Put your online constituents in meaningful groups

Used to be you had a list of donors. Some had given more or less, some had given recently, some hadn’t. But fundraising was largely about managing these lists of donors.

With the web, it’s different. We can easily get names of people who aren’t donors, but have raised their hands as being interested in the cause. And we can communicate with these people inexpensively, so some of them will become more involved, and we hope eventually become donors. It’s a brave new world that requires thinking not only about donors, but about people who may be on their way to being donors.

Mal Warwick’s Newsletter has a useful framework at The new keys to success in fundraising today: Commitment.

Here’s are Mal’s categories of people on an online list:


  • The Tourist. Someone who’s just stopped by, but given no gift and done little else than give us their email.
  • The Visitor. This person also hasn’t given, but has shown a higher level of involvement by doing something or other, maybe signing a petition
  • The Resident. A regular old donor of the type we’re used to.
  • The Lifer. Someone who cares more deeply than most donors, and shown that by taking even more action — such as volunteering, advocating, or other kinds of involvement.

These categories can help us think clearly about the people we’re talking to. For some we want increased involvement that we hope will lead to giving. For others we want continued giving, and for the Lifers, we just want to give them the tools they need to keep up the great work.

These audiences are all different. Always sending the same stuff to all of them is a wasteful strategy.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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