Want Better Digital Relationships with Your Supporters? It All Starts with Segmentation!

Jul 30, 2018

I was leading a brainstorming session at a mid-sized nonprofit organization last week. We were laying out their upcoming campaign strategy. A member of their team asked, “What’s our plan with audience segmentation for this campaign?” And that’s when the meeting agenda went right out the window.

Everyone had an opinion about the road blocks to segmentation:

  • Our data is too messy
  • Our email system doesn’t do that easily
  • It takes too long
  • We don’t have the right information about our supporters
  • I’m not sure it will make much of a difference in our response rates

As a coach who helps growing nonprofit organizations get a good ROI on their technology, audience segmentation functionality is always at the top of my client’s “Must Have” list. Everybody wants it. It’s one of those things that we know we should be doing because our supporters expect it. Heck, we expect it ourselves! (Hello, Netflix, and your awesome suggested videos.)

But creating and executing a segmentation plan can make a nonprofit marketing person want to hide somewhere far away, preferably to a place where they put umbrellas in your drink.

We all love the idea of creating segments and providing personalized content, but the reality is that figuring out exactly how to make this happen can be tricky.

I’ve broken things down into just 3 steps that will help you get your audiences identified and people moved into the right segments. Let’s get this thing moving!

Step One: Audience Identification & Prioritization

We’ll start by figuring out how you want to break people up into groups. There are a lot of ways to approach this first action step. You might want to use these three categories as a place to begin:

  • Socio-Demographic – gender (and a great opportunity to expand beyond binary), age, birthdate, education, occupation, income
  • Geographic – City, state, locale (rural or urban), climate
  • Behavioral – Actions taken, interests, lifestyle, length of time they’ve been in your file

Another way to get some initial groups identified is to make a list of the 4-5 audiences that are most valuable to you, or people you want more of, or people that you have the best chance of converting to another level of support. Once your list is made, rate them in terms of priority – who will be getting a bit of personalized content? Here’s one made up example of segments listed in order or priority:

  1. Major donors
  2. Peer-to-Peer participants
  3. Medical Professionals
  4. Sustaining donors
  5. People who live in a major city

Step Two: Creating & Populating Your Segments (An Extremely General Guide)

Depending on your setup, you might do this step in your CRM or in your email system – or both. Create your new segments and use clear naming conventions. If you already have some segmentation created – now’s the time to evaluate those groups and tidy things up.

Once your segments are built, you’re going to push your list into the right groups. There are a few methods you can use to populate your segments, but here’s one way to do it:

  • Run queries in your CRM to find everyone with the characteristics that indicate they belong to a group (ex. lifetime gift total of $5K or more = major donor)
  • If your CRM and email system are connected, you can often push the records directly into the group you built in your email system.
  • If your CRM and email system aren’t connected – you’ll export a CSV file of the records and import it into the right group inside the email system.

Pro Tip: Worried that you don’t have enough information about your supporter interests? Send out a short interest survey and use responses to move folks into the right groups.

Step Three: Plan Your Personalized Content

Segmentation isn’t much good without a content plan. Why go to all the trouble of grouping your supporters if they are all getting the same info?

This shouldn’t mean that you need to write completely different email messages! Personalization can be both simple and meaningful. Ask yourself – what small bit of content (text, images, etc.) will resonate with one of your segments? Here are some easy ideas to get you started:

  • Subject lines and Sender names
  • Featured images
  • Giving levels, handles, or gift designations
  • The lead in paragraph to your eNewsletter content

There’s lots of learning to do once you begin personalizing content! You’ll need to test performance over time to see and respond to trends in audience response.

To Recap:

  • If you aren’t segmenting your audience and sending some personalized content, you’re not going to get a good ROI on your technology investment.
  • Start by identifying different areas of interest.
  • Build the segments in your system and import your supporters.
  • Make a plan for personalized content.
  • Keep it simple in the beginning.
  • Continue to ask your supporters for information about their interests and add sophistication to your segmentation groups over time.



Maureen Wallbeoff, Nonprofit Strategist & Technology Coach 

A skilled facilitator and warm national presenter, she loves to bring people together to breathe fresh life into their digital programs and grow through the right use of technology. Maureen has authored two guides to nonprofit engagement software, along with the newly-released Grassroots Galvanizer Playbook. She frequently blogs on her website and is a regular contributor to Nonprofit Pro and NP Engage. 

Omatic Software
Omatic Software is dedicated to integrating disparate systems and democratizing data access for today’s nonprofits. Founded in 2002, Omatic has worked with thousands of nonprofits globally to remove their data barriers by integrating systems and enabling nonprofit teams to leverage their donor data rather than be burdened by it. The Omatic team has one goal – unleashing the power of data to show a complete view of your donor, enabling data-driven decision making and opportunity creation for your organization.