The Responsive Weekly Recap: The 3 I’s of Donor Signals

The Responsive Weekly is not a skim-and-delete newsletter. It’s a space where responsive nonprofit leaders can debate, discuss and brainstorm the most pressing topics. Each week, we curate a list of conversations, reports, podcasts, and more to deliver directly to your inbox.

Then, we spend 30 minutes meeting together over Zoom to discuss each topic, present new ideas, and provide success strategies for our community of responsive fundraisers. (If you’re not already attending, subscribe here!)

This week, Noah Barnett and I discussed the most important donor signals to pay attention to, what listening to donors really means, and how to get started.

The 3 I’s of Donor Signals

The three kinds of donor signals we discussed are:

  • Involvement
  • Interest
  • Intent

When you’re paying attention to those signals, you’re well on your way to crafting targeted donor personas and responsive donor journeys.


How is the donor engaging with you? Are they volunteers, first-time donors, or recurring givers? Have they attended an event? Knowing how donors are involved can help you demonstrate that they’re a valued part of your community.


What does the donor engage with? Just like everyone has their favorite section of the newspaper (Arts and Culture for me, please), your supporters have their favorite “section” of your organization’s work. Some donors may be especially excited about your after school programs, while others care more about your adult literacy efforts. Figuring out what is most interesting to donors helps you give them the most relevant information, the kind they want to receive and will keep engaging with.


Why does the donor engage? Do they have first-hand experience with your organization or cause? Are they motivated by making a difference, solving a certain problem, being part of a community, or something else? (Check out a surprise guest appearance from The Responsive Weekly regular, Miranda, to introduce us to The Seven Faces of Philanthropy) When you ask the question, “Why did you give?” you’re starting an important conversation with your donors.

Getting Started With Listening

We chatted about in-line and dedicated surveying as a great place to start. I (Megan) like asking donors why they give during the online giving checkout experience or immediately after. Noah recommended conducting quarterly surveys to a rotating selection of donors to ask about their giving and support. A bonus of Noah’s strategy? You can start using donors’ language in your marketing and fundraising, to speak even more directly to them. Of course, there are also a lot of tech options to help with listening, including tracking digital engagement like website and email behavior.

We Also Talked About:

  • Lapsed donors
  • Donor segmentation

Join Us Next Week!

You’re invited, every week at 12 PM EST to join The Responsive Weekly for 30 action-packed minutes of collaboration and conversation. Hope to see you there!

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