Tips for database segmentation

November 29, 2017 Blackbaud Pacific

Derrick Brown offers some tried-and-true ideas for database management that will allow for effective segmentation in your direct marketing – and more meaningful interactions with your supporters.  

Whether you are using a homegrown database or one of the many proprietary databases out there, you are tasked with determining what data should or should not be captured in your database.

Your database is a powerful tool that can be used to segment records so your donors receive communications appropriate to their preferences. It is made up of many different types of donors, and segmenting them accordingly with various attributes is probably one of the greatest tasks for not-for-profit organisations.

These donors have been acquired in many different ways with varying abilities and interests in giving to your organisation, and just like a pair of shoes, one size does not fit all. Failure to properly segment your donors might mean sending direct marketing pieces in which the recipient has no interest.

Segmenting donors for direct marketing will play a major role in the appeals that you send. While there are many individuals who prefer a tangible item via mail, some may prefer e-mail-only solicitations. The ability to segment those donors is key to a successful direct marketing campaign.

Segmenting can occur in many ways, but a few ways to consider segmenting your database are by:

  1. Constituency – Segmenting donors by constituency allows you to define an individual or organisation’s relationship to your organisation. This tells why the constituent is in your database. For example, you can assign the constituent code ‘Board Member’ to all board members in your database.It is important that you are able to properly communicate with donors based on their constituency as you may want the ability to communicate separately with your volunteers versus your trusts and/or foundations.

It’s a simple concept, but constituent codes are often misunderstood. Here are a few things to keep in mind when using constituent codes:

  • Don’t use too many. Constituencies should convey meaningful information that identifies why an individual or organisation has a record in your database.
  • Allow for multiple constituencies. If an individual or organisation can belong to multiple constituencies, be sure to track these on the donor’s record to properly segment them into appropriate groupings for direct marketing pieces.
  • Create a constituent hierarchy – If a donor can be a part of multiple constituencies, make sure you list the most important code first. If a Board Member is also a part of the giving society, is it more important in hierarchical terms that board member or member of the giving society is listed first? Subsequently, you will want to use this order when segmenting mailings. Many proprietary databases will dedupe a segmentation for a record that may contain multiple constituency codes, sending the mailing only to the constituency of most importance to your organisation.
  1. Levels of giving – While donors who regularly give gifts of $10-$20 may be a dependable source of income for your organisation, you may want to differentiate communications to donors who give larger amounts, as they may be more likely to upgrade their gifts over time. Tracking giving trends in your database will ensure you are sending the right direct marketing pieces to the right constituents.
  2. Methods of solicitations – Different donors would like to hear from you in different ways. Solicit codes will allow you to track your donors’ contact preferences, such as “do not mail” or “e-mail only.” While some may prefer snail mail, others may prefer to receive appeals from your organisation via e-mail or not at all.

Detailing these solicit codes properly in your database will safeguard against sending the wrong type of the appeal to the wrong donor. Tagging your donors’ contact preferences and including or excluding records based on that tag, will help guarantee you send the right direct marketing piece to the right donor each time.

When adding solicit codes to records:

  • Ensure these contact preferences are consistently added to a single location (if not pre-defined) in your database
  • Be sure to update your constituents’ contact preferences regularly.
  • Make sure the proper codes have been accounted for when sending a direct marketing piece. If sending an e-mail, for example, be sure to remove all constituents that have unsubscribed from your organisation’s e-mail solicitations.
  1. Special interests – What drives your donors’ passions to give? Are these interests being tracked on your donors’ records? Would an organisation whose main focus is medical research reach out to an individual whose philanthropic interest is protecting animals? Tracking these interests on your donors’ records will allow you to group and target those individuals with a passion for your organisation’s goals. This will help to keep your donor more focused and engaged.

Then after segmenting your donors, you will want to strategise procedures that will allow you to appeal to your donor segments.

While this is not an exhaustive list of methods by which you can segment your database of donors, you can use them to begin fine-tuning your direct marketing solicitations so they are as cost-effective as possible, and also target the right individuals for your organisation.

Sending your targeted appeal to those who have proven responsive will yield the greatest interest in your organisation’s mission and case statement.


Derrick Brown

As a Senior Consultant with expertise in The Raiser’s Edge, Derrick Brown uses his product knowledge and experience working with not-for-profit organisations to implement customised solutions to customers in the US and around the world. Derrick has recently relocated to Sydney, where he now assists customers in the Asia-Pacific market.

 This article was originally published in the F+P.

The post Tips for database segmentation appeared first on Blackbaud Pacific.

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