4 Simple Data-Driven Methods to Better Understanding Your Donors

July 14, 2021 Brian Isaac

To make an emotional connection with your constituents, you need to first understand their needs and motivations.

This is why user research is so important.

The universe of user research is vast and perhaps daunting; however, all nonprofit marketing research activities are really scalable, meaning that you can run them in a quick, cheap, and bite-sized way at first, then scale up to run them at a larger scale later. Here are some examples:

1. Conduct user interviews

Ideal for: understanding giving motivations

With a qualitative research method like conducting a user interview, you really don’t need a large sample size to get good data. All you need is a basic script of questions you’ll ask and 6-8 participants. Ideally, your participants will represent different constituent groups: donors, volunteers, new registrants, event participants, etc.

Examples of questions include:

  • How did you come to be involved with our organisation?
  • What adjectives would you use to describe us?
  • Tell me a story about how or why our mission is meaningful to you.

Data obtained from user interviews can be used to communicate with your different types of supporters. It can also help guide design and content creation for your website/emails and to get ideas for improving your events.

Review your Google Analytics data

Ideal for: understanding user activity and behaviour on your website

This is a unique research method in that it provides quantitative data and doesn’t require any participant recruitment. Assuming you have Google Analytics running on your website, you have heaps of data at your fingertips about how people use your website.

Start by looking at:

Behavior > Site content > Landing pages
You know your homepage is a major entry point for your website, but looking at this list will reveal other pages where users land. These pages may represent a potential donor’s very first impression of your organisation so be sure they’re optimised to drive deeper engagement on your site.

Behavior > Site content > Exit pages
On the flip side, keeping an eye on where users leave your website may reveal some opportunities for improving those pages to provide more internal links and keep users on your site for longer.

A/B Test Your Donation Forms

Ideal for: comparing the success of one page/email/donation form against another

Believe it or not, you can conduct these tests in a bite-sized way too. Keep the test focused on one thing you want to learn.

  • Do our donors respond better to an inter-generational photo or one with only children?
  • Will constituents be more likely to open or click on an email where we use their name in the subject line?
  • Does a button generate more clicks than a text link in our emails?

To test a page or donation form, you need to create two versions for testing. Then, in Google Optimize, you can set up a redirect test to split traffic between the two URLs. Google can choose a winner for you after enough data is gathered, but you can also run reports or look at Analytics data for each option to evaluate the success on your own.

For emails, you’ll also need two versions for testing. Then, you’ll send version A to half of your list and version B to the other half. Ideally, you’d randomise the split of the list. From there, you can evaluate opens, clicks and conversions to learn the answer to your question.

If you're looking to skip this step and get started with a tested and proven donation form, try Blackbaud Peer-to-Peer Fundraising, powered by JustGiving! It's subscription-free fundraising at its best.

Leverage social media feedback

The final bite-sized research method I’ll mention is using social media. Learn how to best steward your supporters by asking them questions on your social media accounts. Some examples of questions you may post:

  • We’re busy planning our Walk for 2021! We’d like to know: would you prefer an in-person walk, another virtual walk, or having both options available?
  • We’re working on our newsletter for July and would love your input. What do you want to learn about? Please share some topics or ideas in the comments!
  • Storytime! We love hearing stories from our supporters about how they came to volunteer with us. Let us know how you heard about us in the comments.

When you start a conversation like this, the most important part is to listen and respond to your constituents by posting follow-up comments and actually applying their input into your communications. This will encourage repeat engagement, building relationships with your social followers.

I hope these options will open up the door to user research for your organisation so you can connect with your constituents on a deeper level.



Looking for more fundraising resources, strategy, and inspiration?

Visit our Resource Hub for our up-to-date blog, plus industry trends, fundraising tips and tools, strategic webinars, case studies, and lots more.



This post was adapted from Four Bite-Sized Methods of User Research on sgEngage by Lacey Kruger.

Previous Article
Integrating Development and Finance Through Technology and Best Practices
Integrating Development and Finance Through Technology and Best Practices

Development and finance teams have unique but overlapping responsibilities for revenue management. Learn be...

Next Article
4 Proven Tactics for a Successful 2021 Supporter Comms Strategy
4 Proven Tactics for a Successful 2021 Supporter Comms Strategy

The planning template and strategic goals you need to build a framework that translates into more donation ...