Donor Segmentation 101: How to Effectively Segment Your Donors

Ryan Jones • Sep 04, 2020

As you attract more supporters and prospects, you will inevitably learn more about them through surveys, online interactions, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations. 

If you’re using a CRM like Keela to manage your contacts, it’s easy and convenient to input what you’ve learned as data points so you don’t have to try to remember everything about your network. But that data also offers you the opportunity to separate your audience according to chosen data points, like where they live or how much they normally give, or whether they prefer snail or email. 

Separating your audience into subgroups is called segmentation and it’s the best way to target your communication so that it reaches the most willing eyes and ears.

In Keela, as in other CRMs or fundraising software, there are ways to indicate various data points for any given contact. The two main ways are tags and custom fields.

Tags look a lot like tags you might see on social media or in other types of databases; they are labels that can be applied to groups of contacts who have a single data point in common. 

For example, tagging all of your volunteers with the tag “Volunteer” lets you segment all of your volunteers into one group so you can email them to let them know about new opportunities to pitch in. Tags are the simplest way to segment your audience.

Custom fields look more like a form and can store more detailed, customized information according to your needs. 

Taking the example of volunteers from above, you might have a custom field that has more specific information about volunteer availability so that when you’re looking to fill a shift in your schedule next week, you can segment a list of volunteers who are available on Mondays.

Using both tags and custom fields, there is incredible flexibility in how you arrange your data and it’s up to you to make it work for your operation in a way that makes your communication more effective. 

We recommend that you start collecting and entering data as early as possible in the operation of your organization. Starting out with tags and custom fields from the beginning is much easier than going back through hundreds or thousands of contacts later on.

Why Segment?

No one is going to try to tell you that entering data on all of your contacts is a breeze; it’s a significant task that takes thought and time. But it’s worth the trouble, especially as your contact list starts to get above the number that one person can manage manually. 

You can probably remember who is who in a list of 50 contacts, but what about 100? One thousand? Ten thousand? Unlikely, and even if you could, the time it would take to select all the addresses you want makes manual management untenable. The solution: donor segmentation.

As mentioned above, donor segmentation lets you target specific subgroups within your master contact list. But why is that useful? Ultimately, segmentation is personalization, and any time you can reach someone with a personalized message, they are more likely to respond positively to it. Specific positive outcomes include:

  • Improved engagement – Lasting relationships are built on true understanding and interaction
  • Boosted donor retention – Existing donors benefit from customized nurturing campaigns
  • More responsive prospects – Prospects are more easily primed with information that they find relatable
  • More volunteers and advocates – Even those who don’t give are more likely to volunteer or share your cause when they feel connected to it

This is to say when you send communications that connect with your audiences emotionally and personally, you are more likely to receive a positive return in the form of donations, volunteers, and advocates. Segmentation lets you achieve this.

How to Segment Donors

Let’s start with the one, all-important rule of how to segment: use one list. I’ll say it again for the people in the back, USE ONE LIST. 

One master list with tags and custom fields is more convenient for you and it prevents the one thing that you absolutely have to avoid—the dreaded double-send. 

If you start creating separate lists that each contain some of the same email addresses, you will eventually accidentally send multiple copies to those recipients and we guarantee they won’t like that. By using one list and selecting to send to more than one segment, Keela, and most other CRMs will automatically eliminate duplicate email addresses.

Now that we’ve covered that minefield, here are some common segments that you may find useful.

Communication Frequency

Does this contact prefer to hear from you weekly, monthly, annually, or never? 


Does this contact prefer email, social media, phone calls, in-person, or snail mail?


There is lots of room for creativity here since you may have all kinds of content that you want to send. Common examples might include solicitations for donations, event invitations and information, helpful resources, general information, stories, and profiles.

Program Interests

Not everyone is interested in every aspect of your business. Many larger nonprofit organizations have multiple programs all running simultaneously and some of your audience may only be interested in one specific area.

Age Group

For age groups, you may choose to divide into regular intervals (Under 21, 21-30, 31-40, etc.) or you may choose to tag by generation (Gen Z, Millennial, Baby Boomer, etc.) Before you decide, think about what is more useful to you, the contact’s actual age or the cultural setting in which they grew up and became an adult.


Extremely useful for in-person activations like live or sport-based fundraising events, a location segment prevents you from inviting people in Chicago to your Phoenix fun run.


You might also call this segment “Relationship.” This segment lets you know how this contact is affiliated with your organization—volunteer, donor, board member, staff, prospect, staff at a related nonprofit, etc.


Not every entry in your database is going to be a single person. You may have profiles on corporations, families, organizations, foundations, and government bodies as well. Be sure to tag them appropriately.

Donation Amount

Keela automatically tracks average donations from your contacts but you may also find it useful to create a subjective donor rating based on gift amounts (major donor, average donor, etc.)

Donor Status

Tags that indicate whether a donor is recurring, retained, first-time, lapsed, etc. are extremely useful for recurring campaigns, win-back campaigns, and more.

Payment Method

Don’t want to send a link for a credit card donation to someone who always pays by check? Be sure to tag it.

Keela Donor Segmentation Tips

At Keela, we take donor segmentation seriously, so we’ve made it easy to do and highly flexible to meet your specific needs. Here are a few tips for when you’re digging deep into Keela and want to get the most out of your data.


Filters allow you to view all of the contacts that fit a defined set of criteria. Using the filter tool, you can combine tags, custom fields, and Keela preset data points to create a list of contacts who fit your parameters. For example, you might create a filter that looks for volunteers (tag), in Toronto (tag), who are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays (custom field), and who have given in the last year (Keela preset). Once you’ve input your requirements, click Filter and you’ll see a list of every contact who meets your requirements.

Segments Tab

If you’ve tagged your contacts and input data via custom fields and you can’t wait to start creating segments, the best place to start is the Segments tab. From this tab you can filter your contacts using tags and custom fields, then save those filtered lists as segments. Keela even offers default segments that may be useful to your organization.

Once you’ve set up a segment, that segmented list will automatically update according to new data. If you have a segment for donors located in New York and one for Los Angeles, if a donor moves and you update their address in Keela, your segments will automatically reflect the change.

After you have your segments set up exactly the way you want, Keela makes it super easy to target those segments with communications like email blasts and reports.

Learn To Easily Segment Your Donors using Keela

Get a glimpse of how Keela’s segmentation feature allows you to combine tags, custom fields, and Keela preset data points to create custom lists.

Missing Information?

Just like Donald Rumsfeld, your organization is almost certain to have some known unknowns. That is, there are going to be gaps in your data that you are aware of that would be great to fill in. 

Luckily, there is a simple solution: create a donor segment for that gap, then send a survey to those contacts asking for the required information. 

For example, maybe you find it useful to know about dietary restrictions for your contacts, yet you only have the data point filled in for the 100 people who attended your last dinner fundraiser. 

Segment your list into two groups (dietary information supplied or not supplied) and email the not supplied group a questionnaire. If you’ve done your work on engagement in other areas, your response rate is probably going to be good, and you’re on your way to becoming a data superstar.

Watch Keela in action and see how to increase your fundraising through better donor management