Data has many uses in the nonprofit world and beyond. For example, by segmenting your donors and catering marketing towards the different segments, organizations can increase donor retention rates and donations!

Why does donor segmentation matter?

There are times each day where you tailor what you say and how you say it based on the person you are communicating with. If you were pitching an idea to your manager, co-worker, and mother, would you use the same language every time? You would probably be more casual with your mother and co-worker than you would with your manager. Your co-worker and manager have industry knowledge, so you would use different terms with them than you would with your mother. Each person in this example has received a customized pitch based on your relationship with them and their industry knowledge.

If we do this in everyday life, why don’t we do this for our donors? Why does everyone get placed in the same bucket and receive the same information if they are all different?

There are several ways that you can segment your donor base, the two most common being based on age and donation frequency.

Age segmentation:

When you segment your donors based on age, you will find that there will be different methods of social media to communicate based on age group preferences and habits, as noted below.

For reference, here are the age groups and their titles:

Baby Boomers: born 1946-1965
Generation X: born 1966-1976
Generation Y: born 1977-1994
Generation Z: born 1995-present

The Internet in General:

Currently, the internet has over 3.17 billion users and 2.3 billion active social media users. The top social media platforms for businesses are Facebook (1.71 billion users), Pinterest (100 million users), Instagram (400 million users), Twitter (320 million users), LinkedIn (450 million users), and Youtube (over 1 billion users). Here are some stats on the different networks and some information on how you can reach different ages of donors using this information!


Facebook is far and away the most popular social media platform with over 1.71 billion users.
While the majority of Facebook users are between the ages of 25 and 32 years old, Facebook is the most popular social media platform across all age groups. Your organization can create and customize a Facebook page to best reflect your brand.

Facebook has become a part of daily online usage for millions of users. To keep your followers up-to-date, you can share interesting content about what your organization is currently doing. This content can include written status updates, photos, videos, events, and more! The key is to post quality content that will engage your target demographic.

If you’re looking for a social media platform to promote interaction in a variety of ways with people of all age groups, Facebook is a great choice!


Pinterest is a social networking site that allows users to share and discover new interests by ‘pinning’ images of videos to their boards; users can create different boards for different categories. Pinterest has historically been popular among women, with 42% of all online women using the platform, but has risen in popularity with males: The male audience is now over 40%!

Pinterest is an incredibly visual experience for the user, so you need eye-catching images to get the attention of your audience. By posting powerful images, you can stir emotion among your followers, which will make them want to learn the story behind the photos. You can create captions to add information to the photo and link the image to your organization’s website as an invitation for a user to click through to learn even more.

If your nonprofit uses photos and videos to tell stories, Pinterest is a great way to share them!


Over 90% of Instagram users are younger than 35 and belong to Generations Y and Z. In fact, 32% of Generation Z cite Instagram as their favorite social media tool. Similar to Pinterest, Instagram was made for sharing photos and videos. If your organization wants to use Instagram, you need to create a plan to make this platform a success. This means posting photos and videos regularly, building a community of followers, and interacting with your donors on the network. Instagram can also be used as a promotional tool to showcase the different aspects of your nonprofit’s work. Similar to Pinterest, Instagram is most effective when the images shared tell a story about your organization and your impact.

What makes Instagram different from other social media sites is the way it is used. Instagram users frequently check the site and engage with posts at a much higher rate than with other social media networks.

If you are targeting a younger demographic or individuals that are on social media several times a day and you have the ability to post frequently, Instagram could be a good fit for your organization.


Similar to Instagram, Twitter is most popular among the 35 and under group. However, Twitter usage is much more diverse among age groups than Instagram and therefore can be a good way to reach multiple segments of donors. Messages on Twitter must be short (under 120 characters), meaning that you need to share your intended message in a concise way. Twitter is the perfect place to send quick messages ranging in topic from your organization’s major announcements to small details about your 5K event. The main goal is to keep your audience in-the-know so they stay interested in your cause. Also, you should always provide a link in your tweets that users can access to gather more information from your website, Facebook page, or other platform.

To increase follower involvement, your organization could consider a twitter contest. Contests create a relationship with current followers and open avenues for gaining new followers who decide to participate. For example, you can give a discounted ticket for a tweet “retweet” or reply, or create a poll to ask followers what they would like to see the most at your next event.

If your target donor base is under 35 and likes to be informed about your work frequently, your organization should use Twitter. Learn more about how your organization can use Twitter by downloading Gesture’s “Twitter for Nonprofits” Guide here


LinkedIn is equally split between male and female users (each at around 50% depending on the day) and is fairly equally used between Generations X, Y, and the Baby Boomers. Compared to other social media networks, LinkedIn is much more professional and this atmosphere influences the type of material that performs well. For nonprofits, LinkedIn is perhaps the most underutilized channel. LinkedIn is currently 414 million users strong, which means that telling the “professional” side of your organization’s story is definitely worth your time. By creating a company page on LinkedIn, you can establish your brand professionally and provide logistical information about your organization.

Also, LinkedIn is a great place to post about volunteer or career opportunities within your organization or on your board. This is because users expect to see this type of material on LinkedIn and will usually be more receptive to it!

If you’re looking to build and strengthen professional connections, your organization should use LinkedIn!


Youtube reaches more members of Generations X and Y than any broadcast or cable television network and is the ideal channel for sharing longer video content. YouTube does not charge you to post an unlimited number of videos, which makes video sharing a cost-effective and simple method of showcasing your organization’s work and sharing content with your follower base. You could also use LinkedIn to post footage from your events, or the video from your Donation Appeal.

In order to maximize views from the audience on Youtube, create content that is easy to find with the search terms your users will be using. Also, make sure to always include your donation link in the caption of the video for easy, one-click donations!

