Using data segmentation to boost a university’s donor engagement

When it comes to engaging with potential donors, universities certainly have an advantage over charities. They hold a large amount of information about their donors including when they graduated, what degree they studied and what clubs they were members of, so they are well placed to deliver segmented and creative campaigns that speak to them on an individual basis. By taking this approach, there is no doubt that campaigns can achieve a greater response and increase university donor engagement.

This data can also be used to scope out the donor journey, helping individual giving departments to find out more about what convinced alumni to support a campaign, from which channel this was delivered and how much was donated.

As David Lonie, Latcham’s Specialist Client Director and charities and individual giving expert explains: “Donor engagement is a vital tool in the armoury of any fundraiser and its success comes from understanding donors, their journey and their emotional relationship with the cause. For all those individual giving departments out there, donor engagement is critical and tools of the trade should be fully utilised ensuring that donor engagement has a direct impact on donor retention and attraction.”

We asked David to tell us three ways that data segmentation can increase university donor engagement.

1. It will help you to understand your donor

Rather than just collecting a potential donor’s contact information and then calling it a day, it’s about taking things one step further and really getting to know why this individual has connected with you.
This means taking the time to learn:

  • How much they want to engage with your university and in what capacity
  • If they ever were or are engaged with other charities
  • What their other interests are, such as hobbies and philanthropy
  • Names of spouses, children and any other noteworthy family members
  • Their employment status and employer

The information that you collect can then help you to choose the right engagement opportunities for that prospective donor, delivering campaigns across the most appropriate channels.

2. It will help you to engage your donor and encourage them to make a donation

Once your prospective donor understands your work, it is time to take the relationship to the next level through engagement. The way to successfully engage with them depends on where you met them – for example, if they first connected with you online via your website or social media, then it’s important to start this engagement online by asking them to connect with you or sign up for your email newsletter.

Finally, once your donor has learned more about your university’s work through regular social media posts or email updates, it is time to ask them for a donation. As they are already armed with knowledge, it’s important to express to them how financial contributions are necessary to your future work by sending information at regular intervals. 63% of repeat donors will become regular ongoing donors, therefore once a donor has given a first-time gift, the key is to retain that donor and encourage them to stay involved with your university in the long term.

3. It will help you to thank your donor and show the impact their gift has had

Every time you receive a gift from a donor, whether it’s the first, second or hundredth, you need to take the time to thank them properly. It is best to start this process by sending out an immediate thank you email that acknowledges the gift and expresses gratitude, and you could then follow this by sending a personalised, handwritten thank you note. Once a gift has been received, you need to show your donor how their donation has made change happen by producing an impact report. This should not only thank the donor, but also explain how their donation has helped with grants or bursaries for example, to show the real benefit that their gift has had.

Latcham are experts in data processing and personalisation, helping universities connect with their alumni to maximise donations. You can see more of our work, including our work with the University of Edinburgh, here.