Team DNL Blog

Donor Analytics Crash Course: 5 Nonprofit Data Essentials

All nonprofits should seek to get to know their supporters better. Without a keen knowledge of who it is that you're soliciting for donations, inviting to your next fundraising event, or including on your email newsletter list, you're unlikely to see a high return on any of these efforts.

Over the years, your nonprofit has probably pulled data from various fundraising channels, surveys, and notes collected by your staff. As a result, you probably already have a ton of donor information at your fingertips in your CRM.

But it's not just having the right donor data that matters; it's how you use that knowledge that results in the biggest payoff for your fundraising strategies. That's where the power of donor analytics comes into the picture! 

Donor analytics doesn't just refer to donor data; this term encompasses all of the ways you can analyze your donor data in order to gain meaningful insights into your constituency. 

There are plenty of different types of data you can track as an organization, but in this post, we'll hone in on 5 key donor analytics that can significantly impact the ways you approach your supporters and raise money. Here are the metrics we'll cover: 

  1. Donor engagement history
  2. Donor giving habits
  3. Donor and prospect giving capacity
  4. Donor and prospect giving propensity
  5. Donor communication preferences

We'll show you why these data points are so important and how to use each one of them at your organization. 

If you need a refresher on the basics of prospect research before getting started, visit this prospect research guide.

Otherwise, if you're ready to learn, let's get right to it! 

Analyze an individual's history of engagement with your organization.

1. Donor Engagement History

There's more than one way to engage with a nonprofit, so you should never treat all of your constituents the same way. Instead, look to your donor database to find out more about each supporter's history with your organization. 

Within your donor profiles in your CRM, you can store records relating to past donations and other transactions, events and programs they've attended, campaigns they've contributed to, volunteer shifts they've worked, and much more. Then, you can use that information to create segments within your donor list. 

Segments of your database might include: 

Use donor analytics to understand who your supporters are and how they prefer to engage.

  • Volunteers.
  • Members.
  • Event or program attendees.
  • Major donors.
  • Donors with match eligible employers.
  • Corporate sponsors.
  • Online donors.
  • Mobile donors.

The benefit of segmentation is that it allows you to create targeted fundraising and engagement strategies for specific subsets of your supporter list (without the effort of manually sorting through your whole database and hand-picking which supporters align with each new campaign or strategy).

Because these supporters have already shown a demonstrated interest in these areas of your nonprofit, you can confidently present them with new opportunities that they're also likely to respond positively to. This targeting should translate to a lift in key email metrics: opens and click-throughs.

If you're just getting started with segmentation, you should begin with the most basic subgroups, like the ones listed above. Because you're likely already keeping this information in your CRM, it shouldn't be difficult to filter based on existing fields and generate lists that match up with each category. (Though the user-friendliness and functionality of your software will have a major role to play here, too.)

To target your strategies on an even more granular level, you can add custom fields to your donor profiles or pull segments that draw on multiple pieces of data. For example, if you're planning a family fun run event for your next peer-to-peer fundraiser, you can use segmentation to determine whom to send the first invitations to. You might pull a segment that combines any of the following fields:

  • Past events attended: have these donors attended or sponsored events in the past? 
  • Donation history: have these supporters run or donated to a peer-to-peer fundraiser for your nonprofit before?
  • Interests: have these supporters attended walk-run events before, participated in family-focused programs, or otherwise indicated an interest in this type of event?

If you're a smaller nonprofit, narrowing the field this much might leave you with very few donors to work with, so you wouldn't need to break down your list quite this much. But for large nonprofits with a database packed to the brim with donor records, finding the most specific subset of potential donors is a key step to organizing any new campaign or event! 

Your nonprofit can use donor analytics such as giving history to create more targeted fundraising letters.

2. Donor Giving Habits

The same way you probably wouldn't ask someone who's never volunteered to lead your next fundraising event planning committee, you probably shouldn't target your $10 donors for a major gift.

There are plenty of ways to give, so find out which donation style your supporters prefer by analyzing their past giving data.

Sure, you might be successful, but doesn't it make more sense to solicit a donor whose past giving indicates that they're capable—much less interested—in making a major contribution? We think it does (and so do expert prospect researchers)! 

