Segmentation 101—6 Metrics for More Effective Donation Asks

Jamie Alexander

Director, Strategy & Insights

Jamie helps cultural organizations understand the behaviors of their audiences and create data-driven strategies to continually engage them.
May 04, 2021

Segmentation. Segmentation. Segmentation. It’s a practice that we’ve been preaching here at JCA for years, and it’s essential to ensure that you’re targeting your annual giving prospects with timely, relevant asks. Not only does good segmentation practice lead to higher response rates and ROI, but it also leads to happier donors who aren’t overwhelmed or annoyed by donation asks.

Effective segmentation depends on good data. You can segment using demographic, behavioral, or attitudinal data. Especially for those new to segmentation, we recommend using behavioral segmentations, or segments based on an individual’s transactional history with your organization. Behavioral segmentation helps eliminate bias in communication and allows you to classify everyone with transaction history in your database.

Behavioral segmentation can be categorized into three main areas: Recency, Frequency, and Value—or RFV. Recency looks at the timing of a donation; Frequency looks at how often; and Value looks at the overall amount.

Going back to basics, here are six key metrics for creating behavioral segments:

  • Donation Recency: Use this metric to segment donors according to when they last gave, and send appropriate messages. Somebody who hasn’t donated in the past two years should get a different message than somebody who donated last month.
  • Time of Donation: By segmenting donors according to when they give, you’ll be able to time your asks around when donors are most likely to give. You’ll also be helping to enforce an annual habit.
  • Average Annual Number of Donations: Use this metric to segment donors according to how often they give per year. This will be helpful to determine how many asks per year each patron should receive. It’s also helpful in identifying key targets toward the end of the year—if somebody who usually donates twice a year has only donated once this year, they’re prime for an ask!
  • Total Number of Donations: By cross-tabbing total number of donations over time with donation recency, you’ll be able to uncover givers who have offered a number of gifts in the past, but not recently (i.e. lapsed givers). Those are prime candidates to contact to understand their reason for lapsing and (hopefully) move into reactivation.
  • Average Annual Donation Value: Use this metric to divide up your audience according to how much they tend to give each year. This will help you determine the amount of resources you’ll want to spend on each segment for the sake of ROI, as well as the messaging associated with your ask. If you provide suggested giving amounts to your donors (which we highly recommend!), you can also base your recommendation on what they gave in previous years.
  • Total Donation Value: By looking at the cumulative total of donations over time, you can recognize when donors reach key thresholds. For example, when someone reaches a lifetime donation value of $10,000, maybe send them a note of thank you, sharing how the money has helped your organization further its mission. Additionally, analyzing how high-level donors reached certain lifetime donation thresholds will help map the path, and can be used to guide other donors to that level of giving.

If you’re having difficulty identifying metrics in your database, and grouping donors into segments accordingly, we can help! We’ve worked with many organizations to craft customized segments based on their donors’ behaviors and make the segments easily accessible for targeted communications. Contact us to learn more.