Tune Into Donor Signals

Do you feel like your donors are a mystery? Are you unsure about what motivates them and unclear on how to inspire them? Do you find yourself guessing about what signals they are giving you and throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks?

There’s good news!

Through donor signals, your donors are already telling you what they care about, how they want to engage with you, and what inspires them most. You just have to listen to the signals your donors are already giving you. 

Bryan Funk and Megan Donahue dug into the idea of donor signals on this episode of The Responsive Weekly. Watch the full recording of their conversation or read on to learn more!  

The Power of Listening to Donor Signals

When you think about what is important to your donors, are you making an educated case or is your answer based on data? With so many competing priorities, it’s hard to find time to dig into any data, but the problem is that ultimately you are still guessing.

Listening to the signals your donors are giving you is key to effective communication. Your donors are giving you signals all the time about what interests them, how they want to engage with your organization, and more. Inspiring generosity in your donors doesn’t require re-inventing the wheel. You just need to listen to what your donors are already saying to you. 

What are Donor Signals?

At a high level, donor signals are any piece of information your donors give you either intentionally or unintentionally about what they care about. In fact, donor signals can tell you how to communicate with your donors in a way that is contextual and relevant to their passion points with your organization. 

Most organizations understand how to listen to donor signals when it comes to major gift donors. It’s common to engage with those donors in a personal manner, such as going out for coffee or a meal. You learn about their personal lives and that then informs how you engage with that donor in the future. 

While this major donor process works well, the challenge comes in when you need to scale it. All of your donors are giving you signals, and you want to listen to all of them. In order to do this, you should first understand the three kinds of signals your donors may give you. 

3 Kinds Of Donor Signals

Each signal type is a way you can listen to your donors at scale. 

Donor Signal #1: Behavior You Observe

Image showing different donor signals in Virtuous including email tracking and website visits.

How are your supporters interacting with you online? The web pages they visit, the emails they click on, and whether or not they complete an online donation are all signals about what they care most about, and how they want to engage with you. 

In order to listen to these digital signals, you need software that can help track and record them. Most fundraising software has some version of the tools that you need, but at the very least you need a way to track donor behavior on your website, email tracking data, and a responsive nonprofit CRM. With the right tools you can transform the signals from your donor’s digital behavior into actionable information. 

Not only do these tools help you listen to the donor signals, they should also provide you with a way to implement the insights you get from those signals. 

Some action items to consider are :

  • Automatically tagging donors based on the CTA or topic they engage with on your website or via links in your emails, and then automating follow-up
  • Using those tags to segment communications, building donor journeys, or creating specific campaigns. 
  • Testing landing pages and email messages to get more precise information about what will perform best with your unique audience. 

Observing your donors’ digital behavior turns your digital platforms into a vehicle to learn more about your supporters. 

Donor Signal #2: Feedback

Image showing the different communication options in Virtuous including email and letters

Communication is a two-way street. Asking your supporters for feedback is a great way to get more information about what matters to them. While you can’t have coffee one-on-one with every donor, you can still directly solicit feedback from your donors in more scalable ways. Regularly inviting your supporters to talk to you gives you more opportunities to be responsive.

Some ways to ask for feedback from donors are: 

  • A simple survey designed to collect demographic information and communication preferences
  • A donor satisfaction survey that includes questions about how the donor feels about your nonprofit’s mission and how connected they feel to your organization 
  • Interviews (either one-on-one or in small groups) to open conversation with donors and discover what brought them to your organization and why they continue to donate 

Once you’ve collected this data, you can start to look for patterns to inform your strategy. Segment your donors based on some of the feedback they provide you. For example, you can send out a survey asking people if they prefer phone calls, texts, or email. Segment your next campaign based on communication type and show your donors that you are listening to them. 

Whether it is requesting feedback about a specific communication or simply listening to the words your donors use in surveys or conversations, the way your supporters talk about your nonprofit’s mission should be the way you talk to them when you are making an ask. These feedback signals can transform the way you communicate with your donors. 

Donor Signal #3: Data Append

image showing some of the donor signals a nonprofit could get from a data append such as ideal ask amounts based on wealth data

There is a lot of information out there. Social media profiles, real estate data, corporate filings, public giving data, and other online data sources can all combine to give you rich signals about each person in your database. 

The information that you observe directly from donors, and the things they tell you, should always be trusted over third-party sources. That said, the signals from data appends to your CRM can help create a fuller picture. 

Wealth data helps you understand the financial capacity of your donors. Integrating your CRM with a vendor like DonorSearch can give you signals about a donor’s capacity to give based on the donor’s charitable giving activity, real estate holdings, political giving, business affiliations, stock ownership, and more. Social media scraping pulls public data from social media platforms into your CRM. This social data can be used to fill out donor profiles, identify influencers in your database, and learn more about your supporters’ interests and preferences. 

Stop Guessing, Start Listening

Collecting all these signals creates a more comprehensive picture of your donors, and gives you more data to work with. With more information, you have more opportunities to personalize engagement, making your fundraising more and more relevant and effective.

Does your nonprofit technology give you the visibility into donor signals that you need? Virtuous is designed to help nonprofits respond to their supporters’ signals and leverage their data to drive donor connections and grow mission-critical funding.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

See the Virtuous platform in action.  Schedule a call with our team for personalized answers and expert advice on transforming your nonprofit with donor management software.

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

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