#FundraisingFriday - Know Your Donors

Gabby Rockwell

August 5, 2022

Welcome back to #FundraisingFriday! This week we’re focusing on our donors! If you missed last month’s intro lesson, read it here before you get ready for this week’s topic. Now, let’s talk donors!

Donors are the life of any nonprofit. They’re the people who spread your mission, fundraise on your behalf, and attend your events. They’re your “boots on the ground,” but there are so many types of donors. How do we make sure we’re reaching them on their level?

First, we need to identify what type of donor someone is. This is often broken down by gift amount and frequency. Here are the traditional groupings:

  • One-time
  • Recurring
  • Upgrading
  • Downgrading
  • Lapsed
  • Lapsed Reactivated
  • Target Donors

One-time donors are those who give any amount of a donation a single time in their lifetime. Recurring donors are those who give in a regular frequency - weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually - for any amount, often the same amount for every gift.

Upgrading or downgrading donors are those who have given more than once but not necessarily on a regular frequency whose gift amounts have either increased (upgrading) or decreased (downgrading).

Lapsed donors are those who were once giving with a regular frequency but suddenly stopped. A lapsed reactivated donor is someone who lapsed from their regular giving schedule for any amount of time but thankfully came back and gave again at any gift amount.

Target donors are those who could potentially financially support your organization based on their perceived connection or support for your mission. These are the people who passionately believe in your cause but just haven’t given a financial or in-kind donation. These are your future donors who can further help spread your mission with the world.

Now that we know the difference between our donor groups, we need to know how to speak to them effectively and correctly: 

We can talk to one-time donors and target donors in similar manners. Regularly share your mission, fundraising goal, who you help, and examples of how the charitable contributions have and currently are making an impact in the community for those you serve. If you can capture images or videos of those positive interactions while you’re giving away the fruits of donor generosity, then people can see their money making a difference right away and may be inclined to donate for the first time if they’re brand new to your organization or for a second time because they’re seeing the good their gifts are doing. 

Building off of that, you should also highlight gratitude for those who are recurring donors and upgrading donors. These people have previously given and decided to do it once again because they were so compelled by your mission, outreach, and communication. You need to thank them - individually if you can or in groups if there are just so many of them. By taking the time to recognize them on an individual level, you provide them a sense of individualized respect and appreciation. Some of the best ways to do this is a physically written thank you note, a social media post tagging them, or sending them a small giveaway item that’s branded with your organization’s information on it. The more personal, the better as it appeals to the human kindness element that fundraising revolves around: compassion.

Our lapsed-reactivated donors are a unique bunch of individuals who made the choice to come back to you. You need to call them to talk about that decision. Understand why they left in the first place and what it was that helped them make a decision to come back and give again. Celebrate their return; remind them that they’re appreciated and how grateful you are to have them back in your organization again. Set a monthly or bi-monthly reminder to either check in by phone or email with them to help encourage their continued support. As time goes on and they become more steady donors, you can decrease the frequency of those check-ins to quarterly or twice a year. 

Lapsed donors  and downgrading donors require a special touch. They’re still giving regularly which we absolutely value, but they’re not giving as much as they once were. Sometimes they’re entering a new personal financial struggle, so they need to scale back their giving. Sometimes they just don’t feel the human connection with your organization and the mission. Whatever their unique case may be, a simple phone call to check in can do the trick. Don’t pester them for money though - call them to thank them for their dedication and time supporting the organization. Share your latest outreach; remind them to join you on social media; verify they’re signed up for emails from you; see how they’re feeling about your work in the community. Keep the conversation organic and natural, not “salesy”. If an opportunity arises where you can ask them about gifts, that’s when you can ask them about increasing their gift amounts back to where they were or even higher, but don’t push it. This should be an exploratory conversation to see if they’re still engaged and interested in your mission. 

Plan on following up with them in a month or two if they’re open to it. These calls take a delicate hand and a good chunk of your organization’s time, but it can save someone from abandoning your organization completely, leading to you not receiving their financial support. Heck, they could become your biggest fan and loudest supporter after one-on-one interactions, so it is absolutely worth every second of those conversations!

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to identifying and engaging your donor groups, so be sure to check back next month for another #FundraisingFriday article on the importance of a “Call To Action” to engage these donor groups on an even deeper level.

Gabby is the Director of Social Media Marketing at NEP Services. She spends her time giving back to emergency responders - both professionally and in her free time with her son. She's proud to merge her nonprofit and analytics backgrounds into one role to give back to those who give their all for us day in and day out.