Trends for Scaling Donor Relationships

Gabe Cooper


In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Curt Swindoll outlines four trends that are revolutionizing how nonprofits work. We recommend reading the whole thing, but in the meantime we wanted to highlight two of his key points. Both of these principals should exist at the heart of any great nonprofit CRM or donor management system.


First, Swindoll emphasizes the importance of building truly personal relationships between donors and nonprofits at scale. Increasingly, he writes, “nonprofits will use advances in technology to engage donors face to face and at every giving level.” We know this is crucial, because people give where they are relationally connected. We all know that donors are most likely to support a cause when it impacts a friend or family member directly or when you personally know someone advocating for the cause. The problem is that traditional major donor strategies can only build a personal relationship with a small number of givers. In order to truly revolutionize giving nonprofits need to find ways to drive the personalization typically reserved for major givers down the the rest of the file.

The key for charities is to leverage technology in ways that enhance relationships and create personal connections at ALL levels of giving. This can be done by using technology to create rich, personal interactions between charities and givers, while using data and content to amplify in-person interaction between givers themselves. One way cutting-edge charities are accomplishing this type of personalization is by using marketing automation. Charities are creating “Personas” that represent a variety of common donor passions and interests … and then create automated marketing campaigns that send emails, schedule calls, or send push notifications based on a givers personal passions and relationships.



Swindoll also notes that as the nonprofit landscape changes, “big data will become ubiquitous, and easier to manage and understand.” In our research, we have seen that traditional data analytics for giving – such as RFM segmentation – are still tremendously important.

At the same time, there’s a new frontier in data analytics that has to do with unstructured, non-financial data, and charities cannot afford to overlook these developments. By using machine learning and other new data research tools, we can gain valuable insights into givers by looking at their communication patterns, their social media behavior, and the preferences of their friends or others who are like them. This type of external data analytics allows tools like Virtuous to connect with a giver’s true passions and personal situation – rather than just their giving habits. By looking at a holistic view of a giver charities can truly begin to create real meaningful relationship-based generosity at scale.

Responsive Fundraising: The Blueprint for Engaging Modern Donors

Traditional fundraising strategies no longer work. This blueprint explains why today's donor expects more, and how nonprofits are shifting to responsive fundraising.

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