How to Sustain Donor Relationships Online

Sustaining donor relationships today is different than it was ten years ago.

The most obvious reason for this difference is due to the rapid advancements of technology. A mere decade ago, donors were not glued to their phones with 24/7 hyper-personalized communication from other organizations vying for their attention in the way they are now. To effectively reach the donors of today, nonprofits must incorporate personalized digital strategies from the technological advancements of tomorrow. One such advancement is the power of AI-driven segmentation.

Why Segment?

For ten years in a row, email marketing has been the channel generating the highest ROI. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI. Email segmentation is one cornerstone of successful email marketing. Segmentation helps organizations send tailored messaging to supporters with similar characteristics (ex. age, location, giving level) and interests (ex. specific mission programs, volunteering, events). Personalization makes messages more relevant for the supporter, cutting through noisy inboxes to boost views, clicks, and donations.


AI takes email segmentation to a level beyond what standard CRM’s offer.

AI locates hidden patterns that are difficult for nonprofit staff to find without an unrealistically high amount of time and money. Part of its ability to detect hidden patterns includes AI’s ability to segment an unlimited amount of groups. By utilizing this complex data, machine learning then simplifies the process by automatically adjusting (or, “learning from”) the attributes of the campaign using an algorithm. Some of the features it can adjust include headlines, subject lines, images, copy, colors, CTAs, and time of delivery. Best of all, AI-segmented email campaigns increase customer engagement by 7X and revenue 3X.


The Power of Personal Communication

In the words of Micheal Brenner of Campaign Monitor,

If your emails aren’t relevant to your subscribers, they’ll end up in the trash or worse, they’ll end up being marked as spam, bringing down your deliverability and hurting your ROI. The marketing world is buzzing about the ‘Internet of Things,’ but we should be talking about the ‘Internet of Me.’ In the age of personalization and hyper-targeting, consumers expect brands to know who they are and provide them content they care about. You have to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Relevancy is the marketer’s secret weapon and the fastest path to revenue.”

It’s true; 1:1 acquisition is taking over, even down to our subject lines. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. However, hyper-targeting is not the most conducive for nonprofit staff teams with limited bandwidth. One common strategy for increasing bandwidth is to use social media influencers (ex. DIYers with social higher followings). Overall, we expect to see AI assistants teaming up with human fundraisers to take over 1:1 donor acquisition and retention.


How Can AI Help?

  1. AI Fundraising Assistants: With an AI assistant, fundraisers can avoid the dreaded spam folder when sent from other platforms as well as generic email templates. AI assistants provide tailored messages for specific prospects in their networks. This “person-to-person” approach increases the odds that a message will activate a potential donor and accelerate the nonprofit’s mission.
  2. AI Data Hygiene: AI assistants can help nonprofits consolidate and deduplicate email distribution lists faster, cheaper, and easier than manual methods, thereby reducing duplicate messages that may annoy recipients and lead to spam flaggings.
  3. AI Data Clustering: AI assistants can take unlabeled data and divide it into clusters of similar observations. Given a set of observations, an AI assistant can place each observation into a group of similar observations so the groups are distinct from each other. An AI assistant can then perform further analysis on each cluster to provide insights and/or make predictions.

For example, Nonprofit XYZ has a dataset of last year’s Annual XYZ Gala attendees and wants to cluster those attendees into distinct groups to better understand who attended the gala for future email segmentation at next year’s Annual XYZ Gala. An AI assistant could perform that clustering and tell Nonprofit XYZ that there are four distinct types of gala attendees that comprise the majority of attendees. Nonprofit XYZ then performs additional analyses to learn more about each cluster of attendees to improve their messaging.

Segmentation allows nonprofits to send tailored messages, increasing the odds of success. Do you want to learn more about how AI works? Download our “AI 101” White Paper.


See How One Board Member Raised $10,000 Using AI Email Segmentation


Now What?

  1. Take inventory with your development and marketing teams how well you are doing with segmenting communications. For example, compare your open rate, click-through rate, and donate rate of various campaign segments with the industry average.
  2. Explore ways you can build your hyper-personalized messaging bandwidth to create stronger donor relationships with AI, volunteers, and influencers. Explore messaging with AI assistants, fundraising psychology, and nonprofit storytelling best practices.
  3. Incorporate these new practices and systems of segmentation.
  4. Evaluate how your new segmentation practices and systems are improving your donor relationships. How does it compare to your previous plans? Evaluate the same data and compare to the industry average.