Tips for Collecting and Using Donor Data

As any fundraiser knows, finding and keeping donors is a crucial component of a nonprofit organization’s ability to fulfill its mission. Donor stewardship is a time-consuming, but essential process to keep your organization’s biggest supporters connected and engaged with your mission. Good stewardship can help one-time donors and event attendees become long-term supporters of your cause. The rewards for keeping your donors closely engaged with your mission can be huge – according to NPOInfo’s charitable giving statistics, donors are 60% more likely to become recurring donors after their second gift. 

Luckily for today’s fundraising professionals, there are tons of helpful technology tools available to help make the donor stewardship process easier. Good stewardship requires strategically nurturing quality donor relationships and setting up effective communication channels. Your organization can use donor data to inform your stewardship strategy by helping you understand who your donors are, the best ways to reach them, and what their capacity is to give.

Let’s run through the things you need to know when collecting and using donor data that will inform your donor stewardship plan. In this article, we’ll discuss:

What donor data should you collect?

The first donation is the beginning of your donor stewardship journey, so it’s important to take advantage of the moment! Understanding more about who your donor is can help you understand if they are likely to give again. Specifically, plan to prioritize the collection of:

Demographic data

This is basic information about your donors–for example, a donor’s age, gender, employment status, employer, etc. This information can be gathered at the time of donation or can be purchased from a data appending service for nonprofits

Donor history

Nonprofits tend to retain repeat donors at higher levels than one-time donors. For supporters who have given multiple times, make sure to take note of how much they gave, how often they gave, and the last time they gave. This information can be used during your next fundraising drive to create a short list of reliable supporters who could help with your campaign, as well as lapsed donors who may need extra nurturing to re-engage with your mission.

Wealth indicators

These data points can help you analyze a donor’s potential to give. For example, information about a donor’s real estate investments, stock ownership, and business affiliations can give you an idea of their capacity for giving at a greater level, or if they are experiencing financial hardships that would make an ask inappropriate. This information can be found in public records, such as the Federal Election Commission’s website or county tax records, or using a wealth screening tool.

Supporter interests

These are often answers to questions such as: What motivates your donors to give to your cause? What interests do they have outside of philanthropy? This information helps you craft appeals that are more likely to land with your donors. For example, one study found that people who identified as environmentalists were less likely to experience “compassion fade” on issues of conservation than those who do not identify as environmentalists. Understanding how your donors see themselves, their interests, and their connection to your cause will help you improve your fundraising efforts. This information can be gathered in a number of ways, from informal conversations to online surveys.

How should you collect donor data?

Now that we have some examples of the type of data you should be collecting, let’s talk about how nonprofits can collect donor data. You could get this information:

Using donor data research tools

With more data being created than at any other point in human history, there are ample opportunities to build a more complete picture of your donors.

Donor data tools, such as wealth screening software or data append services, help you fill in gaps you may not have collected about your donors.

Some examples of data that a research tool can help you find are:

  • Contact information (such as address, phone number, or email)
  • Demographic information (such as age, gender, and political affiliation)
  • Past giving behavior
  • Employment information (such as current employer and salary information)
  • Wealth information (such as real estate holdings and net worth estimates)
  • Educational information (such as level of education and alma mater)

Using donor research tools can help you personalize your stewardship strategy and improve your fundraising by uncovering areas where you may be leaving money on the table. For example, employer appends can tell you where your supporters work, which in turn can tell you if your donors may be eligible for matching gifts from their employer. 

When someone donates

The best time to gather donor data is when they are donating! The donation form is a great opportunity to collect basic data from donors (such as their name, email address, age, etc.). 

Since you want to make sure your donors follow through with the gift, it’s best not to ask too many questions on the form itself. Wherever possible, use checkboxes instead of requiring donors to type out an answer.

In your acknowledgment email or on your thank you page, you might ask your supporters about their motivations behind giving to your cause or whether they would like to continue being involved.

Through short online surveys

Surveys offer you a chance to gather more comprehensive information from your donors (ex. specific interests, feedback on your organization). Make sure to include a survey description that will help donors understand how completing a survey can benefit your organization and work. Shorter surveys will net you better completion rates.

For a seamless data gathering experience, make sure your survey tool integrates with your CRM!

During events 

Face-to-face interactions are perhaps the best way to keep your audience engaged as you collect data. Decide beforehand how the data you collect from event interactions will be saved to your donor database. 

You can also send a post-event survey, gauging how likely a supporter is to attend your next event, donate, or volunteer.

How do you use donor data?

Now that we understand what data we’re collecting and how to collect that data, it’s time to put it to use! Your donor data can help you prioritize your outreach to supporters and identify high-value donors for more individualized outreach. When it’s time to make the ask, donor data can help you understand your supporters’ capacity to give. Let’s take a look at how donor data can be used for stewardship and to create a better ask.

Segment your outreach efforts

As your supporter base grows, it will become increasingly important to segment your outreach. Every donor is different, and good stewardship of donors should offer everyone the ability to engage with your organization in a way that feels meaningful.

Your data on past supporter involvement and supporter interests will help you determine which segments you can prioritize to maximize the chance of getting a positive response. For example, people on your list who have volunteered for your cause in the past should be the top priority for subsequent volunteer recruitment. Supporters who are motivated by helping others are great candidates to receive stories of the impact your organization has on those you serve.

Connecting with your donors at events is also easier when you have more data. Knowing where your supporters live can help you plan volunteer opportunities that are convenient to take part in.  Understanding the phase of life your donors are in can help with your event planning. For example, if your supporters are mostly parents with young children, then a weekend event with lots of child-friendly activities is probably a better choice than a black-tie gala.

More tailored donor stewardship helps nurture your donor relationships until the time comes to make an ask. Your donor data can also help you make a better ask by helping you understand your supporter’s capacity to give.

Gauge the ability to give

Your donor demographic data (age, employment status) and wealth indicators can be a good measure of whether a donor can be persuaded to make an additional or more substantial donation in the future.

For example, people who hold steady employment are more likely than college students to have the ability to donate regularly. Additionally, some employers may offer matching gifts that can double the impact your supporters can make.

Major life events can also impact a person’s ability to give – for example, if your donor has recently had a baby, they may be less likely to be able to give; that person should be deprioritized for upcoming fundraising asks. By contrast, if your wealth data indicates that a donor has experienced a windfall, they may be an ideal prospect to ask for an increased gift.


With data more available and easy to access than ever, fundraisers can use data to improve their donor stewardship efforts and keep their donors engaged with their mission. 

Organizations should collect data about their supporters, including demographic data, history of giving, wealth indicators, and other interests. You can gather that data in several ways from using donor data research tools to short surveys online or at events. Once you have that information, you can use data to better prioritize your stewardship activities and, when the time is right, gauge your supporters’ ability to give.

Author: Mukundan Sivaraj

Mukundan is a writer at CallHub, an outreach platform that connects nonprofits with their supporters through voice and text messages. Mukundan’s focus on nonprofit technology and communication helps him show organizations big and small, how technology can help elevate their cause.