Organizations can also use YouTube to upload testimonials to share with potential partners. Showcasing your work is often best done through those who have been impacted!

Additionally, YouTube has a Nonprofit Program that provides any qualified organization with free premium services, including “donate” buttons, call-to-action overlays, live-streaming, and goal tracking. In order to make YouTube an effective social media platform for your organization, you will need to utilize programs to create professional-looking videos.

If your organization wants to effectively communicate using videos, YouTube is an excellent way to market to your demographic!

To recap what was discussed above, here are the best ways to communicate with each age group:

Donor Segmentation Chart - Social Media


Donation frequency segmentation:

You can also segment donors based on how often they donate to your cause, and tailor your communications strategy based on this. Listed below are a few categories of donors: first-time donors, monthly donors, year-end donors, long-term donors, and event attendees.

First-time donors:

First-time donors have the lowest retention rate because they often don’t feel as connected to your organization after one donation than your other donors do after years of donations, volunteering, and other involvement. In order to retain these donors, you need to treat them differently and communicate with them in a way that makes them feel special.

In order to make these donors feel special and more connected, it’s best to send them a personalized message via email instead of opting for a general message over social media. Include a call-to-action in the message that will entice them to either donate a second time in the near future, volunteer, or learn more about your organization so they stay involved and feel connected.

For first-time donors that make larger donations, you may want to consider inviting them to meet with you or see your location. This will help to create a more personal connection and inspire them to become more involved in your organization through attending events and participating in other donation campaigns.

Average donor retention in 2015 was around 46% and slightly declining since 2008. Based on the giving level, the highest retention rates for new donors were with donors who gave over $250. New donors who gave less than $100 had an average retention rate of 18% in 2015. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to donors giving smaller gifts — the main message with this data is that you should find a way to recognize the large gifts from new donors because you are much more likely to retain them. Spur the smaller donations and increase retention among the $100 and under group by using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to encourage smaller donations throughout the year.

Monthly donors:

Donors that agree to give every month are VIPs in your donor-base. They give you the opportunity to send them a thank you message (and other key information) every month. It’s important that these messages are different and unique each time. Would you want to receive the same message every month from an organization that you are personally and financially invested in? Probably not, and your donors feel the same way!

When you thank your donors, give them monthly updates, shine the spotlight on some volunteers, and celebrate your accomplishments as an organization! There are also plenty of wacky holidays that you can “celebrate” with your donors, whether or not they relate to your cause. For example, May is Mental Health Awareness month. If you are an organization focused on mental health, use this as an opportunity to thank your donors for allowing you to spread awareness.

Repeat donors are retained at a much higher percentage than first-time donors: 63% versus 18%. While it’s important to retain all donors (new and retained), you should put most of your energy into retaining repeat donors from year to year. If your organization has any benefits for long-term donors (early access to gala tickets, discounts on branded merchandise, etc) showcase those on social media! By showing your followers how much you care about your long-term donors, you may inspire some newer donors to become long-term donors helping to increase overall donor retention.

Year-End Donors:

If you have donors that only give during the last months of the year, you shouldn’t be surprised. 31% of all donations come in December, with 12% coming in the last three days of the year. In order to make sure these year-end donations are coming to your organization, you need to create and execute a communications plan that incorporates various forms of social media as well as email.

A great way to encourage people that only give at year end to donate to your organization is to create a communications plan that focuses on everything you did that year, from January to November. Some key statistics to share could be the number of people you helped, communities you impacted, animals you fed, shots you gave, hours spent in the classroom, or dollars raised. You can create a social media campaign that simply showcases the statistics above and encourages donors to give so that your organization can have an even larger impact before the year is over. Here is an example:

Event attendees:

Those who attend an event and don’t give the rest of the year usually do so for one of two reasons:

1. The ticket to attend the event was relatively expensive and the donors don’t feel they need to give more because of that high ticket price.
2. They attended the event because of their interest in the topic or and not necessarily interest in your organization.

In the case of scenario one, you are more likely to gain donations if you keep the donors updated on the work you are doing with their donations from the event. It’s also important to thank them for their attendance at the event you had. Invite them to return the next year with friends! Also, be sure to let them know about upcoming events, even if they are smaller like a percentage night at a restaurant. The more events they attend, the more likely they are to begin making donations outside of the events!

In the case of scenario two, figure out what these donors like and use this to your advantage when creating your communications plan. If you had a large number of newer donors attend a wine tasting benefiting your organization but you don’t see continued donations, you can infer that they were more interested in the wine tasting than the mission of your organization. To encourage them to give again, you could create wine-related incentives for donations. For example, you could offer a custom wine stopper for a donation of $50 or more. For $100 or more, the donor could receive a wine glass with your organization’s logo on it. While these gifts may cost money to produce, it would be worthwhile if they increased overall donations and donor retention!

Long-term donors:

Your long-term donors are your most loyal donors, and they deserve to be treated differently than your other donors. Try to not send them information they may have heard before, such as what your organization does or how you use the funds they contribute. Instead, send them new information or testimonials to peak their interest and continue their donations. You can also share with them any upcoming initiatives your organization has so that they feel in the loop.

Another way to make these donors feel special is to treat them like key decision makers in the organization. Invite them to a board meeting or hold a special dinner for top donors where you gather feedback on events and, fundraising initiatives. The more your long-term donors feel involved, the more likely they are to continue their involvement and donations!

To recap on the best ways to communicate with donors based on donation frequency:

Communication Methods Chart

Regardless of how you segment your donors, nonprofit organizations need to realize that creating unique communications plans based on their different donor groups can help increase overall donations to their organization as well as donor retention.

Other Sources:
Association of Fundraising Professionals
NonProfit Tech for Good
Neon CRM
Network for Good