A donor's giving habits can tell you a lot, so take some time to analyze the past transactions stored in your donor database. Specifically, you should look at 3 different types of data:

  • Giving frequency. How often has a donor historically given? If they're already making sporadic gifts throughout the year, it might be time to promote your recurring giving options or perhaps a membership program. If your donor only gives during the year-end season, on the other hand, you might find other ways to engage with them throughout the rest of the calendar year, like offering an invitation to your spring gala or golf tournament. 
  • Average gift size. How much a donor typically gives is one of the most common-sense ways to determine how much they're comfortable donating. Pay attention to trends within a donor's giving history, too. If you're seeing that a donor's gift size fluctuates, you might look into other factors that could be at play. For example, a donor may be more willing to pay $100 for a ticket to a fundraising event that really excites them, while their #GivingTuesday gifts over the past few years cap out at $25.  
  • Preferred giving channel. Similarly, make sure you examine how your donors are making their gifts. With so many different ways to accept donations (online and off), your donors have more options than ever, and it's important that you present the right supporters with the right options for giving. If a donor has given through a mobile donation form, for example, why not let them know about your text-to-give options? 

Having a donor's history in mind can make your donation solicitations much more successful, since you'll be able to tailor them to align with a donor's past giving habits. Plus, once you know when, how, and how much a donor likes to give, you can more strategically encourage them to increase their gift or engage with your organization in a new way. 

Bonus! DNL is now offering industry benchmarking to help nonprofits compare their donation records against industry sector peers. Through these services, you can assess how your organization's donation performance measures up to other similar nonprofits in your sector. Contact us to learn more!

Determine a donor's capacity for giving to develop an understanding for how much they're able (and likely) to give to your nonprofit.

3. Donor and Prospect Giving Capacity

In addition to studying the data within your CRM, you can also conduct other forms of donor analysis and prospect research on both potential donors and current supporters to find out how much they're capable of giving to your nonprofit. 

Analyze past giving and prospect data to find out a donor's capacity for giving.

Why does giving capacity matter? As much as you value all of your supporters (no matter how much they can donate), you don't want to devote a significant amount of time and resources attempting to steward a donor toward a gift they simply can't make.

Moreover, you shouldn't ask new prospects for an amount that's much higher than they're comfortable giving. At best, those prospects will ignore your request, and at worst, they might be offended that you'd even ask. 

Even more importantly, knowing your donors' capacities for giving can show you where your nonprofit is potentially leaving money on the table. If your fundraising asks are much lower than what a donor is able to give, they may not even consider giving more. These supporters or prospects are the perfect individuals to target with your stewardship or donor cultivation plan! 

Conducting research into your supporters' giving capacities, known as wealth screening, can help you hit the sweet spot and craft a solicitation strategy that acknowledges a donor's giving comfort level without sacrificing your true fundraising potential. 

There are a few key wealth markers that you should look for when assessing someone's ability to give:

  • Past philanthropic giving, both to your organization and others.
  • Past political giving.
  • Real estate ownership.
  • Employment data or corporate affiliations.
  • Stock ownership.

By assessing these factors all together, you can create more realistic fundraising objectives for each of your supporters and prospects. Additionally, you can highlight those existing donors who might be great prospects for upgraded gifts, major contributions, or planned gifts.

Monitoring Corporate Giving Opportunities

TeamDNL can help you identify which supporters have the capacity to double their contributions through corporate giving programs. Our team can screen your database to determine which donors are match-eligible and help you create a strategy for segmenting and communicating with those donors. (Not familiar with corporate giving? Check out this resource.)

Corporate giving programs are a great way to multiply your donors' contributions!

Corporate giving programs, like matching gifts and volunteer grants programs, are a great way to boost your revenue. Best of all, there’s an easy way to implement them in your organization’s existing fundraising strategy that takes little extra effort from you or your donors!

You can integrate a search tool, like Double the Donation’s matching gifts tool, directly into your website and donor database. Your donors will be able to search for their employers to see if they’re match-eligible before they even make a donation.

Donors feel connected to your cause and will want to multiply their contributions, especially if they don’t have to reach back into their own pockets. In fact, 84% of donors say they’re more likely to donate if a match is offered. In other words, take advantage of major revenue opportunities like this.

Utilize donor analytics to find out what a donor or prospect's affinities for giving are.

