Skip to content
Home » JGA Blogs and News » Donor Data: 4 Strategies to Maximize Your Fundraising

Donor Data: 4 Strategies to Maximize Your Fundraising

Data-driven fundraising is a vital tool that can help you maximize your development efforts. JGA asked Bill Tedesco with DonorSearch to share tips on using insights from your donor data to help you reach your donors effectively and efficiently.

Using the data you have about your supporters will not only improve your fundraising appeals, but it will also save you time and effort while crafting the best asks for your prospects. To help you maximize your fundraising, we’ll explore these four strategies in detail:

  1. Identify major donors.
  2. Establish personalized appeal strategies.
  3. Send effective appeals.
  4. Create a detailed stewardship plan.

As you implement these new strategies, don’t forget to track fundraising metrics in order to measure the efficacy of your new efforts. Implementing new strategies is only effective if you monitor their performance and keep adjusting to better fit them to your supporter base. With that in mind, let’s dive into these strategies!


Major donors can make a significant impact on a nonprofit’s success. Unfortunately, major donors aren’t likely to appear without thorough cultivation on your nonprofit’s part.

Most major donors will start with a moderate gift so your organization will need to implement strategies to identify potential major donors and cultivate those relationships effectively. The trick to finding major donors within your data is to identify those with both the ability to make a major donation as well as the affinity to give to your organization.

Prospect research can help you determine a donor’s likelihood of contributing a major gift. You can use prospect research to fill in data fields and leverage the information you already have to gain a more comprehensive picture of your donors. Here are some wealth indicators that prospect research can help you determine:

  • Real estate investments: A person’s real estate ownership can be a powerful indicator of their ability to give. In fact, DonorSearch’s prospect research statistics show that an individual who owns between $1-2 million worth of real estate is approximately four times more likely to give than the average person.
  • Stock ownership: These assets can be used to estimate prospects’ financial capacity for giving. One of the best places to start with this type of research is with the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), which maintains records of publicly traded companies.
  • Business affiliations: Knowing a prospect’s business affiliations can result in a range of benefits, including as both a wealth indicator and an opportunity for networking connections. Types of business affiliations include business partnerships, relationships with LLCs or corporations, or a role on a board.
  • Political giving: Political giving can function as both a philanthropic and a wealth indicator, with studies showing that those who have given more than $2,500 in political contributions are 14 times more likely to give to charitable organizations than the average person. And luckily, the FEC maintains a publicly available database of gifts made to registered political committees for easy access to this information.
  • Profession: A person’s profession is a great way to estimate their approximate salary and disposable income—especially if they’re in a historically high-paying field. To determine these numbers, do some research on average salaries within their career field in a particular location. If you know the prospect’s specific employer, you can even determine their eligibility for corporate matching gifts!

The more you learn about your donors, the better you can identify your prospective major supporters and create targeted asks for gifts. Understanding your donors’ capacity to give through prospect research is an essential step to determine the right way to reach out and the right amount to ask for from your generous donors.


Identifying major donors is only the first step to maximizing your fundraising. Learning more about all of your donors, from donation amount to demographics and preferred communication method is the next crucial step to ensure that you’re making effective appeals. This will allow you to make sure that your appeals for donations are going to the right segments of your audience.

You can segment your donors into specific groups based on concrete data in order to personalize your communications and ensure that they’re appropriate for the type of donor that you are addressing. An appeal written for major donors, for example, may include handwritten notes from board members, invitations to exclusive events, or solicitations for advice. Utilize multichannel marketing based on what you know about the donor. Though this requires a higher level of customization and segmentation, it is important to blend your approaches and track how prospects respond to various outreaches.

Some factors to use to segment your audience include:

  • Age
  • Donation frequency
  • Donation size
  • Capacity to give
  • Past nonprofit involvement
  • Preferred method of communication

Using this data to segment your audience and determine your communication strategy will ensure you avoid asking supporters for donations at the wrong time, too frequently, or for an inappropriate amount.


As we discussed, knowing your supporters’ preferences in broad terms can help you structure your overall appeals. However, you’ll still need to use specific donor data to craft personal, effective appeals that reach each individual donor.

To engage your donors most effectively, you’ll need (at the very least) to use this data:

  • Preferred names. Addressing a donor by their preferred name, pronouns, and title ensures that you’re speaking to them personally and respectfully. Stay up-to-date on this information in the event that a donor takes the name of their spouse or earns a promotion in their title (such as receiving a Ph.D., for example).
  • Type of donor. You would likely have a different message for a monthly donor versus a new, one-time supporter. That’s why it’s important to know what type of donor you’re addressing in your message. When you can, thank them for the specific type of donation they gave (Ex: We appreciate your continued monthly support), and even mention their specific donation amount to make them really feel like their donation is important to your organization.
  • Past giving history. The last thing you want to do is accidentally offend a donor by asking for a gift too soon after they’ve already given. Hold your asks (even mass, scheduled asks) for recent donors, and instead engage them with other educational information about your cause or additional opportunities to get involved. A volunteer day, newsletter, or update on your campaign are all prime materials for your next communication.

Even when addressing a specific segment of your audience with a message that has been crafted for them, take it a step further by including personal information for each individual donor. Using someone’s preferred name rather than “dear donor” can make all the difference in a donation solicitation.

Even as nonprofit trends continue to change and you develop new communication channels, it’s important that you always speak to your donors as people, not donation machines.


One of the most important elements of fundraising is stewarding your donors after they contribute. Stewardship helps to retain donors which not only builds a stronger community of supporters but is also more cost-effective than attracting new donors. Here are a few ideas for donor stewardship opportunities:

  • Donor appreciation events. Hosting a stewardship event (whether in-person or virtual) that is all about your donors can be a very effective way to show how much they mean to you. Whether it’s a low-key or upscale event, putting the spotlight on your donors is sure to make them feel special and appreciated.
  • Volunteer opportunities. Giving donations is very helpful for your organization but does not always foster the connection to your organization that active participation in your work can. Make sure to create ample opportunity for your donors to gain hands-on experience with the cause they’re supporting.
  • Personalized communications. Nobody wants to feel like just another name on your donor list. Personalized communications help foster an authentic connection that shows your donors that you don’t just see them as a big dollar sign.
  • Small gifts. These can include things like keychains, stickers, and other branded merchandise items. Although they’re not large gifts, it still feels like a treat to your donor and can serve as advertising for your mission when your donor uses your gift!

Only you know your donors best. Craft a strategy that will appeal to their interests and most importantly, foster an authentic connection to your cause. Stewardship is not about putting on a face to make donors think you care — it’s about actually caring about their support and showing it effectively.

Fundraising is most effective when you’ve developed strong relationships with your supporters and one of the easiest ways to do this is to collect and leverage donor data to get to know your donors better.

Understanding what strategies will work best for them while maintaining an authentic relationship will help you steward your donors into lifelong supporters of your organization while meeting your current fundraising needs. These four strategies for implementing data-informed decisions into your fundraising will help you form those connections to help you meet your goals.

Good luck!