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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Matthew

Research Nonprofit Donors or Risk Tanking Your Fundraising Campaign

For nearly a decade, I worked for nonprofits because I deeply believe in the positive impact of nonprofit organizations on communities and the world. They are the epitome of what it means to be a purpose-driven brand focused on human-to-human marketing. And just like any other business, nonprofits must be clear about who they are serving and how best to reach them.

Here is a story about how not knowing your target audience can go wrong when you are a nonprofit organization trying to fundraise to support your mission.

Let us say you are running an annual appeal. You have thought everything through, from having a clean mailing list to selecting the most compelling content and creative to raise fundraising dollars. The only thing missing is data beyond gender detailing the demographics of each of your supporters, and you think, ‘this is fine, it won’t be that bad.’

Under immense pressure to fundraise now, you don’t do any further research on the donors and supporters you have on your list. Instead, you mail the annual appeal to thousands with your fingers crossed.

Then you learn that you’ve spent way more money on the annual appeal mailing than you’ve fundraised from it, as responses to the mailing come back to the office with hand-written notes instead of checks or money.

On the ask and ask matrix, you learn that most of the donors and supporters mailed to were older adults who found the font on the annual appeal too small. They did not donate because they struggled to read the font!

Not only is this a true story, but a great case for investing in target audience research. Not only would research have been a great idea to increase fundraising dollars, but the research would’ve been able to drive better marketing efforts for the development department in the future.

A nonprofit could also conduct more than target audience research, but quantitative and qualitative research to learn from supporters how to better support them.

Qualitative research asks respondents open-ended questions that provide insight into problems or help develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research. Qualitative research is also used to uncover trends in thoughts and opinions and dive deep into problems.

Conversely, quantitative research provides you with numerical data and is used to quantify attitudes, behaviors, opinions, and other variables from your audience. It’s great for collecting objective information, usually through a survey, as few variables impact this type of data since it derives from close-ended questions.

Therefore, it is best to pair quantitative research with qualitative research. What you learn from both should help you improve your nonprofit’s marketing and communications efforts based on the response you receive from your supporters. There’s always room for improvement, so use research to create or improve your nonprofit’s services.

Also, people are rarely unwilling to say how you can help them better support your nonprofit organization’s mission and vision if they truly want to help. So, allow your supporters to pleasantly surprise you. Let them provide you will critical insights to move your mission forward while improving your relationship with them.

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