List segmentation is a topic that comes up often when we talk about marketing, but it is essential to your fundraising strategy as well!

Whether the communication that you need to get out is a solicitation, a status update, or a thank you, there is no one-size-fits-all message that is going to make your donors feel seen, heard, and like they are a valuable part of your community (and they are a valuable part of your community).

Before you can dive into the strategy behind your list segmentation you need to know what your technical capabilities are. Are you operating out of an excel spreadsheet or a donor database? What types of reports are you able to pull? What are the qualifiers by which you are able to sort? Can this process be automated (accurately), or will it have to be done manually?

Having the answers to all of these questions in advance will save you a great deal of time, and a great big headache, as you brainstorm about the messages that you want to send and how best to deliver them.

Once you know what kinds of data you’ll be able to use to segment your donor list, then you can really dive into your work around the variety of messages that you want to send.

Here are a few possible segmentation strategies to consider:

  1. Gift size. What do your major donors need to know or hear that is different from the donors who gave $25 at year-end? Or, alternatively, is there a message you can send to those $25 donors that might encourage a larger gift next time?

  2. Location. If you’re a national organization, your donors in Boise, Idaho might respond better to a different message from the one you send to your donors in Miami, Florida. Do you have localized news to share? Or perhaps you are running a fundraising campaign that is specific to a region of the country?

  3. Longevity of the relationship. Donors who are newer to your organization may still have much to learn about your mission, programming, and staff whereas long-time donors may respond more positively to an update that gives them some insider information.

  4. Interest area. This one is self-explanatory – if you have multiple program areas, tailor your communications so that donors who are interested in specific segments of your work are receiving information about those segments. Depending on how your donor database is set up, you may have to develop work-arounds in your system to be able to sort your lists by this data point, but this information is ALWAYS important, so regardless of where and how you do it, do collect and record it!

  5. Relationship to the organization. Think about the staff or board member to whom the donor is most connected. For instance, donors who give because of a relationship with your board chair might be more responsive to messages that are sent from that person—likewise if the donor has a relationship with the Executive or Program Director.

Of course, the key to making list segmentation work is good, clean data. For guidance on that all-important subject, refer to some of our posts on data!

3 Strategies for Staying on Top of Your Donor Data When You’re Understaffed

The Basics of Development Data Hygiene