Three Easy Ways to Segment Your Nonprofit’s Audience

You know you need to reach each donor with a message that feels personal and relevant, but how?

March 5, 2020
by Mike Montalto

Our blog talks a lot about how to reach your audience with a message that feels personal and relevant. And we’ve shared a lot of advice about how to apply personalized elements in your outreach. However, you need to effectively segment your nonprofit’s audience to apply the personalized approach in all your communications.

For example, a message that resonated with long-term repeat donors will be lost on a lapsed donor. You will need to segment your nonprofit’s audience and tailor your messages to communicate with both groups effectively.

There’s no shortage of ways to segment your nonprofit’s audience. And the criteria used to determine who belongs in which segment will be different for every organization. As you know, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to fundraising. So, you will need to determine which data points are the most important for your organization before you get started.

Here are some of the most common ways nonprofits segment audiences and some examples of how you can make your message more powerful for specific groups.

Demographic Traits

Demographics, like a donor’s age, education level, and occupation, are the most obvious areas to begin segmenting your nonprofit’s audience.

And a donor’s geographical location is another great area where you can use demographics to building stronger communications. This is an especially powerful tactic for large national or international organizations.

For example, a national organization that seeks to preserve open space and natural environments could reach out with communications that feel more relevant for people living in specific areas. You can segment your audience by location and focus your communications on the most well-known national park in a donor’s state.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t work on for smaller local or regional organizations! The same approach works on a micro-level. So, if your work focuses on one state, segment your audience by county and talk about local parks or natural landmarks in their immediate area.

Psychographic Details

But psychographic details reveal far more about a donor’s lifestyle and their possible motives for giving to your nonprofit.

Psychographics include a person’s personality, values, opinions, interests and attitudes. These attributes tell you a lot more about how to focus your message for different audiences.

But you will need to know a lot about how your donors see themselves in relation to your organization to segment your nonprofit’s audience with psychographic traits.

So, to get started, send a simple, one question donor survey to your audience. Ask them, “What is the primary reason you give to our organization?” and provide three specific options for answers.

Then, segment your next appeal based on their responses. Tailor the language in each version of your next appeal to speak to each of the three segment’s reasons for giving. Donors will know you really did care about their feedback when you speak to their motivations specifically in your next appeal.

And your message will be more powerful if it speaks to the existing relationship between the donor and your nonprofit. So, show them that you have the same motives and goals. Then, explain how their support will help you achieve these things together.

Behavioral Tendencies

Using behavioral tendencies to segment your nonprofit’s audience is one of the most effective ways fundraisers create more powerful messages.

And as we mentioned in the introduction, you will want to place lapsed or at-risk donors in a different segment than donors who continue to give regularly. But this just scratches the surface of how nonprofits segment audiences based on past behavior.

Past giving and average gift size are other great areas to focus on.

For example, take all your donors who give more than once per year and place them into their own audience segment. Communications to these donors could focus on your monthly giving program and how recurring gifts help sustain your organization’s initiatives.

Using past gift size to segment your donors into separate giving levels is also an effective approach. This will help you reach out to donors with a more relevant ask string in your appeals. And it gives you the opportunity to show your donors who give more than the average some extra appreciation.

You can use giving history in the same way. So, consider creating audience segments for donors who have supported you nonprofit for five plus, ten plus, or over 20 years. This way, you can speak more powerfully about everything you’ve accomplished since they first started giving. Versioning content based on giving history makes it easy to show your long-term donors some love.

Why is segmentation so important?

As fundraisers, we know how easy it is to get caught up in the day-to-day when working at a nonprofit. And with so much going on, even the smallest organizations don’t have the time or resources to craft an individualized message for every donor.

But you don’t want donors to feel like just another name on your mailing list. And if you’re sending the same generic communications and appeals to your entire donor base, your donors won’t feel special.

You need to make your donors feel important if you want them to support your work.

Breaking up your audience and placing donors into segments based on similar characteristics makes it easier to version content and reach every donor with a message that feels more relevant.

Like what you see? Stay in touch!

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