WHO is your audience? Releasing untapped fundraising potential

October 20, 2016 News & Opinion

Jon-square_monoJon Kelly, Wood for Trees’ Director of Analysis, has some views on standard audience profiling – and looks at how this kind of analysis can be taken to a new level. He’ll expand on this at the IoF Insight in Fundraising Conference in November 2016.


“Am I talking to the right people, in the right way, about the right things?” I bet these are questions that you as a fundraiser have asked yourself many times.

The solution all too often is to get a few free profiles from your friendly list broker – the hope is that hey presto! you’ll understand your supporters like the closest members of your family. But is it really as easy as that? Over many years of studying donor profiles I’ve found that they all tend to highlight the same audience: older, wealthier women who like gardening and country walks – in other words, Dorothy Donor! In reality though, do all of our supporters truly look like that? And are cash donors who have been recruited via direct mail really the same as regular givers from your latest street fundraising campaign?

The problem here is that such profiles only describe the most common elements in the group, and these indeed describe Dorothy Donor – but who are the rest of them? These donors (although often sizeable in number) get ignored by these generic profiles, and so the myth is perpetuated, and charities continually go seeking the same audiences

Tobin Aldrich has written in his blog (https://fundraising-fundamentals.com/2016/08/30/where-do-we-get-new-donors-from-part-1/) about the decay in most fundraising channels, and we all know the market is becoming more and more saturated. So is it time to take a fresh look at your audiences? Who else is giving to you, or could be giving to you? And what do they look like and what are their interests?

Bespoke segmentations and further research will help here and can be costly and time consuming. We have therefore developed a slightly different approach to profiling, taking an outside-in approach and using an existing market segmentation (such as Mosaic or Sonar) to add insight to audiences who may have been hidden to you before. By taking each segment and looking at their propensity to give to specific charity causes, and by mapping to your database to find out how they are currently engaging with you, we can look beyond Dorothy Donor to the other parts that standard profiling does not reach.

Using this process we have helped our clients to identify untapped areas of potential, or awaken pots of engagement that had not been fully realised. Some key findings have included:

  • Identified more potential in engaged and valuable supporters:
    • Highlighted headroom in existing audiences and fuller understanding of their motivations
    • Helped create relevant propositions to penetrate deeper
  • Identified a large untapped rural audience:
    • Audience was not being reached by current channels and products
    • Utilised new channels to connect with this audience
  • Identified an existing audience with engagement issues:
    • Audience showed affinity but low value and engagement
    • Developed new products more connected to interests and drivers
    • Looked at non-fundraising opportunities to engage with this audience – helping to break down silos to enable more precise targeting
  • Mapped propensity to give to identify geographical areas of potential:
    • Revealed hotspots that were previously off the fundraising radar

I’ll be talking more about this at the IoF Insight in Fundraising Conference on 7th November, and we’ll be posting more information soon on the Wood for Trees website, so if this sounds interesting to you, keep checking back!