Customize your donor experience with these 4 expert strategies

As an organizational leader, you know that your nonprofit would be nothing without the support of your donors. While giving is at the core of any donor relationship, nonprofits have to make sure that they aren’t just asking for their donors’ money — they also have to cultivate a donor experience.

Defining the Donor Experience

A donor experience is designed to show supporters that they are more than just wallets, they are crucial supporters in your nonprofit’s mission.

Ultimately, organizations can show donors their value by personalizing their interactions with supporters. Not only will this show that you appreciate your donors as people but also make them sympathize with your cause on an individual level. What’s more, donors who feel appreciated are more likely to give bigger or more frequent gifts, advocate publicly for your nonprofit, and support in other ways like attending events or volunteering.

While the idea of customizing your outreach for each donor might seem daunting, the process can be simplified using nonprofit technology that you likely already have in your arsenal. We’ll look at four areas of your nonprofit fundraising and the tips you can use to personalize the donor experience:

  1. Online Donations: Creating separate donation forms
  2. Nonprofit CRM: Segmenting donors
  3. Matchings Gifts: Personalizing your promotion
  4. Fundraising Solicitations: Appealing to your donors’ interests

Along the way, we’ll dive deeper into why these tips are effective and how they can strengthen your fundraising and donor stewardship strategies. Let’s get started!

create separate donation forms

1. Online Donations: Create Separate Donation Forms

At any given time, your organization is likely running multiple campaigns for various projects and accepting general donations on a rolling basis. If you’re collecting all your donations on the same form, you’re missing out on a wealth of information about your supporters.

By creating a unique donation or event registration form for every campaign or fundraiser, you can see the areas of your nonprofit that donors are most interested in.

For example, let’s say your organization’s mission is to support education in public schools. You may have a campaign dedicated to providing school supplies to children of low-income families and a fundraiser to raise money for after-school programs for children with learning disabilities.

Susan, who grew up with dyslexia, might have more interest in contributing to your after-school program project because she has a connection to the cause. Having a separate donation page allows her to have some control over how her money is being used and shows your nonprofit what aspects of your mission Susan is most passionate about. This information can be used to tailor your fundraising letters or provide her with opportunities that best align with her interests (more on this later).

What’s more, your donors will know where their money is going, allowing you to be more transparent about how their contribution was used. Nonprofits are able to build better relationships with donors that are centered around trust by ensuring their donors’ support goes to the causes they care for most.

Of course, your organization can also keep a general donation form for those who don’t have a particular cause they want to support. Even a general gift can reveal information about the donor in question. For instance, a donor that gives to your general donation form could fall into one of the following categories:

  • The donor may not know enough about your organization to determine which project they want to support.
  • The donor is fine with their gift going to any and all the projects your organization operates.
  • The donor isn’t aware that they can give to a specific campaign or project.

Other factors like the donor’s status (first-time contributor or regular donor) can help you narrow down which category you think the donor falls into. The information can help you determine what your next steps should be to personalize your donor outreach.

Pro Tip

Look into your organization’s existing fundraising software to see if it supports multiple donation forms. If not, you can always add a field to your donation form that lets donors choose the campaign they wish to contribute to.

2. Nonprofit CRM — Segment Donors

As we mentioned in the last section, customizing your donor experience is about providing donors with information that speaks to their interests and passions. But it wouldn’t be practical for your organization to send out completely individualized communications.

Think about it: Your organization could spend weeks or even months sending out a personalized email to every donor in your database. A more convenient way to send donors valuable information is by segmenting your donors into different groups within your nonprofit CRM or donor database.

Most donor database software allows you to divide your donors based on different categories, such as:

  • Geographical location
  • Age group
  • Average donation size
  • Donor status (first-time donor, major gift donor, volunteer, etc.)
  • Interests, hobbies, and campaigns

The great thing about segmenting your donors is that each individual can fall into multiple categories depending on their demographics. These lists can then be transferred to your communication tools, allowing you to send out custom emails to specific segments of your donor base.

