You’re a fundraiser in today’s digital world. You already know that email is an incredibly cost-effective way to get your message out to the masses. But that doesn’t mean that message should be the same for every single person on your email list. Just as you segment direct mail appeals to speak to different audiences, you should tailor your digital communications with segments to reflect donor preferences and giving behaviours! Using a one-size-fits-all approach to your email marketing? Here are 3 simple segmentation rules you can (and should!) start using today.

Active/Current Donors

If you’re not currently segmenting your list, this is probably who you’re writing for with most appeals and stewardship pieces. And generally, this is where I start when crafting content for clients. These folks should receive most of your solicitation emails (depending on the timing of their last gift and stewardship touchpoints since then) and regular updates about how their contributions are making a difference. Appeals should acknowledge the great work they’ve already done and speak to the impact they can make by renewing their support with another gift.

Monthly Donors

Your most loyal supporters! Monthly donors keep your operations running day-to-day and are truly invested in the work you do. So make sure you’re sending them communications that reflect that!

There are definitely some cases when you’d want to include monthly donors in an e-appeal based on campaign theme or time of year. Emergency/disaster fundraising and #GivingTuesday come to mind. But in most cases, you don’t want to be asking your dedicated supporters for an additional one-time gift with every appeal. However, that doesn’t mean just excluding them is the way to go.

Assuming your appeal includes a story (and if it doesn’t, check out Fraser’s recent blog for why it should!), this is a wonderful opportunity to turn your appeal into a stewardship touchpoint. Make sure to demonstrate to these donors how their continued support makes these outcomes possible. Already have a stewardship focus? Give these special donors a little bit of extra love either with more in-depth updates or value-adds like exclusive videos. Make them feel like their monthly gifts truly make a difference – because they do!


This group is a bit of a catch-all and will change from organization to organization. Generally speaking though, it includes anyone in your database who has not yet made a monetary donation. This list might include volunteers, event participants, in-kind gift donors, or prospective donors from a lead generation campaign. These folks support your work, just not in the form of financial contributions. As such, you’ll want to tweak your messaging. You don’t want to talk about their donations making a difference for your cause if they’re on your email list because they signed one of your petitions. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be thanked for their support! Just be mindful of the language you’re using when you talk about what their support looks like.

Talk about how their commitment to your cause has helped further your mission. Then show them how they can take that one step further by making their first gift. These individuals might also need a bit more information about the work you do in general if they’re new to the file or otherwise not actively involved with your organization.

I’d also consider tweaking your stewardship messaging for non-donors, or even removing these people from some of those messages depending on the nature and number of touchpoints in your plan. Demonstrating impact is an important part of the relationship-building process and key to moving these folks from prospects to donors. That said, consider reserving some communications just for donors, like a value-add or behind-the-scenes look at your work.

In Conclusion…

More segments might make sense for your organization. This depends on your file size, makeup of your email list, and number of touchpoints in your digital program. The ease with which different segments can be identified and isolated in your email platform plays a big role here. The key is to determine what will work for your donor file and what’s sustainable moving forward. Tailored communications to strategic segments are a great way to help build relationships with new and prospective donors and deepen connections with your loyal supporters, but should be feasible with just a bit of variable copy and a few extra clicks – not an hours-long endeavour for already time-strapped fundraisers!