Adding the ‘Who” to the ‘Why’, ‘What’, ‘When’, and ‘How’? | Sharpe Group
Posted May 1st, 2010

Adding the ‘Who” to the ‘Why’, ‘What’, ‘When’, and ‘How’?

The starting point for any donor relationship or stewardship program is an effective communication plan. This “nuts and bolts” component of your marketing plan can directly impact your fund-raising results.

When designing how you intend to communicate with your donors, keep these two critical factors in mind: what do you need to communicate (the “message”) and to whom should you send a specific message (the target market)? The better you understand the demographic profile of your donors, the better you will be able to communicate with them through strategic targeting.

Thinking it through

The key to effective communication is relevance. If your message is relevant to the recipient, it will never be perceived as “junk.”

For instance, a 40-year-old donor in the middle of building a career and raising a family has different needs and interests than a 70-year-old donor who is at the end of his or her career and is watching children build their own families. It is also important to be aware of and sensitive to the relative financial capacity of various donors.

In a perfect world, you would know each of your donors personally. However, since you can’t know everything about each of your donors as individuals, the means to understanding more about your donors can be found in the depth, organization, and accessibility of the data you maintain in your donor records.

You will normally have transactional data in your donor files, as well as information that may have been gathered during personal interactions. However, unless you have taken specific steps to append it, you likely do not have the demographic data that is critical to the ability to profile and segment your donor base. “Profiling” is the statistical process of describing donors who exhibit specific behaviors (for example, those who responded to a bequest mailing) using the demographic and behavioral information on their files. “Segmentation” is the process of grouping donors who are similar to each other (donors who are single and between the ages of 60 and 75 or 76 and 85, for instance).

SharpeNet Data Services

Almost 25 years ago, Sharpe consultants began to advise clients to append age and other demographic information to their files for use in analysis, planning, and reporting. Over the years, we have seen clients utilize services that greatly enhance their ability to manage their donor relationships; we’ve also witnessed others that didn’t.

In addition, we have noticed a lack of services designed to provide information necessary to target specific types of gift opportunities. Many sources offer to pinpoint “planned giving prospects” but fail to distinguish between the prospect for an average bequest versus someone who could fund a charitable remainder or lead trust. Drawing upon this experience, we developed SharpeNet Data Services for the benefit of our clients.

SharpeNet Data Services offers tools that can be used to dramatically increase the marketing applications of your donor files. SharpeNet data enhancement bundles offer exact age (month/year of birth), gender, marital status, and your choice of income or net worth estimates. This information is sourced through our data partner, Acxiom Corporation, the largest compiler of demographic data in the world, and is available to Sharpe clients at a special negotiated bundle price.


For those who prefer a simpler solution, we also offer the SharpeNet Gift Planning Matrix Scoring Model. This model uses age and wealth data to match donor records with their Sharpe Gift Planning Matrix cell, from A1 through C3, to help enhance marketing and communications efforts and make them more cost effective. Attendees at our seminars have asked for this service for years, and we are now pleased to offer it.

For more information on how SharpeNet Data Services may enhance your fund-raising program, e-mail or contact a Sharpe representative at 1-800-238-3253.

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The publisher of Sharpe Insights is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Sharpe Insights may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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