Data key to success for charities

Imagine you are a charity. You need to set out your donor strategy for the next few years of operations to fund your good works. Should you build lifetime relationships with donors, who offer large sums over a long time period? Or aim for multiple donors, each offering a small amount of cash to the organisation?

Ruth Mortimer

ActionAid has always tended towards the former strategy. It has traditionally signed up people to sponsoring a child over the long term, costing £15 a month. It aims to find at least 11,000 new sponsors each year.

But now ActionAid is adopting a new targeted strategy to attract one-off donors. The shift is part of a five-year plan for change within the organisation, which hopes to boost funds, increase supporter numbers and diversify income. It hopes to boost its income to £75m by 2017, up from £55m now.

It’s a good move, based on clever analysis of data of the donor market and also the type of people who donate to ActionAid. The top reason people stop giving to charities is being unable to afford it, according to fast.MAP research published in Marketing Week last year. With the shaky global economy making people unable or unwilling to commit portions of money over any long-term period, it makes sense to encourage more ad hoc donations.

There are also new pressures on big philanthropic donations, which mean that relying exclusively on large-scale donors is no longer a great strategy for many non-profits. The cap on tax breaks announced in the recent budget – anyone attempting to claim more than £50,000 in relief, which is the equivalent of making a £200,000 lump sum donation – would be hit by a new cap at 25% of income – could hit charitable donations by millions of pounds a year, claims the Charities Aid Foundation.

ActionAid is not alone in trying to diversify its income. Another large charity told me last week that it had spent the first three months of this year carrying out a large and rigorous data analysis programme. This organisation has identified more than 30 different types of donor – from those wanting to leave a hefty legacy to those people prepared to give a couple of pounds but engage no further. It will market to each of those groups separately.

With so many good causes out there and increasingly tight budgets for consumers, it is more important than ever for charities to target people correctly. There are some causes I’d like to support regularly and others where I would like to donate only when I have some surplus cash. Those charities that get segmentation right will be those that recognise this and manage to take my money off me.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here