Simple Segmentation: Personalize Appeals in 4 Easy Steps

At RAISE 2017, Josh Newton, president and CEO of the UConn Foundation, talked about how his team is flipping the annual giving model.

As an industry, we’ve seen a 50 percent participation decline in the last 20 years. UConn, like nearly every college, wasn’t immune and had lost 2,000 donors each year since 2013. Something needed to change dramatically.

Josh shared how the foundation shifted ownership of annual giving outreach to an engagement and acquisition team, which is working to personalize communication with every alum and match donor interests to UConn gift opportunities. UConn (and other forward-thinking institutions) are mimicking how companies like OpenTable, Amazon, or Starwood Hotels engage customers with messages that fit their preferences.

It’s a bold step in a new direction—one that holds great potential not only for UConn and Husky Nation, but also for our industry as a whole.

(Watch Josh’s talk at RAISE or read more about how his team is rethinking annual giving.)

If this shift gets your blood pumping, here are simple ways to use EverTrue to build an interest-driven approach to fundraising.

Step 1: Connect Known Donor Interests to Fundraising Priorities

Start small and pick three to five topics for an upcoming appeal, then create corresponding lists in EverTrue (i.e. “Scholarship Appeal List” or “Sports Appeal List”). This doesn’t mean you’re moving away from unrestricted asks. Rather, it’s an opportunity to showcase how the annual fund provides critical support for the programs your donors care about most.

Next, use our powerful search filters to add constituents to those lists for future outreach.

Look for Facebook Content Engagement that matches each category. If your appeal will be about athletics, see who’s interacted with posts about sports, specific teams, coach profiles, or student athletes.

Connect asks to interests using Industry filters. This up-to-date career information in EverTrue can translate directly to an appeal. For example…

  • Work in finance? Here’s an update on our business program.
  • Work in nonprofits or education? Here’s a story of a student world-changer.
  • Work in engineering or science? This is how your alma mater is leading in STEM-related fields.

If you’re sending data about past activities to EverTrue, add graduates who participated in relevant clubs to your outreach lists.

Step 2: Mix In Other Engagement Points

EverTrue lets you copy-and-paste lists of emails or remote IDs into the platform. We’ll match those to constituent records in EverTrue, so you can use them to power your fundraising and engagement efforts.

Take advantage of your team’s alumni relations program! If you’re putting together a sports-themed appeal, copy-and-paste in the IDs for everyone who’s attended homecoming or a rivalry game. Find relevant past events for each campaign and add those attendees to your solicitation list.

  • PS – You can work with our support team to load historic event data into EverTrue so you can use attendance as a search filter. Shoot us a note ( to find out how.

Email opens and clicks = engagement! If an alum is willing to read a story about a program, they’re demonstrating interest. Your communications team can give you lists of opens and clicks from past newsletters, which you can pop into EverTrue to hone your outreach.

  • Stay tuned for news about our awesome new partnership with Emma, a leading email marketing platform. We’re working with them to make this type of segmentation way, way easier.

Step 3: Prioritize Individual Outreach or Extra Layers of Personalization

We’re just keeping things simple here, but you can get really detailed with your segmentation.

One of the great things about EverTrue is how we surface the most-likely-to-give prospects. Using the list you’ve built, add columns to sort by Last Facebook Engagement or number of Facebook interactions to see your most engaged constituents. Our research shows that these people are twice as likely to make a gift, so a little more personal outreach can yield greater returns.

You can also look at Last Gift date, Lifetime Giving, or Capacity Score to see who on the list should get an extra touch as part of your ask strategy.

Step 4: Make the Ask

Once you’ve built your list, it’s go-time. If you’re using Online Giving from EverTrue, it’s just two more clicks and you’re ready to roll (hit the “Actions” button and select “Create Give Appeal”).

In a perfect world, your appeal ties directly to a donor’s interest (you’ve done this in steps 1-3) and directs them to a beautiful giving form that mirrors the appeal. (We can help with that.) Williams College took this approach and generated a 36 percent increase in the number of gifts site visitors made.

After you convert your prospects to donors, you’ll have a list of people who are 100-percent, beyond-a-doubt interested in that program. You’ll be able to steward this group by sharing results of the campaign and the impact they’ve made on the student experience, which will continue to help you deliver donor-centric content and personalize ongoing outreach before you ask them for support again.

OK, Let’s Go!

This is just a start with segmentation. It’s a little like dipping a toe into the ocean of possibility, but that’s okay—we’re here to make this as simple as possible and will have more tips coming your way.

Test your results and let us know how it goes. We want to hear how you’re moving the needle by building interest and engagement-based segments! Shoot your customer success manager a note or leave a comment below.

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