Dogs & Data in Digital Giving Stewardship

No spoiler alert here - dogs always make good content. If you can add puppies to your digital giving stewardship, always do it. But more on digital stewardship content on another day...

Today I want to talk about getting to the heart of the digital donor, and how we as non-profit fundraisers can take that information to build long-term relationships and increase retention rates in the digital age. My story, and the heart of this digital donor, starts with puppies...

                            Maggie                                                              Whiskey

                            Maggie                                                              Whiskey

Last year, I was on the search for a new veterinarian for my two pups after moving to Oceanside, California. So of course, I whip out my phone and pull up Yelp. After a few minutes of searching, I found the one with the best customer service reviews (for both animal & human) and made an appointment. And boy - were the reviews right! These doctors treated my furbabies like their own, were transparent about procedures and cost, and created tailored plans for my high energy golden and my 100 lb lap-dog shepherd, alike.

These tactics acquired my business, but what keeps me loyal is their two-pronged approach to stewardship of customers that is both personal and data-driven.

After every appointment - no matter how small - they call the next day to check on the dogs and make sure everyone was doing OK. A small gesture that takes maybe 2 minutes time, but gives a feeling of commitment to the well-being of my dogs, which continues to inspire my loyalty to their business.

But what happens when I haven’t been there in a while and I am less connected? How do they continue to ensure that personal relationship? By taking the data that pulls hardest on my heartstrings, the things I care about the most, and sending direct follow up communication and calls to action around those data points.

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 11.55.52 AM.png

In this case, the data that pulls at my heart is as simple as my dog’s name and a picture of her breed, alongside a call to action that she needs preventative shots. Four data points. Two personal and two informational, visualized on a postcard that reminds me in 5 seconds that they know who I am as a customer and that they care about what I care about. With the wealth of data they have about me and my pups, they could send a variety of things -- but they've identified and executed the ones that push through the noise quickest. These postcards continue to remind me of the simple power of the right data (and of course how cute my dog is). 

Personalization based on donor data is not a new idea to fundraising. Affiliation to an institution or giving history, for example, have long been effective ways to create calls to action, governing stewardship and second-ask strategies. But advances in technology that let us see almost everything in real-time, combined with a cause-based generation have changed the way donors engage with and react to organizations, non-profit and corporate alike. 

So that begs (or barks) the question, what data should we be tracking to improve our retention strategies in non-profit fundraising, that we aren't capturing now?


An umbrella over funds, themes assigned to different campaigns provide affinity-based segmentation points, allowing your follow up communications and solicitations to target a wider group of donors, while still showing that you know the kinds of things they care about. Think of Netflix - because I watch The West Wing, their algorithm suggests a variety of shows produced by Aaron Sorkin or political related shows for me to watch. It's the same concept!

Say you have a crowdfunding project out of your college museum, raising money to put on an art exhibit on early American History for high school students. You would solicit the museum's donors, but if you tracked a theme of student development, you could also easily find a new pool of donors that would be interested in the education of high school students and access to higher education. The museum may not pull at their hearts, but the educational opportunity would. And this project has both! You then also have a built-in touch point to those "student development" donors, showing them the diverse programs your organization provides that align with their affinities. 

Referral Source

In the digital era, referral goes one step farther than channel. Understanding what gets donors to your online campaigns will help create your most efficient marketing strategy. For example, during a giving day, you want to know what percentage of donors came from Facebook advertising, who was inspired because an ambassador reached out, and who responded from an email. This allows you to optimize your resource spend on the pieces that your community reacts best to. 

Social Data 

"Social media is an new avenue to do an old kind of fundraising..[it's] key in driving new marketing strategies on a personal level" - Johnathan Brooks, University of Houston 

Connecting with your constituents online is a low-cost, time effective way to steward donors of all levels. It gives you a communication tool, but also an ability to track other areas of your institution they may care about, but didn't know they could give to. By harvesting user data and themes from social media content - then using that data to produce more content - you can add more themes of interest to a donor profile, and connect those donors to new giving opportunities in that space.

All of these areas are enhanced when we also apply our traditional demographic data, but until we track the psychographic and demographic alongside one another, and create stewardship programs that tailor more to psychographics (affinity data), we miss the mark, and risk losing donors. 

You have the tools at your fingertips, let's talk about how to make them work for you! Shoot me an email at to talk about more informed data-driven retention strategy.