Track and Segment Your Data for Annual Giving Campaigns

by Kevin Martone, Technology Program Manager, JCamp 180

So you've committed to running a regular annual giving campaign … but you don't know how to manage it? Not sure how to build a culture of philanthropy among your constituents? As JCamp 180 Mentors Dan Kirsch and Julia Riseman point out in their article:

Building the kind of loyalty that creates a strong donor pipeline requires a commitment to learning from each year's results and refining future activities accordingly.  That's why it is so important to have reliable constituent data and protocols for collecting, tracking, and analyzing the data most relevant to annual giving. The more you can learn about the communications preferences of your audience and the appeals that are most compelling to your various constituents the better you will become at personalizing and targeting your annual giving activities to maximize the return on your work.

Technology can help. Here are some quick tips for using technology to support successful, long-term annual giving campaigns:

  • Make sure you have clean data
  • Segment your data
  • Promote using various channels

1) Make sure you have clean data

Is your data up-to-date? If you sent a mailing to your entire donor database, what percentage would be returned as undeliverable? If that happened, do you have a process for updating your database as a result?

Your donor database is only as helpful as you make it. Use free or inexpensive processes and tools to keep it up-to-date:

  • Always update your records when you learn of changes to contact information. If you receive a message from a new email address, add it to your donor database. If a mailing is returned as undeliverable, mark it in the database; if you have an email on record for that person, contact them to ask for an updated mailing address.
  • Set up a free/inexpensive form to gather both long-lost constituents' contact information and updates from those who move. A simple Google (free) or Wufoo (free and inexpensive options) form can be set up in just a few minutes to gather this info.
  • Dedupe your data regularly. As new records are added, some will be duplicates. If you stay on top of this with a regular process, it will be simple to maintain. You can also use tools like the US Postal Service's National Change of Address (NCOA) service to get updated addresses from people who have moved in the past couple of years. In fact, if you mail with the nonprofit bulk rate, you are required to scan your data with NCOA periodically.​

TIP: Be proactive in reaching out to and reconnecting with your alumni and other constituents. Every alumni is a potential donor - reconnecting with and effectively tracking your alumni will help your annual campaigns grow stronger year by year. Engage with your alumni and other constituents on Facebook and other social channels. Use your human, off-line social networks to find long-lost alumni. And offer an easy-to-find way for your constituents to get their updated contact information to you; this process should be easy to find on your website and other online presences (blog, Facebook Page, etc.).

Want more tips for keeping your data up to date? Check out the complete Data2Donors course book.

2) Segment your data

To truly customize your communications - including cultivation and solicitation communications - you need to segment the data in your database. Three types of segmentation are highlighted here: biographical, giving, and e-communications.

TIP: Segment your data consistently. There should be processes in place to ensure that every new constituent and gift/pledge in the database is coded as listed below. Otherwise, there will be no way to effectively track and report on these segments in the future.

Biographical segmentation

You should categorize each constituent in your donor database by their "connection" to your organization. For camps, this can include alumni, board members, parents, grandparents, etc. Consider: What categories might I use in the future to help personalize a message to my constituents? These are categories you'll want to use.

Furthermore, implement a "hierarchy" of categorizations - you don't want to inundate your constituents with extra communications. For example, if someone is an alum, a parent, and a board member, decide which communication will be most powerful for them and their connection to camp. Don't send them three separate messages!

In DonorPerfect Online (DPO), the Flags field is the best way to segment your constituents biographically. Other donor databases use tags or simple drop-downs to meet this need.

Giving segmentation

You should also segment all of the gifts and pledges you receive. It is crucial to track who is giving to which funds; who responds to which campaigns; and to what specific type of solicitation a donor responded. Track this information for each gift. Your donor database should allow you to track these using dropdown codes so that you can also report at a macro level of which funds, campaigns, and solicitations are most effective.

In DPO, You can use the GL Code, Campaign, Solicitation, and Sub-solicitation dropdown fields on both the Gift and Pledge screens to track this information. Be sure to set up your codes in advance.

TIP: You can also use standard reports to segment your donors by their giving history. For example, LYBUNT (Last Year But Unfortunately Not This Year) reports will show you all donors who gave to your organization last year, but haven't given yet this year. This (and similar) reports help you segment constituents who may be especially likely to donate again.

E-Communications segmentation

Finally, it is helpful to understand who is opening your eNewsletters and which (if any) links they are following. eNewsletter tools like Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Vertical Response give you detailed statistics on who opens your emails and what links they click on for more information.

Whether or not this data is not integrated directly with your donor database, you can always use these detailed stats to ensure your communications are of interest to your constituents. You can even determine if certain stories are more pertinent for specific subsets of your constituent base.

TIP: Use an eNewsletter service to send out your mass e-communications. And use short intros to each section with a link for more information on your website or blog - this will help in two ways: 1) Readers scan emails so they'll see all of your stories and 2) You will be able to collect stats about who read each type of story.


3) Promote using various channels

What good is an annual campaign … if nobody knows about it? The internet offers easy, free ways to promote your annual campaign and keep it top of mind. Make it easy to find information about your annual campaign on your website, blog, Facebook Page, eNewsletter, etc. Research shows that multi-channel communications with donors result in more regular, larger donations.

TIP: Try to find subtle ways to remind your constituents of your annual campaign. Although there should be some direct communications, you want to engage your constituents online in a conversation - if you have too many direct requests, people will tune you out. The key is balance. For example, always keep a link to the online donation page on your Facebook Page, your eNewsletters, and your blog. It is also helpful to use personal stories in your communications. A story about someone impacted by your organization with a link to the online giving page can be very effective.