There’s an art to knowing your audience and it can make or break your fundraising. We share 3 things (in 3 ways) to help you get it right.

We hear you – right now, the only ‘ation’ you might be interested in during this cold weather is a ‘vacation’. But if we may, we’ll bring you back to the task at hand. Because we want to talk about three fundraising-related ‘ations’ – personalisation, segmentation and conversation – and give you three ideas for each. With these at your fingertips, you will improve your donors’ experience and your fundraising results.


PURLs – or ‘personalised URLs’ – are a fundraising initiative whereby a donor receives a PURL-based eDM from a nonprofit. The information inside that eDM is personalised to that specific donor, with a one-off link that leads to a customised landing page built just for them. From the donor’s perspective, it feels like you know them, you get them, and you’ve written each piece of communication just for them. It also makes life easier for the donor, as customised landing pages are often pre-filled with supporter details.

You can watch Shanelle Clapham of Parachute Digital take a deep dive into PURLs on our YouTube channel here and Andrew Sabatino from Donor Republic explains more about PURLs and how to implement them here. Donor Republic recently shared that using PURLs for the first time enabled Blind Low Vision NZ to significantly improve their email results (compared to previous appeal emails) in their recent Guide Dog Puppy Appeal. These results were a 106% increase in gross revenue, 68% increase in conversions to donate, 22% increase in average gift value, and 469% increase in landing page conversion rate.

Variable copy – when you write appeal copy, you need to cater to both skim readers and deep divers. The latter group will benefit from copy that feels personalised to them as they comb through every detail of your letter or eDM. This can be achieved by selecting sections of copy and changing it depending on who the donor is. DM enthusiasts Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia, have found the sweet spot in two variable paragraphs per letter (personalised to donor and/or segment). Common variations include reference to the supporter being a regular giver, major donor, bequestor and/or alumni (in university fundraising), rationale-based (for high value donors) versus emotive language (for lower value donors), reference to the donor attending one of your previous events, and of course, the common variables of dollar handles, ask amounts, and name.

Variable copy doesn’t have to be limited to asks. Barnardos Australia developed a major donor and standard receipt letter with variable copy that acknowledges and thanks donors who sent a message of support with their Winter Appeal donation.

Local-based content – in what ways can you show that you care about what is happening in your donors’ local areas? When you do this, you make each supporter feel like you are personally invested in them and their world. Can you include animal cruelty statistics that apply to the donor’s town? Do you deliver a program in their region that you can link to? The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation used localised content as an acquisition tool in their recent Sydney Sick Kids Appeal. They sent a mail pack to audiences who are either localised to the needs the foundation supports, or are based in areas flagged as places with inhabitants most likely to donate.

Note that whatever you ‘localise’ in your copy needs to be an easily-managed variable data field – anything that becomes tricky for your mail house or email tool will make your campaign unmanageable, especially with a large number of donors and/or segments.


Audience identification – think about the service you provide, and the people you want to target. Then take a look at the key characteristics of that demographic profile.

For example, if you provide aged care services, your target audience might be those aged 75-plus. However, it doesn’t stop there. By association, you are also targeting their families, who then fall into another subset based on their age and socio-economic background. Your target audience is often bigger than you realise.

By identifying your audience and understanding their behaviour, you are better equipped to identify your most valuable supporters. This is where the Pareto Principle comes into play – about 20% of your audience brings in 80% of your value and your efforts should reflect this.

Segment vs persona – if you’re confused about the difference between segments and donor personas, think of campaign/donor segments as high-level categorical classifications of groups of people, while personas illuminate specific details that speak to a type of person – their experiences, goals, or motivations. Based on qualitative data, personas are used early in the audience identification process to give prospects and donors personalities and preferences, while segments, built from quantitative data, help fundraisers reach their target audiences. Google will serve up a raft of insights about how to develop a donor persona – this article is a good start. You can also use the information you have to hand – for example, using analytics tools on your your website and social media channels will help you track the behavioural traits of your audience online.

The four types – to segment your audience, group them by the unique things they have in common that can be targeted with a particular message or fundraising approach. There are four key types of segmentation:

  1. Demographic segmentation is performed according to age, race, religion, gender, family size, ethnicity, income, and education.
  2. Geographic segmentation targets audiences based on their location. You can divide your audience by geographical areas, such as city, state, country, or international region. You can also divide the audience into rural, suburban, and urban segments.
  3. Psychographic segmentation is not necessarily as concrete and easily recognisable across audiences. It requires categorisation based on aspects such as personality, lifestyle and values. Donor personas may be more helpful here.
  4. Behavioural segmentation requires audiences to be grouped according to their behavioural patterns, which include considerations such as the amount people spend (or donate), the products or services they use, brand awareness and loyalty. This, of course, is particularly useful for organisations that fundraise.

Top tip: don’t create an onerous number of segments and try to keep them consistent between appeals, campaigns and years so that you can track and compare behaviours, results and growth/decline in each segment.


Consistency – donors like to build relationships with the organisations they support and one way you can achieve this is by ensuring a supporter always receives a call from the same team member/s. Plan International Australia incorporated this approach in their mid-value growth strategy, when they discovered that donors respond positively not only to building rapport with the fundraising team but also with call centre staff.

Be vulnerable – because it is by exchanging vulnerabilities that we build trust. And if we do not show vulnerability, how can we show need? If there was ever a time when charities peeled off the layers and showed how vulnerable they are, it was during COVID-19. Many nonprofits kept their doors open by having conversations with donors, trusts & foundations and government in which they communicated how exposed they were and how they needed extra, unrestricted funding.

All conversations are not created equal – the fact is, the amount your donors give varies wildly and those who give the most need to hear from you in a highly personalised way (unless they have asked you to leave them be and just let them give). This usually means phone calls plus Zoom and in-person meetings. It might even mean inviting a donor on an overseas field trip.

As you approach each appeal, call your high value supporters ahead of sending their mail pack to let them know what the campaign focus is – if the appeal is for a specific program or project, invite them to meet with your CEO or the relevant program manager; it may result in a major gift. Make sure that every donor who gives a gift over a certain amount (this may be $500 or $5,000 depending on your charity) receives a thank you call. Call deeply engaged donors regularly to update them on your work (made possible with their generosity) or invite them to quarterly updates onsite. Whatever the reason for your contact, use conversations as an opportunity to truly understand your donors’ interests, motivations and needs – they may be different from what you think.

And finally!

All of these initiatives, especially personalisation and segmentation, lend themselves to testing – and test you should! In order to test, implement and report on personalisation, segmentation and conversations, make sure your CRM is clean and your marketing automation tools are up to scratch.

For more about segmentation, click here

To discover more examples of personalisation, click here

To learn more about the art of conversation, click here

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