6 easy ways to segment your fundraising appeal letter

You already know who the varying groups are in your database and their affinity to your organization. Now you need to consider how to speak to them through your appeals and communications using segmentation. 

Professor Adrian Sargeant* shows that segmenting donors and interacting with them based on their behaviors creates more effective donor communication. Understanding and addressing your donor’s unique preferences will in turn increase donor satisfaction, and their loyalty.

As far as choosing which segments will be most beneficial to address with custom verbiage, we’ve done the hard work for you! Here are our recommendations for the most effective segmentation, and some well-executed examples:

Segmentation by giving history

1. Current donors, SYBUNT, LYBUNT, and lapsed donors: Simply vary one or two lines in the letter to recognize different types of giving history.

“Because of generous gifts from people like you, we are able to…” (Prospect)

“Thank you so much for becoming a donor! Your generous gift helps us…Will you join us in giving again this spring?” (First-time donor)

“Thank you so much for your previous generous gift. Will you join us again…?”(Lapsed donor)

2. Major donors: Often the best way to address your major donors is with a personal touch. Many organizations choose to remove the digitized signature from large donor letters and have them sent back to the organization for personal signing or note.

Major Donor Segmentation

3. Leadership circle or giving society members: Alter a paragraph or two and the ask within your letter to recognize the donor’s support level and thank them for being a leader for your cause.

Leadership Segmentation

Segmentation by donor experience with your organization

1. Participatory or affinity groups like Board Members, staff, volunteers, auxiliary, patient, new parent, current parent, grandparents, alumni, friends, sponsors, class year, reunion year: The possibilities here are vast, but it’s still important to address these groups in the same way they identify themselves with your organization. If you choose to appeal to just a few participatory groups, like Norwich University, tweak your letter into 2 versions. If you have many groups, try using a variable field or P.S. to address them individually.

Affinity Segmentation

2. Geography: If your organization has services in multiple regions, consider including language that mentions the town, region, or the facilities near and familiar to the donor.

Geography Segmentation

3. Area of service: A letter that includes specific messaging, testimonials, and stories about a focused service area within your organization can stir powerful emotions in your donors, and bring the best donor response—especially if they’ve had a personal experience with the service area.

Service Segmentation

Lastly, don’t get overwhelmed by all the options for appeal segmentation! Remember, one of the best things you can do for your organization is to build relationships with your donors, so try a few variations for segments that you think are likely to have the most impact. Then adjust as needed—and stay consistent with what works!


*Sargeant, Adrian, 2016. Relationship Fundraising: Where Do We Go From  Here?

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