Posted by & filed under Congress, Diversity, Marketing/Communications, Speakers, Stewardship/Donor Relations.

Judith Nichols, Ph.D., CFRE

Author, Consultant, New Directions in Philanthropy

Looking for new donors? Trying to hold on to the donors you have? Understanding who’s in your donor pool – or who should be – is the first step to growing a larger, more loyal group of supporters. 

Fundraisers are beginning to recognize the need to market differently to audiences with different backgrounds using demographics and psychographics to uncover similarities and differences among potential donors:

–  Demographics: Demographics are sets of characteristics about people that relate to their behavior as consumers. Age, sex, race, marital status, education and income are used most frequently.

–  Psychographics: These are measures of attitudes, values or lifestyles. They are the entire constellation of a person’s attitudes, beliefs, opinions, hopes, fears, prejudices, needs, desires and aspirations that, taken together, govern how he/she behaves. This, in turn, finds holistic expression in a lifestyle.

Building a strategy based on demographic and psychographic markers requires that a savvy fundraiser begin by answering the question “Who is my organization’s ‘default ‘ donor – demographically and psychographically?” You can collect this information based on observations and research. Most importantly, it must be recorded in a format that allows you to find groups of individuals with similar characteristics. Using the example of an animal charity, the answer to our question “Who is my organization’s ‘default ‘ donor” might be: “A widowed white woman, aged 75-80, living on social security who makes two gifts of $15 yearly to us because she has 3 cats she loves deeply and we do animal rescue.”

Once a word picture of your ‘default” donor emerges from your research, the next question becomes “Who would be the ideal ‘new’ donor for us?” Often, you can make the case for multiple audiences but you should limit yourself to planning no more than three targeted campaigns for a first year. For our sample charity, one group that emerges from brainstorming  “Who would be the ideal ‘new’ donor for us?” might be :” A single professional women, age 45 – 60, capable of making a committed monthly gift of $25 or greater who has no pets herself but is concerned about animal overpopulation”.

Even as you continue to send the appeals that have worked well for your ‘default’ donor to your traditional audience, you will need to develop different materials for ‘new’ donors with the demographics and psychographics you have selected. These campaigns must help the prospect see him- or her-self in the communications sent. You will need to use language that feels inclusive to the potential donor. More work? Definitely, but the results are worth the effort.


A highly respected researcher, trainer and presenter, Dr. Judith Nichols specializes in helping nonprofits understand the implications of our changing demographics and psychographics on fundraising and marketing. Judith is the author of  “Pinpointing Affluence in the 21st Century” and eight other books. She will be presenting the session “Diversifying the Canadian Donor Base” at Congress 2013 in Toronto.

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