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Donor Identity: Instead of Making Assumptions, Get to Know Your Donors

By October 4, 2018October 29th, 2018Donor Outreach

Many nonprofits categorize donors based on how much money they give. But what does that dollar amount really tell you?

When someone gives a sizable donation, you tend to think – that’s a great gift. However, unless you’ve done your research, you actually do not know if the donation is considerable for that particular person. If you don’t know the individual’s total giving history and what relationship they have with your nonprofit, you could be underestimating the donor’s giving potential. Further, it can become a slippery slope when nonprofits analyze the donor based solely on financial transactions.

Similarly, when a donor expresses interest in actively participating in a nonprofit, they tend to be assigned roles based on their occupation. For example, the accountant should be the treasurer. Unfortunately, the accountant may have no interest in being the treasurer. Deep down, the accountant is a passionate chef who wants to help prepare weekly lunches or stock the food pantry. They have the workable skills to manage your nonprofit’s financials, but that is completely unrelated to why they’re eager to work with your nonprofit.

In both cases, your nonprofit did not take the time to learn the important, individual characteristics of your donor.

As a result, opportunities are lost. Donors could be giving more, in a myriad of ways. They could be contributing passion and interpersonal skills. They could become a more active ambassador. They could increase their monetary contributions. By getting to know donors in a personal way, your nonprofit not only learns more about giving potential but also creates it!

To make this a win-win for both the nonprofit and the donor, you need to understand and prioritize donor identity.

What Is Donor Identity?

Donor identity is a profile of a donor that goes far deeper than gifts and occupation. Donor identity is based on factors such as:

  • What drew the donor to your nonprofit
  • Why the donor gives to your nonprofit
  • How they prefer to be involved in your nonprofit
  • Skills, talents and interests that could benefit your nonprofit

Many donors, especially those who are introverted, are not provided the space to flourish. They often become disengaged and disenfranchised. Your nonprofit becomes just another check box; your fundraisers become just another solicitor.

When you take the time to get to know your donors and understand their personal mission, you enable and empower them. You design a better, more seamless donor experience. Relationship development reigns supreme in the nonprofit world. And when relationships come to fruition, it allows for stronger, more impactful, longer lasting connections.

How to Capture Information to Create Meaningful Donor Identities


The best way to create a donor identity that captures who they really are is to create time to have a personal conversation with them. Ask questions. Generate feedback about different aspects of your nonprofit; discuss events, volunteer involvement, the donation process, the website and the Facebook page.

In addition to live conversations, electronic surveys are also a valuable assessment tool. Focus on scaling questions. A few examples could include: how committed are you to our nonprofit; how passionate are you about our mission; how would you rank your personal relationship with representatives at the organization? Further, these surveys can provide anonymity, which lends itself to open dialogue and honest feedback.

What happens with all of this donor information? How does your nonprofit track these details about your donor?

Recording and storage of this information is critical. Such organization is possible through a donor management system. Databases provide nonprofits the space to enter labels and notes from these communications into the donor record; what’s more – it can all be analyzed and reported on. This cohesive, seamless collection of donor data gives nonprofits the chance to personalize donor interactions and can serve as a springboard for growth.

Eleo Donor Management Software is designed to help you get to know your donors better, improve fundraising and support your mission. Please contact us to schedule a free demo.