Use Segmentation to Target Donor Interests: Not for Profit Transformation Series

This is the third 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 to export your segmented audiences to ad platforms—and power personalized advertising.

The first article in this series, Improve Performance with Personalization, described how your NFP can “flip the script” with traditional channels (direct mail, email) and personalize messaging to resonate better with your core audiences. Now, let’s talk about integration among direct mail, email and digital—in other words, how to deploy a personalization-driven omnichannel strategy.

What do we mean by a “personalization-driven omnichannel strategy?” Here’s an example: If a specific donor to the Red Cross is most interested in “meals for victims,” then this donor optimally would receive content or a call to donate that is about “meals for victims” in direct mail, email, social, display, cTV, digital radio or search campaigns from the Red Cross. 

In this article, we will provide examples of how an NFP can use data, with initiative flags, to power its digital advertising.

Common Challenge: Segmenting Data in Direct Mail

We recognize that direct mail is expensive to produce and to send out. We also recognize that this is why many NFPs send the same piece of direct mail to all of their donors: Creating several versions of the same direct mail piece is expensive, requires time, and has to be based on research and a first-party data strategy that many NFPs lack.

However, we believe that through small “test and learn” programs, NFP direct mail programs can evolve to be personalized. DELVE has extensive experience owning the data and file management side of direct mail programs, and we know how to slowly mature a NFP’s direct mail program to be more personalized and thus more effective.

Common Challenge: Segmenting Data in Email

As mentioned in earlier in this series, segmentation and personalization in email is also challenging. Unlike direct mail, email is relatively cheap. We recognize that sometimes it’s easier and faster to send the same email to all of your donors versus creating a test matrix to find out which “calls to donation” resonate with which donors.

However, we see one recurring theme that often explains why direct mail and email aren’t segmented and personalized, and why the ability of direct mail and email to drive donations declines over time.

Common Challenge: Lack of Know-How on Your (or Your Agency’s) Team

Google’s looming third-party cookie deprecation, Apple’s iOS privacy updates, and disruption to the advertising industry has left many internal NFP marketing teams, and the advertising agencies that serve NFPs, searching for strategies to recommend. Some internal and agency teams have strong first-party data know-how and analytics capabilities—but most don’t. Many have relied upon third-party data collection and cookie tracking as a shortcut proxy instead of enabling their clients to intimately understand their customers. 

As a result, many nonprofits—especially those working with smaller agencies or teams, and constrained budgets—may not receive the guidance they need to navigate this seismic shift in how digital marketing is conducted in the age of heightened consumer privacy.

Now, let’s look at examples of how an NFP can deploy segmentation in digital channels by flags that point to specific initiatives.

Activating Segmented Data in Digital: Exporting Anonymous and PII Audiences to Any Digital Media Buying Platform

Nonprofit marketers should pursue a dual approach of exporting both anonymous and identifiable audiences to digital ad platforms for segmentation and message testing. 

Anonymous Data

Anonymous data describes data that cannot be tied to an email address, name, or another identifier that can be tied to a specific donor.

Anonymous audiences can be segmented by implicit interest attributes (based on factors such as website pages browsed) as this data is stored in analytics platforms such as Google Analytics 360, or by explicit attributes such as the “initiative” dropdown that a donor selected when starting to donate to your NFP (but failed to complete the donation). 

You can use tools such as GA360 to track browsing behavior to identify page and content consumption (e.g. download) patterns and then add these interest segments into GA360 audiences. For nonprofits with strong content marketing capabilities (including robust blogs and content resources on their website), it’s a chance to uncover a lot of useful insights about donor interest.

Next, consider activating these “interest audiences” across paid media platforms such as: 

Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

PII data describes data that can be tied to an email address, name, donor ID in your CRM system, or another unique donor identifier.

As with anonymous data, you want to segment your media campaigns by area of interest to enable more precise message personalization. As a result, nonprofit marketers should:

Personalized Advertising

Only after creating interest or cause-related dimensions are you ready to start buying media. But before doing so, you will need to tailor messaging and creative executions to align with the interests of your audience segment(s) for relevance and conversion. Do not create a “one size fits all” set of ad creative and deliver it across uniquely different segments and expect your return on ad spend (ROAS) to improve. Segmentation is only the second step in the process (after data enrichment).

Example: Programmatic Advertising

Each digital media channel has a different approach to enable personalized media buying. Here’s an example in programmatic advertising using Google Display & Video 360 as the Demand Side Platform (or DSP):

If you’re interested in learning more, the DELVE team can explain how to launch such a personalized program across all digital channels, including social, search, cTV, digital ratio, DOOH, and others.

In Summary

Earlier in this series, we made a case for personalization in marketing and advertising and how personalization can increase donation volume by up to 50%. We also explained how a strong first-party data strategy that spans across direct mail, email and all your digital channels, is at the heart of enabling personalization and segmentation. 

We recognize that ad creative production, especially production of banners or video assets for programmatic display, can be expensive. However, based on our experience with UNICEF USA and Partners in Health, we know there’s a way to launch personalized and dynamic ad creative at scale, with minimum investments in technology. We’ll delve deeper in our next article, Personalize Your NFP Ad Creative. 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


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.