Direct response fundraisers realize that customizing appeals to specific donors will lift results. But what information is available to allow you to make just the right appeal?

In the fundraising sector, we’re pretty good at capturing and using transactional information — past giving history (which should include what kind of appeals have been responded to, or not). For direct mail donors, we know where they live; we know (list-wise) where they came from. For online donors, we (mostly) know their email addresses). And of course we know how to address our individual donor as ‘Dear Tom’ or ‘Dear Claire’.

Much past that, we need to get into purchased data appends (including a variety of scoring tools … check out what’s available at our sister DonorTrends).

And then, of course, we can actually ask for information. There’s a concept!

We can ask for email addresses, channel preferences, program interests, gender, age, ethnicity, political preference … whatever information we can realistically hypothesize might allow us to better ‘know’ our donor so as to tailor our message more tightly and effectively to him or her.

So how do people feel about sharing information about themselves?

Each individual has their own zone of privacy, but willingness to share information is most likely a function of trust in whomever is asking, perceived relevance (which implies a perceived benefit of some kind for sharing), and ease of response.

This study by Infsys examines willingness for individuals to share personal information online (in five countries — US, UK, Australia, France, Germany). Looking at three sectors — retail, banking and healthcare — the study found that overall, Americans are most disposed to share information online (least so is Germany).

And that consumers are most comfortable sharing information when they are making an online retail purchase — 78% say they would be more likely to purchase from a retailer again if the retailer provided offers targeted to their individual interests, wants and needs. That’s good news for direct response fundraisers.

That said, while 78% would provide an email address, only 38% would furnish a birth date, 30% their marital marital status, and 13% their social media profile. Interestingly, only 38% would share a mailing address with a retailer.

Direct mail fundraisers … I hope you appreciate how easy you have it!

A healthy caution about information sharing exists, as this chart indicates (click on image to enlarge).

There’s no one knock-out benefit. I think the bottom line is don’t be shy about asking, but remember that you need to establish the relevance of any personal information you seek … what will it help you do better for your donor?


P.S. The Agitator will be taking US Labor Day Monday off … watching the US Open.

This article was posted in: Direct mail, Fundraising analytics / data, Online fundraising and marketing, Research.
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