Enrich Core Donor Files with Data Flags: Not for Profit Transformation Series

This is the second article in our eight-part series dedicated to helping NFPs develop data-driven marketing and advertising strategies to drive sustained donation growth.

December 17, 2021

Learn how initiative-based data can help power personalization, increase advertising ROAS, and grow donation volume.

In our previous article, Improve Performance with Personalization, we made a case for declining performance in DM and EM being driven by lack of personalization. To be more specific, we believe that lack of “cause-centric” flags in your first-party core donor files—and the inability to segment DM, EM or digital files by what donors care most about—is holding back performance. 

In this article, we will provide tangible ideas for adding what we call implicit or explicit flags to your DM and EM lists, and also to your digital efforts. These flags point to what each unique donor cares about most when it comes to your NFP’s mission, and will allow you to personalize DM, EM and digital if you choose to do so.

What are examples of “initiative” flags that can be appended to each donor record to power personalization?

Organizations like UNICEF USA and Partners in Health (PIH), both current DELVE NFP clients, support a wide range of causes. While each of these NFPs have one overarching mission, they also pursue a number of area- and country-specific “initiatives” as part of their broader mandate. The existence of these initiatives is an opportunity for UNICEF USA or PIH to map those initiatives to each single donor, focused on what that donor is most passionate about (e.g. child hunger, senior hunger, african american hunger, rural hunger etc.). 

As an example, for UNICEF USA, an initiative can represent any of the areas where UNICEF offers help, such as Ebola, Equity for Girls, or emergency relief related to hurricanes: 

When an NFP is able to group their donors into such initiative-specific buckets, that NFP is empowered to tell related, emotionally compelling stories through their DM, EM and digital channels.

DELVE’s own primary research supports this insight around NFPs “capturing hearts and minds” of donors. For example, Millennial donors’ psychographic attitudes suggest that they want to change the world they live in. Here’s a sample verbatim from one of the donors that DELVE interviewed in 2021: 

“[Giving] helps to deal with guilt over being a participant in an unjust world that harms a lot of people.” (male donor, age 25-29)

To power storytelling that’s unique to “child hunger” versus “senior hunger,” NFPs need to ensure that they collect this information from their first-party touchpoints such as donation landing pages, website, and/or social media channels—and ensure that its data schema is designed to store this information at the contact level. Tagging is another technique to associate attributes to contacts. 

This may seem obvious, but based on our work with NFPs here at DELVE, many NFPs either aren’t able, or don’t know how to append such “what-donors-care-most-about-flags” to the lists that power their email, direct mail or digital marketing and advertising programs.

What are “implicit” vs. “explicit” flags that an NFP can collect about each donor as part of a first-party data strategy?

Examples of implicit flags:

Examples of explicit flags:

Your NFP’s ability to properly assign these “flags” to a donor record hinges on whether you’re collecting anonymous or PII data about your donors.

Modern Databases Are The Foundation of a First-Party Data Strategy That Enables Personalization

Many nonprofit organizations set up their donor databases years (or even decades) ago when the primary goal was to collect basic name, address, email, donation frequency, and payment information to support periodic giving. In recent years, some nonprofit organizations migrated those flat file donor lists into modern CRM systems and marketing data lakes and then augmented the contact records with second-party data for deeper insights and segmentation. 

The value of migrating data into a central repository, and then enriching that first-party data with implicit or explicit “cause-centric” flags, is to enable more precise alignment of messaging, creative, and delivery channels to donor preferences. 

Such a central data repository, or a data warehouse, are often called “data lakes” or “CDPs.” Data lakes and CDPs allow for easy data segmentation, are purpose-built for marketing and advertising use cases, and they power personalization. How? CDPs and data lakes allow marketers to append those interest signals, aka implicit or explicit flags, to first-party donor records. 

Lack of IT Support is a Key Roadblock to Gathering Implicit or Explicit Flags

According to the 2019 Salesforce.org research report “The Fundamentals of Marketing and Engagement at Nonprofits,” lack of IT support (including timely access to data and technology tools) often blocks the modernization of nonprofit marketing efforts. Because data can be siloed across the organization and some executives may fear efforts to collect and store personally identifiable information, nonprofit marketers face an uphill battle to access the data insights they need. 

NFP marketers should consider developing a first-party data strategy, define your top use cases that apply to DM, EM and digital, consider the role of personalization, and then decide a) if IT can support you on this journey, or b) if you need to take matters into your own hands and partner with an outside vendor who can build for you a data lake or a CDP that can enable collection of implicit data that informs what each donor cares about most.

In Summary

Initiative flags can power personalization in direct mail, email or digital channels. For example, initiative flags for the Red Cross might be “disaster relief” or “meals for victims.” The goal for an organization like the Red Cross should be to deepen its psychographic data on each donor or prospective donor to help improve segmentation. After all, it’s the psychological motivators such as values, attitudes, and interests that make emotional connections in ad creative and communications.

In our next article, Use Segmentation to Target Donor Interests, we will describe how core data files, enriched with data flags that point to what each donor cares about most, can be utilized in your marketing and advertising programs to power personalization, and thus increase donation volumes by as much as 50%. We also encourage you to read our NFP Manifesto as well as our latest research on reaching Millennial Donors.

Ready to get started? Contact us today at begin@delvedeeper.com.


Reaching Millennial Donors

Want to gain a deeper understanding of how and why Millennial donors 25-35 years of age give to social causes? Start with our 2021 Research Report, created in partnership with Aspen Finn.