Mining for gold in your database

Mining for gold in the fundraising database

When you send a fundraising appeal letter, you probably send the same letter to everyone in your database, whether they gave you $10 for the first time last year or have been donating $100 every year since 1992.


You can be more productive if you identify the segments of your database that offer the greatest potential and create a special campaign designed just for that segment.


You will have different goals for different segments. For example, you’ll want to move that $100 giver up to a higher level of giving. You’ll want to turn a lapsed donor into a current donor. Sending the same appeal letter to everyone in your database won’t help you meet these goals.


Here are some segments that you should concentrate on:


Lapsed donors. Someone who has given to you once is a better prospect than someone who has never given to you. Bringing a lapsed donor back is more cost effective than finding new donors. How do you do that? Craft an appeal letter that makes them feel important to your cause and makes them feel missed. Notice we didn’t say “tell” them that you miss them. The emotion is critical; this  communication depends on how they feel. If you can get that lapsed donor to give one more time, he or she may continue to give for years.


The donor in the middle. These are the donors who give repeatedly, and give more than the average gift. However, they are not major donor prospects (yet). A special effort can get some to upgrade to a higher level and become a major gift prospect.


New donors. Only 30-40 percent of new donors give a second gift. But of those who give a second gift, 60-80 percent will give again. You can see that persuading them to give that second gift is vital, and worth the effort of preparing a letter geared to this group.


In memory of/in honor of. If you can motivate this group to remember the person they first gave for every year, they may give over and over again.




If you need help analyzing your data and creating a plan to raise more money by segmenting your database, contact Fundraising Assets at 1-888-244-4013 or [email protected]  After we listen to what you want to accomplish and agree on a plan, we can tell you up front what you will need to budget to get the help you want.


 Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.


  1. 1

    Very important points-thanks for sharing! Segmenting also makes the message more relevant to the target audience because it is more about them! Additionally, segmentation provides a cost effective way to do a campaign even for those who can’t afford to mail to their entire database (just pick a segment!). Finally, incorporating variable data in campaigns has become very affordable, and this allows for segmentation on the fly; for instance, text can automatically be adjusted for each donor to reference the amount of their last donation, and automatically request twice the amount. Research confirms that segmentation and personalization lead to higher conversion rates.

    Comment by Blase Ciabaton — February 8, 2010 @ 9:24 PM

  2. 2

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! You’ve added some excellent points that our readers should appreciate!

    Comment by Connie — February 9, 2010 @ 4:20 PM

  3. 3

    what do recommend in setting up the database as the projected field for the potential donor to be queried on? Also what type of dbase do you use or recommend?

    Comment by barbara wenke — February 13, 2010 @ 4:47 PM

  4. 4

    The two most important fields the donor should be queried on are date of gift and amount of gift. The third thing is motivation, or the reason for their gift. For example, did the donor give because they feel strongly about helping out your scholarship fund, or did they donate to a new program?

    There are many good companies offering software to help nonprofits manage donations. Here are two that we’re familiar with.

    thedatabank, inc. offers Web-based technology. An advantage of that is that you don’t need to actually buy the software and pay for software upgrades. In addition, training and support are free.

    If you’re looking for a local solution, you might be interested in Brisbane Consulting Group, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lumsden & McCormick, LLP, certified public accountants and advisors. They can integrate your donor management and accounting software.

    Let them know we sent you!

    Comment by Connie — February 16, 2010 @ 12:58 PM

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