Knowing the specific interests of each individual on a donor file is an impossible task. Scott Druery and Jason Haigh explain how tagging and technology are combining to make this mammoth feat increasingly easy to achieve.

Knowing the specific interests of each individual on a donor file is an impossible task. Scott Druery and Jason Haigh explain how tagging and technology are combining to make this mammoth feat increasingly easy to achieve.

Getting to know your donors and supporters has always been important, even more so when you consider that the competition for supporters is continually growing in sophistication. Clearly, fundraisers should want to know supporters and get as close as possible to them without intruding, to foster their commitment and on-going support for your cause.

You need to gather relevant information about your supporters, then apply tried and tested fundraising techniques to let your data work for you. So, given that people are now busier than ever, what can you do to gather information and how do you ensure you continue gathering relevant information from them?

Note the interests of your donors

The process of gathering information has many guises – some call it profiling or tagging a record in your database. We like to think of it in a less clinical sense, as simply gathering information and making it readily available.

Of course, looking at your supporters, they can be classified as different things to different people within your organisation. For example, a supporter could be classified as a major donor, a volunteer, a bequest prospect, a member and so on; each requiring a tailored approach by different areas in your organisation. So how do we quickly and easily classify a supporter, when they belong in multiple areas?

Because your supporter usually has multiple areas of interest, each fundraising organisation needs to specify those areas of interest, according to its own business needs. In other words, you need to classify your supporters with multiple profiles. An easy way to do this is to ask your supporters questions, and then tie the answers to profiles.

You can create surveys using direct mail or online, and tag the responses automatically to the supporter’s profile and area of interest. For those of you who prefer the power of direct mail over online, using barcodes is a quick and effective way of gathering information from your supporters. A simple form querying interests and asking supporters to tick a box enables you to capture some very important information which can be harnessed in future appeals without much administrative overhead.

Online delivers automated tagging

Another excellent way to capture supporter information and interests is to encourage them to interact through e-newsletters and e-updates that link through to your website. Various online communications are stock-standard for many nonprofits, but with a small twist these can become far more useful.

For example, your supporter may be attracted to a picture, as opposed to text within an e-mail. Advanced e-mail tools will count click-throughs, as well as the web links behind pictures and areas that have attracted the supporter’s interest and encouraged them to click on the link.

The true power of this comes when this information is added to your donor database, giving an automatic capture of the supporter’s area of interest – that is, it is automatically profiling them. Now you have high quality information of each supporter’s specific interest. Based on this knowledge, you can tailor the next communication piece specifically for that supporter’s area of interest.

A great example of this would be at an animal welfare organisation, where an e-mail to supporters asking them to support an endangered animal has embedded links – with all resulting clicks being registered back in the donor database. Imagine you are highlighting a zoo hospital fund, a medical research centre project and a mating program of endangered species.

Previously, you may not have known which specific area interests any given supporter, but with the power of the automated tracking of clicks and links to your website and database, you are building depth of knowledge of your supporters’ interests. That enables you to use targeted messages in future, knowing they are definitely interested in that particular area as they have self identified it within your donor database.

Don’t stop the automation there

One other new area affecting knowledge of your supporter is the power of SMS communication. An SMS sent as a reminder to your supporters to renew a membership or pledge that may have expired leads to greater efficiency within your organisation. These can be set up to be issued automatically.

Months of follow-up work is avoided with this simple SMS, sent from the database and logged as a communication record. Even the reply from the supporter can be logged against their database record for further knowledge gathering.

Getting to know your supporters by capturing their subtle preferences, and using the tools now available to automate this process, is bringing great success, efficiencies, and financial benefits to many organisations.