4. Donor and Prospect Giving Propensity 

Capacity for giving is vital, but as nonprofits know, it doesn't matter how much someone can give if they're just not interested in the cause your organization serves. And while you can't force anyone to show an interest in your organization (nor would you want to!), you can make a point to target those prospects who are most likely to share a passion for your mission.

Through prospect research and donor analytics, you can determine which campaigns and programs your donors will be most connected to.

It's clear why giving propensity is an important element of prospect research, but did you know that this data can be useful for existing supporters too? It's true! 

Even though you can assume anyone who has donated or volunteered for your nonprofit before has an affinity for your cause in general, you can still leverage this type of analysis to determine which specific campaign or type of project a donor is likely to contribute to. 

The following questions can help you determine philanthropic tendencies for new prospects and current supporters:

  • What other nonprofits has this individual contributed to? What types of causes and campaigns have they shown an interest in? Don't forget: while donations to other organizations are important, you should consider other types of involvement too, such as volunteer work, online advocacy, or board service.
  • What types of campaigns or projects tend to attract this individual? The style and specific purpose of a campaign can be just as important as the cause attached to it. Look into a donor's giving history to find out if they're more often involved in grassroots efforts, large-scale capital campaigns, peer-to-peer fundraisers, or something else entirely. 
  • At what level has this person historically contributed? Though not always true, it's typically fair to say that the more a donor gives, the more they're interested in a particular cause. Pay attention to trends in an individual's donation history to find out what causes or campaigns are most important to them.

Formal prospect research (using the help of your consultant or a prospect research tool) can be a great strategy, but you might be surprised at how much of this data is readily available with just a little time and effort put toward strategic donor analysis.

For instance, if you have supporters' social media handles already on file, take some time to see which other nonprofits they're following or frequently interacting with online. The types of content they show an interest in online can tell you a lot about what they're looking for in a charitable cause! 

Pro tip: Think of a donor's giving capacity and propensity as two sides of the same coin. While they're both important, you can't rely on either of them without also considering the other. Working with a consultant who understands the data and your larger organizational goals can help you analyze both metrics to gain a full understanding of the right prospects to target. 

Knowing how and when a donor prefers to be contacted can help you tailor your engagement strategies.

5. Donor Communication Preferences

Your organization's relationship with your supporters is no different than any other relationship—you need to keep in touch in order to make it work! 

By keeping track of donor communication preferences, you can develop smarter outreach strategies that supporters respond well to.

There's a fine line between staying at the front of a donor's mind through active communication and overwhelming them with content they're not interested in. To make matters even more complicated, that line can vary significantly from one person to the next. 

The key to finding the right engagement strategy for each supporter lies in their individual set of communication preferences. Within your CRM, make sure you have a record of all of the following:

  • Preferred communication channel. Does this supporter prefer direct mail, email, text message, or something else? Donors are more likely to engage with or respond to a communication channel they regularly use, so don't waste time sending messages through a method they're uncomfortable or unfamiliar with.
  • Preferred communication frequency. Some donors don't want to hear from your team every day, and that's okay! Respect how often your supporters want to be contacted so that they don't hit the "unsubscribe" button or toss your direct mailings in the trash.
  • Preferred types of content. Your nonprofit undoubtedly has a variety of programs and projects going on simultaneously, but that doesn't mean all of your supporters will be interested in each one. Be aware of which topics interest your donor so you can send them relevant content, such as advocacy-related news, volunteer opportunities, updates about your nonprofit or campaigns, and more.

There are a number of different ways you can obtain this data, but the easiest way is to allow supporters to update their communication preferences themselves. 

Using a tool like the DNL Luminate Online Member Center, you can enable your constituents to access their supporter profiles at any time to view and manage all of the following:

  • Contact information.
  • Payment information.
  • Email newsletter subscriptions.
  • Web content interests. 
  • Recurring gifts.

By giving your donors control over their own preferences and information, you mitigate the risk that your supporter profiles will be out of date or inaccurate. That way, supporters get exactly the content they want, exactly when and how they want it! Your engagement strategies can be perfectly tailored to each supporter in your database without the headaches of frequent manual updates for your team. 


You don't have to be a data expert to leverage donor analytics at your nonprofit. With the right strategies (and a little help from the right consulting team), you can get to know your donors and develop targeted fundraising and stewardship strategies based on their needs. 

To gain more insight into data-driven fundraising, check out these additional resources:

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