3 Things, 3 Ways – Personalization, Segmentation, Conversation – Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine | Region & Cash

There is an art to knowing your audience, and it can make or break fundraising. We’re sharing 3 things (3 ways) to help you get it right.

We hear you – right now the only “ation” you might care about in this cold weather is “holiday”. But if we may, we’ll get you back to the task at hand. Because we want to talk about three fundraising-related “acts” – Personalization, segmentation and conversation – and give you three ideas each. With these at your fingertips, you’ll improve your donor experience and your fundraising results.


PURLs – or “Personalized URLs” – are a fundraising initiative where a donor receives a PURL-based eDM from a nonprofit organization. The information in this eDM is personalized for that specific donor, with a unique link that leads to a customized landing page created specifically for them. From the giver’s perspective, it feels like you know them, got them, and wrote every message just for them. It also makes life easier for the donor, as custom landing pages often come pre-populated with backer details.

You can watch Parachute Digital’s Shanelle Clapham delve deep into PURLs on our YouTube channel here, and Donor Republic’s Andrew Sabatino explains more about PURLs and how to implement them here. Donor Republic recently shared that using PURLs for the first time allowed Blind Low Vision NZ to significantly improve their email scores (compared to previous appeal emails) in their recent guide dog puppy appeal. Those results were a 106% increase in gross sales, a 68% increase in donation conversion, a 22% increase in average gift value, and a 469% increase in landing page conversion rate.

variable copy – When writing an appeal text, you need to appeal to both readers and deep divers. The latter group will benefit from a copy that feels personal to them as they comb through every detail of your letter or eDM. This can be achieved by selecting sections of the copy and changing them depending on the donor. DM enthusiasts Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia found the sweet spot in two variable paragraphs per letter (personalized for donor and/or segment). Common variations include referencing the supporter as a regular donor, major donor, legatee, and/or alumni (in university fundraising), reasoning-based (for high-value donors) versus emotional language (for lower-value donors), referring to the present Sender of one of your previous events, and of course the common variables of Dollar Handles, Ask Amounts and Name.

Copying variables doesn’t have to be limited to requests. Barnardos Australia has developed a Major Donor and Standard Variable Copy Receipt Letter recognizing and thanking donors who have sent a message of support with their Winter Roll call donation.

local content – How can you show that you care about what is happening around your donors? When you do this, you make each backer feel like you’re personally invested in them and their world. Can you add animal cruelty statistics applicable to the donor’s city? Do you provide a program in your region that you can link to? The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation used localized content as an acquisition tool in their recent Sydney Sick Kids Appeal. They sent a postal package to target groups either targeted to needs supported by the foundation or located in areas flagged as places whose residents are most likely to donate.

Note that anything you “localize” in your copy needs to be an easy-to-manage variable data field – anything that becomes difficult for your post house or email tool will make your campaign unmanageable, especially with a large number of donors and/or segments.


target group identification – Think about the service you offer and the people you want to target. Then look at the key characteristics of this demographic profile.

For example, if you offer aged care services, your target audience might be the over 75s. However, it doesn’t stop there. By association, you also target their families, who then fall into a different subgroup based on their age and socioeconomic background. Your target audience is often larger than you think.

By identifying your audience and understanding their behavior, you’ll be better equipped to identify your most valuable supporters. This is where the Pareto Principle comes in – about 20% of your audience brings in 80% of your value and your efforts should reflect that.

Segment vs Persona – If you’re confused about the difference between segments and donor personas, think campaign/donor segments as superordinate categorical classifications of groups of people, while persons highlight specific details that appeal to a type of person – their experiences, goals, or motivations. Based on qualitative data, personas are used early in the audience identification process to identify prospects and donors personalities and preferenceswhile segments created from quantitative data support fundraisers reach their target groups. Google will provide a number of insights into how to develop a donor persona – this article is a good place to start. You can also use the information you have on hand – for example, using analytics tools on your website and social media channels will help you track the behavioral traits of your audience online.

The four guys – To segment your audience, group them based on the unique similarities that can be addressed with a specific message or fundraising approach. There are four main types of segmentation:

  1. Demographic Breakdown is conducted by age, race, religion, gender, family size, ethnicity, income and education.
  2. Geographic Segmentation targets audiences based on their location. You can segment your audience by geographic area such as city, state, country, or international region. You can also segment the audience into rural, suburban, and urban segments.
  3. Psychographic Segmentation is not necessarily so concrete and easily recognizable for all target groups. It requires categorization based on aspects such as personality, lifestyle and values. Donor personalities can be more helpful here.
  4. behavioral segmentation requires audiences to be grouped according to their behavioral patterns, which include considerations such as how much they spend (or donate), the products or services they use, brand awareness, and loyalty. Of course, this is particularly useful for organizations that collect funds.

Top Tip: Don’t create an annoying number of segments and try to keep them consistent between views, campaigns and years so you can track and compare behaviors, results and growth/decline in each segment.


consistency – Donors like to build relationships with the organizations they support and one way to do this is to ensure a supporter always gets a call from the same team members. Plan International Australia incorporated this approach into its mid-value growth strategy when it found donors responded positively to building a relationship not only with the fundraising team, but also with call center staff.

be vulnerable – because we build trust by sharing vulnerabilities. And if we don’t show vulnerability, how can we show neediness? If there was ever a time when charities shed their layers and showed how vulnerable they are, it was during COVID-19. Many nonprofits have kept their doors open by holding meetings with donors, trusts and foundations, and the government, sharing how exposed they were and how they needed additional, unrestricted funding.

Not all conversations are the same – The fact is, the amount your donors give varies widely and those who give the most need to hear from you in a highly personal way (unless they’ve asked you to leave them alone and they just to give). This usually means phone calls plus Zoom and face-to-face meetings. It could even mean taking a donor on a field trip abroad.

As you approach each call, call your valuable supporters before sending their mail to update them on the focus of the campaign. If the call relates to a specific program or project, invite them to a meeting with your CEO or relevant program manager; it can lead to a great gift. make sure that everyone Donors who make a gift over a certain amount (this can be $500 or $5,000 depending on the charity) will receive a thank you call. Call committed donors regularly to update them on your work (made possible by their generosity) or invite them to quarterly on-site updates. Whatever the reason for your contact, use conversations as an opportunity to really understand your donors’ interests, motivations and needs – they may be different from what you think.

And finally!

All of these initiatives, especially personalization and segmentation, are worth testing—and test what you should be doing! To test, implement, and report on personalization, segmentation, and conversations, make sure your CRM is clean and your marketing automation tools are up to date.

More information about segmentation can be found here.

To discover more examples of personalization, click here.

To learn more about the art of conversation, click here.

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