Quick Guide to Effective Donor Segmentation for Nonprofits 

Donor Acquisition and Retention

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Nothing makes a donor feel recognized and appreciated quite like personalized communication from your organization. It’s a great way to signal to your supporters that they’re so much more than just the financial support they provide for your cause. But the more donors your nonprofit recruits, the more challenging it can be to provide those individualized connections. One way your team can maintain a personal touch with your donor communications is by using donor segmentation—organizing your donors into common groups and tailoring your messaging for each segment.  

If you’re wondering how your organization can benefit from donor segmentation, this guide will help you develop your donor segmentation strategy and take your communications to the next level! 

What is donor segmentation?  

Donor segmentation is a method of splitting your donors into multiple groups based on shared characteristics. Your team can create specific donor profiles and find similar traits between your supporters that allow you to provide more personalized interactions for each donor segment. By customizing your communications for your unique donor groups, you create a more engaging experience for your donors, making them more likely to give to your nonprofit. 

Why you should segment donors  

Donor segmentation helps you save time with your donor communications without making your messaging overly generic. Generic communications can leave your donors feeling unappreciated, so adding personal touches through donor segmentation can help keep your supporters motivated to give. By engaging your donors with tailored messaging, you’ll inspire your donors to retain their support and continue to donate to your mission. 

Benefits of donor segmentation  

There are a few benefits of using donor segmentation for both you and your donors. One of the biggest benefits of donor segmentation is that it helps you develop more meaningful connections with your supporters as your organization grows larger. Donor segmentation also saves time for your team by helping you reach out to the right people for each of your campaigns rather than trying to reach every single supporter for every project. You’ll also minimize the risk of spamming your supporters with messages they’re unlikely to respond to. Donor segments allow you to craft messages based on your donors’ patterns of giving while creating opportunities to connect with your supporters outside of donations. 

How to collect necessary information  

A lot of the information you need to segment your donors is already in your database! Your donor data can be collected directly from the information your donors provide through your online giving form, such as their address and donation size. You can also add extra fields to your donation forms to collect even more data. Social media analytics are a good source of information about your profile’s followers as well. Or you can survey your donors and discover their preferences and interests regarding your cause. Volunteers and event attendees can provide further data through registration, conversations, and surveys as well. 

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How can your organization use donor segments? 

Once you’ve grouped your donors into segments, you can start using them in your communication strategy. There are a few ways you can use your donor segments to boost your organization’s fundraising and donor retention.  

Tailored messaging  

Tailor your fundraising appeals for your different donor segments by creating templates for your different donor groups. Developing customizable templates can help you save time when personalizing your messaging to each segment during your fundraising campaigns. A personalized fundraising appeal is more likely to entice your donors to give because you can leverage your donors’ previous experiences with your organization.  


Donor stewardship is crucial to your donor retention, and donor segmentation helps you make your donors feel more appreciated by recognizing the impact they’ve made on your cause. Whether sending your acknowledgments to your donors privately or publicly, you can customize your thank-you messages to your donor segments based on the type of donations they’ve made previously. You can also use your segments to thank your volunteers, event attendees, or sponsors. 

Different communication channels  

Don’t limit your donor segmentation to your email lists or social media followers! You can use your tailored messaging across all your communication channels—from text messaging to blog posts—for more effective connections at every point. How you segment your donors may change across your different communication channels based on your donors’ preferences, as some of your donors may not want to be contacted through certain channels.  


Advertising is one of the greatest uses of your donor segmentation process. Each of your donor segments should have a donor profile of common characteristics, and you can target potential new donors by marketing directly to those shared traits. This is especially helpful for social media advertising, allowing you to pinpoint the exact audience for your ads.  

What are the common types of donor segmentation? 

There are many ways you can group your donors for donor segmentation, but it’s best to find donor groups that are meaningful and practical for your nonprofit.  


Demographics is a common way to segment donors. Some of the data needed for demographic groups is already collected by your organization through your donation form. Your demographic donor segments are often used for social media marketing, as it gives you a general donor profile for who is likely to donate to your cause. These donor segments can include information such as age, location, income, gender, and family status.  

  • Age: Not all social media platforms attract the same age groups. Grouping your donors by age helps you tailor your messaging to the specific platform where your donors are spending their time. Age can also tell you the most likely way your supporters will donate to your organization.  
  • Location: Your donors’ location can help you choose who to market in-person events and volunteer activities to. It can also help you know who to contact during geographic-based crises and which of your donors will be directly impacted.  
  • Income: A donor’s income can directly affect their giving capacity. Segmenting your donors by income helps you choose who to market different levels of giving to. 
  • Gender: Segmenting your donors by gender can help you tailor your marketing efforts for different campaigns based on how they interact with your organization.  
  • Family status: Family status can affect which events and campaigns your donors are more likely to interact with depending on your cause. 
map of the USA to illustrate location-based donor segmentation

