Jeremy Bartley

Understanding your donor - Part 2: Who are they really

In part one of this series of understanding your nonprofit’s donor, we discussed the donor’s motive for giving (click for article). If you really want to understand the motives of anyone, you have to get to know them. It is easy to misinterpret someone off one single action or a bad first impression. What you're probably wondering is, “How do I get to know someone if I don't see them on a regular basis?” The reality is you can’t know each of your donors by name, but you can develop a strong understanding of who they are. This knowledge is key when it comes to marketing and creating content for your organization. The goal is to know your donor well enough to communicate your message effectively.

So where do you begin to gain insight into who your donor is? There are many different tactics to find information, but all of them require time and research. If you want to understand your donor, it will take work and it is not always a quick process. Below I have listed different approaches that you can use to learn about your donor.

Real conversation

This tactic is probably the most obvious thing to do, but can add the quickest results. It is critical to come to this type of meeting prepared with questions and the agenda you are looking to achieve. Let your donor know beforehand what you hope to discuss, so that they can come prepared as well. Keep in mind it's not an interrogation; you will receive better results with a relaxed conversation.

Focus Groups

This tool is something marketing agencies use on a regular basis to get a baseline of what a market wants. Use this group setting to get feedback on upcoming campaigns or more insight into how your target market thinks. It's important when creating the questions for the event not to ask leading questions. You want their opinion to be uninfluenced by yours.

Social media comments

People tend to be more blunt in conversation on social networks. This can be great to gain real insight into what people think about certain topics. The best way to research comments is to search out a topic and read what your donors comment about that topic. You can also start with people that follow your non-profit and look into what types of content they engage with.

Follow conversation threads

Hashtags have become a powerful tool when it comes to keeping continuity in a conversation. This method can become a quick rabbit hole to dive into when learning about donors. The goal is to see what's actually relevant and what a collective group may have to say about a subject. Reddit can have the same effect when it comes to conversation threads.

Q&A sites

What better way to understand your donor than reading the exact question they want to know. Sites like Quora allow users to ask questions they want to know about certain topics. This creates an opportunity see what donors may want to know and engage in the conversation to learn.

Groups and online forums

Online groups can provide the same type of feedback as a focus group. They are usually more honest than focus groups, but to engage in the group you will have to add value. Most groups are open but have strict guidelines and frown on people trying to just take from the group. These groups are another place just to follow people's conversation and gain more insight into what people think.

Engage in the content

Once you have figured out what content your donors will engage with, begin to engage the content yourself. Watch the videos, listen to podcasts and read blog articles; become part of the community. The more you can get into the mindset of your donor the better you will communicate with them.

In summary, this is not an overnight process and it takes being intentional with your research. I would recommend that you create a list of things you want to understand before starting. Also, create a system for keeping track of the information that you find. Just remember people want to be understood and listened to, all you have to do is ask.