The advantages of segmenting your donors are practically endless, but one of the best examples of how organizations can use segmented lists is with fundraising events.

If your organization is holding a gala in New York City, it wouldn’t make sense to send out information to all of your donors. In contrast, mid to major donors that live in the New England area may find this information more valuable.  

When donors are sent information customized to fit their needs, they’re more likely to read your emails or letters and continue to support your cause. This strategy also shows donors that you care about sharing with them only the content that will interest them, rather than jumping at every opportunity to ask for money.  

Pro Tip

Before you segment your donors, make sure that your data is clean and up-to-date. It won’t help to have a curated list of categories if your donors’ contact information is incorrect.

personalize your promotion

3. Matching Gifts — Personalize Your Promotion

Every nonprofit can attest to the power of employee matching gift programs. Corporate philanthropy programs like these allow organizations to double (if not triple) the number of donations they receive without asking donors to dip back into their wallets.

Requesting a matching gift is something that donors can easily complete through their employer’s philanthropy department, but it’s a step that donors rarely take. The lack of matching gift participation can be attributed to one of 2 causes:

  • Donors aren’t aware that their company has a matching gift program.
  • Donors know about the matching gift program but aren’t familiar with the submission process or whether their gift is eligible.

By personalizing your matching gift outreach, your organization has a better chance of receiving a matched gift, because donors are more informed about their specific program.

Imagine that you wanted to promote matching gifts after donors fill out your donation form. Your nonprofit could send them a thank you letter that asks them to consider learning about their company’s matching program and submitting a request.

Wouldn’t it be more effective to provide specific information on the matching gift program that applies to each donor? Matching gift databases (like 360MatchPro) allow organizations to do just that and much more. Think of these comprehensive matching gift databases like a CRM for matched giving; these tools can track donations through each stage in the process and send custom emails based on your donors’ employer.

With a matching gift database tool, you’ll be able to screen the emails donors use to make donations. For instance, if a donor uses their Home Depot employee email address to donate, the system will send them information about Home Depot’s matching gift program, including:

  • The matching gift ratio
  • Minimum and maximum donation amounts
  • Request guidelines
  • A list of organization types the company accepts

With all this information in one place, you can make the donor’s job of sending in a request much easier.

Pro Tip

Look for a matching gift tool that allows you to manage all your matching gifts easily so that you can customize your matching gift promotion.


4. Fundraising Solicitations — Appeal to Your Donors’ Interests

When it comes to soliciting donations, there is no better way to inspire your donors to give than helping them empathize with the people and communities you serve. That’s why it’s crucial that your communications speak to your donors’ interests and passions.

Of course, having a clean donor database and segmented list is beneficial for this step, but customizing your solicitations doesn’t have to be complicated. It starts with knowing your donors and using all the tips we mentioned above to get a well-rounded picture of your supporters.

Let’s go back to our example with Susan from the first section. Now that you know she’s contributed to your after-school program campaign, you have a better idea of what projects she’s interested in.

Therefore, if your organization wanted to raise money for a reading program that pairs young kids with older mentors to help foster an interest in reading, you might mention in your solicitation letter to Susan that your program has a history of developing confidence in young children who struggle with reading.

Since you know Susan is passionate about after-school programs and helping children with learning disabilities, connecting your new campaign with what she’s already passionate about will encourage her to support your new goal.

Personalizing your solicitations is especially important when you’re asking for donations from a major donor. The donation amount you would ask for is significantly larger, so convincing the donor that this new campaign aligns with their values is going to persuade them to give more than a generic fundraising letter would.

For more tips on how to ask for donations, read MobileCause’s complete guide on the topic.


Pro Tip

Use the information you have in your donor profiles and from your donors’ giving habits to make your solicitations appeal to what your donors care about most.

From online donation forms and your nonprofit’s CRM to matching gifts and fundraising solicitations, there are plenty of ways you can customize your donor experience. Giving your donors more personalized content not only helps you raise more money but can also help you develop relationships with your donors by focusing on the causes that matter most to them.


Dan Quirk is the Marketing Manager at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Dan’s marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.