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Increase Donations: How to Create Donor Profiles for Non-Profits

Why Creating Profiles of Your Donors Can Help Reach More Contributors

“We know who our donors are,” is a phrase that’s often tossed around by leaders of non-profit organizations. In many instances, they’re right. Most non-profits’ Executive Directors, Donor Relations Managers, or Fundraising Managers can speak in great detail about their top donors. If you’re a non-profit exec, you can likely describe your donor community, as well.

But consider these questions: Can you specifically describe the everyday habits of your ideal donors? What motivates them? What is the binding agent between one donor and the next? Most importantly—how to you reach more donors like them?

These are questions worth answering, since the better you understand the person who is donating to you, the better chance you have of reaching more donors like him/her. Don’t be afraid to have multiple donor personas. Start with your three to five most common, and begin to ask the questions above.

Non-Profit Donor Profiles are Similar to Personality Profiles

What Makes Up a Non-Profit Donor Profile?

A donor profile will look and sound a lot like a personality profile. In fact, we recommend naming your ideal donors, in order to better humanize their profiles. “Volunteering Valerie” might not be a huge cash donor, but she can always be counted on for working the gala dinner. “In-A-Pinch Patrick” might not give regularly, but he will certainly come through in a cash crisis.

Where should you start? Identify your most critical areas of need, and simply match up the donor persona who will be most helpful in providing for it.

Ultimately, assembling a donor profile depends on getting good data from your donor database — or building a database from your existing donor list.

Identify the Basics: Demographics

Creating your donor profile requires you to dig down to the basics. Be sure to include:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Education
  • Are they married?
  • Do they have children?
  • What is their household income?
  • Are they investors?
  • What kind of vehicle do they drive?


Being specific help you narrow the focus on how to best reach your target. For example, let’s say your local animal shelter is near a college campus. Building a student donor persona can lead to a fantastic volunteer pool, numerous monthly recurring donations through Automated Clearing House (ACH), and an active social media audience. It just comes down to how you reach them.

What Is the Personal History of the Donor Profile?

How many of your donors have incredible stories about what inspired them to contribute? Are there common threads to their backstories? Knowing the personal history of your donors can allow you to identify with them and connect with them sooner.

Now, back to the animal shelter — if you were the executive director, you may want to consider: have any of your donor personas adopted from you? Do they donate in memory of a family companion? Do they simply see you as “a worthy cause?” Identifying their motivation for giving can open opportunities to others who are motivated similarly.

How do your donors give?

How Do Your Different Donors Give?

You’ll quickly discover that as your different donor personas come together, the method they use to donate will become clear, as well. Do they donate online, by SMS or text, or by writing a check…but only at events?

Do they prefer to sponsor something? What about the small army of automated $10 per month contributors? Understanding how and when your donors give provides your organization with valuable insight to help create more and improve donation opportunities.

How Much CAN They Give?

This is a very delicate topic. Many individuals outside of the donor or fundraising management community imagine the stereotype of “Daddy Warbucks,” assuming there are vast groups in our society who can endlessly give. That, however, is simply not the case.

Understanding you donors’ giving limits can also be an invitation to explore volunteering as a form of contribution. For example, “Newlywed Nate and Nancy” are in their mid-twenties. Both are working, but just getting started. Unable to contribute financially, perhaps they can volunteer at the charity 5K run? How can you reach them and keep them informed about those opportunities?

How Do Your Donor Personas Like to Communicate?

Does “College Student Colleen” like your Instagram photos five minutes after you post them? Let’s say she shares about half of your images on Facebook, and you also discover on Facebook that she texted a donation to support a recent disaster relief with the Red Cross. However, analytics tells you that Colleen has never opened your email blasts about a recurring monthly giving option. It seems she didn’t respond to your direct mail piece, either.

Don’t get caught thinking that communication differences are just the result of a generation gap! Instead, consider the different avenues you have available to potentially engage your contributors. Common successful communication methods include:

  • Face-to-face – never underestimate the power of communicating in person
  • Phone call
  • Text / SMS – a quick reminder about an event or an urgent plea for supplies
  • Direct mail or letter
  • Social media
  • Email


When it comes to communicating with your contributors, don’t guess…ask. Find out how they prefer to communicate, and stick to it. Do your best to support multiple communication mediums in order to cater to your community.

How to Say “Thank You” to Donors

From individualized notes to listing names in a printed newsletter, saying “thank you” to your donors is crucial. Humbly expressing your thanks is also crucial for ensuring each contribution has the potential to be more than a one-time event.

Investigate how your donor personas would like to be thanked. End of year tax summaries are nice, but that isn’t what motivates most of your donors (we hope). Understand how each persona feels appreciated for the good that they do. Sometimes, a single thank you isn’t enough.

Donor Strategy Tips: What to do with a Donor Profile?

Now that you’ve gathered the data, organized the characteristics, and developed a handful of personas that fit your organization, it’s officially time to build your donations strategy. For each of your personas, you can ask questions, create scenarios, and tap into new communities. Here are some “what’s next” ideas for your donor personas:

  • Create single page summaries for each persona including all of the information you’ve gathered – even use a “profile” picture. List out the details of the persona from name and occupation to giving habits.
  • Which of your fundraisers or events would each persona attend? Why?
  • Do you have a strategy to engage each of your personas? What about a donation vehicle and thank you program in place for each?
  • Does your marketing reach others like them?
  • Imagine taking each persona to lunch. How would you chat? What news about the organization would they be interested in?

Need some extra help? Call Signalfire.

Need Some More Guidance or an Extra Pair of Hands?

If you don’t have a plan, or if you do but don’t have the staff to implement it, you’re not alone. That’s why partnering with Signalfire, your marketing guides & outfitters, can be a game changer.

We’ve helped many of our non-profit clients develop strong donor personas and create a segmented market strategy to reach out to them. From overall brand strategy development (is your logo right for your personas?) to implementing your strategy on a tactical level, Signalfire can be the equivalent of a cost-effective, in-house marketing department that will even make sense to the cost-benefit warriors on your board of directors.

We accomplish this through integrated marketing techniques, such as:


Let Signalfire help you organize and plan your strategy to reach each of your donor personas. Connect with us online, or simply call us at 262-725-4500.