Preferred communication channels 

Segmenting your donors by their preferred communication channel can determine how you contact your supporters. Sending your fundraising appeals through a donor’s preferred communication channel provides a better chance they’ll respond to your campaign, maximizing your fundraising and stewardship efforts

  • Email: For your donors who prefer to be contacted through email, you can use longer storytelling appeals and link directly to your donation form. You can also automate your emails for donor acknowledgments after a campaign, speeding up how quickly you show donors your appreciation. 
  • Social: If your donors are more likely to respond to your social media posts, it’s best to optimize your media presence to guide your followers to your organization’s website through your posts. You can also take advantage of social media ads to further increase your posts’ visibility. Social posts are also a great way to show public appreciation for your donors. 
  • Direct mail: Some of your donors may prefer the more personalized feel that direct mail provides for fundraising appeals and thank-you letters. You can include QR-codes that link to your online donation form and campaign updates or provide ways for them to donate in-person. 
  • Phone: Phonathons and text fundraising are often effective ways to ask for donations because most of your donors have their mobile phone wherever they go, enabling them to donate whenever they like. Phone calls can also provide a nice personal touch when thanking your donors for their support. 

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Donor lifecycle  

The donor lifecycle is crucial to identifying your donors’ engagement with your organization. Segmenting your donors by their existing relationship with your nonprofit allows you to customize your communications to shine a spotlight on the impact they’ve had on your mission. 

  • Giving history: How frequently a donor gives to your organization can help you determine how often your team should reach out for fundraising appeals and donor stewardship efforts for the most effective result. 
  • Types of donations: You can tailor your messaging for different types of donors as well. A recurring donor, an annual donor, and a major donor should all have separate appeals and acknowledgments that recognize their impact on your mission. 
  • Donation amount: Grouping your donors by their donation amount allows you to appeal to your donors based on their personal giving experience without asking for too much or too little. 

Donor interests  

Each donor is unique, and the specific aspect of your mission that motivates them to give varies from person to person. Often, these interests are how your organization acquired these donors to begin with. When you segment your donors by interest, you can use the part of your mission they’re most passionate about to make your communication efforts more engaging. 

  • Causes: Many nonprofit causes have multiple components that resonate with donors, and you can use those elements to tailor your communications. For example, a donor to an environmental organization may prefer focusing on conservation efforts rather than pollution prevention. 
  • Specific projects: Similar to the different facets of a cause, your donors can also be segmented by the specific projects they fund, so target your appeal accordingly. Some of your donors may prefer to donate to building funds, while others prefer to give to actionable initiatives.  
  • Values: A large part of asking for donations is creating an emotional appeal. To do this effectively, it’s important to know what your donors value when giving to a nonprofit. Grouping your supporters by their values lets you more effectively appeal to their emotions. For instance, you can create a donor segment for donors who connect more with heart-warming stories and another for donors who are more inspired by seeing the data behind your success.  
  • Events attended: Events provide a great opportunity to recruit new donors, and grouping the donors you recruit through events helps you know who to promote your future events to.  
  • Volunteering: If your supporters are unable to contribute financially to your cause, they may volunteer instead. Creating a segment for your volunteers shows your team who to contact when they could use an extra hand. Volunteers stay engaged with your mission and may become donors later on. 
people handing out food to illustrate volunteer-based donor segmentation

How can your organization implement segmentation? 

Once you’ve chosen which donor segments will work best for your nonprofit, you can start implementing processes to maximize your results.  

Take control of your data 

The first place to start your donor segmentation system is with your donor data. Your donor data is where you can find the information you need to sort your donors into their segments. Organizing your database into donor segments can also help you keep your marketing efforts in order, allowing your team to see which segments you’ve connected with most recently and who you need to follow up with. 

Let software do the heavy lifting 

Your fundraising software and other software integrations are crucial to your donor segmentation system, as that’s where you collect and store all the information from your donors. Software can help you automate the process of grouping your donors with different filters, and it can automate the communication you send to your donor segments as well. 

Your software can also track the impact of your donor segmentation efforts! By monitoring the progress of your campaigns, you can assess which of your messaging techniques are working effectively on your donor segments. Once you see which techniques are successful, you can refine those techniques to replicate your previous results and change any techniques that aren’t engaging your donors constructively.  

Don’t forget to update! 

While monitoring your campaigns’ progress, it’s important for you to keep your segments updated. Your personalized communications won’t work if your donor no longer belongs to the group you’re connecting with. Establish a schedule for your team to review your segment lists frequently to keep them current.  

Final thoughts 

Donor segmentation helps your organization provide personal touches in your communications with your donors to show them how much you appreciate their support. You can use your donor segments to tailor your messaging for stewarding and advertising to your donors through different communication channels. Take advantage of your donor data to make more engaging connections with your supporters! 

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