planned gifts. As demand for volunteers increases in your organizations, be strategic about who you are recruiting. People with the capacity to make higher-level annual gifts are prime to become major donors – especially when you grow their love for your organization through volunteer opportunities.

Dig Into the Data
Use likelihood scores to identify those who love your organization. Then compare with a wealth attribute, like discretionary spending. Offer these donors impactful volunteer opportunities like committees or hands-on activities. You may also consider looking at affluence personas. Humanitarians give to help others, so they may be a good volunteer prospect. And the Affluent Enigma persona typically takes longer to develop a relationship with an organization, so get them involved early!

4. Inspire meaningful investment.
Communicating the impact of their increased philanthropy and connecting their ability and interest with tangible examples at micro and macro levels can be motivating. Are you positioned to accurately articulate the impact of a $100 gift? A $2,500 gift? Are you able to update your impact statements on an annual basis in cooperation with your program colleagues? If so, you can both align and inspire.

Allow your donors to be well informed and educated in their partnership with you to make your shared mission a reality. This data – communicated with passion and urgency – is also meaningful stewardship that I believe is one of your most important responsibilities you have to your donors.

Dig Into the Data
Your custom models, like those that identify target gift range, provide you the aspiration and investment giving levels that are unique to your organization. Bring into your appeal ask string methodology not only their target gift range but the donor’s largest gift. Remember the goal is to increase their giving and connection, not to plateau or simply repeat.

In lieu of a target gift range, rely on analytics available in your fundraising software, like next ask amount. Or look to your donor personas of Philanthropists and Affluent Enigmas with high invested assets. Review their largest gift amount and message meaningful, aspiration giving levels, or giving circles, that will have significant impact on those you serve.

I am confident you can identify donors who are demonstrating increased responsiveness and generosity who will be your organization’s next leadership donors. I challenge you to think about strengthening your relationship with these donors, beyond simply retaining them. Take what they have told you over the past 18 months and create paths towards deeper connections that will be mutually fulfilling and beneficial ones.