Demystifying Data Marketing: 6 Steps to Get Started

Fundraising auctions rely on the participation of engaged supporters to be successful. As an auction manager or nonprofit fundraising professional, you’re continuously looking for ways to improve your supporter engagement and increase excitement surrounding your organization’s auction events.

One strategy you can use to reach a wider audience is data marketing. Data marketing is often seen as a complex, mysterious process that’s only available to those with an analytical background. However, new data marketing strategies and resources open this marketing tool to all types of organizations. Plenty of nonprofits are turning to data marketing to refine their outreach and connect with prospective donors.

Here are six easy steps to get started with data marketing:

  1. Define your goals.
  2. Analyze, clean, and enhance your database.
  3. Determine the demographics or characteristics that best align with your goals.
  4. Segment your data.
  5. Conduct outreach efforts.
  6. Analyze metrics to determine success.

As AccuData’s data marketing guide states, a strong marketing strategy is necessary to stand out from the crowd. Data marketing can give your organization the edge it needs to differentiate itself and attract more attendees to auction events. Let’s dive in!

1. Define your goals.

As you get started with data marketing, give yourself parameters and a starting point from which to build your strategy. The first step of this process is establishing your goals.

What are you looking to accomplish with your auction marketing strategy? Perhaps you’re hoping to:

  • Grow your local audience.
  • Connect with a younger demographic.
  • Reach more high-value donors.
  • Host your next auction in a new community.

Each of these objectives can be assisted by data marketing. We’ll review how data can reveal the necessary insights to help you achieve each of these goals in a later section. But defining your objectives at the beginning of the data marketing process helps you narrow down the types of data on which you should focus.

2. Analyze, clean, and enhance your database.

As stated in GivingMail’s nonprofit marketing guide, “your data is as good as gold.” You should treat it as such and outline proper procedures for storing, analyzing, and cleaning your data so that it’s useful for fulfilling your goals.

Take stock of your nonprofit’s CRM database to assess the current state of your data. Follow these steps to improve your database before launching your data marketing campaign:

  1. Analyze: What is the current state of your internal database? Determine areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Note any missing or outdated information and any data irregularities.
  2. Clean: What areas can you improve to clean up your dataset? For instance, perhaps you noticed that you have several duplicate entries or that staff members have used different abbreviations for street addresses. Take this opportunity to correct errors in your database and establish strong data hygiene practices going forward.
  3. Enhance: How can you improve your database by pulling data from third-party sources? You might be missing certain data points, such as supporter phone numbers or email addresses. You can invest in data enhancement services from an external marketing firm to help bolster your database and input missing data.

After this database audit, you should be left with a clean, complete dataset that contains accurate information about your organization’s audience members. From this point, you’ll be in a strong position to start parsing through your data for elements that will assist your marketing strategy.

3. Determine the demographics or characteristics that best align with your goals.

Identify the characteristics that best align with your goals. Then, parse through your database and external resources to discover supporters who fit the profile. You can craft your marketing messages based on your findings to develop appeals that resonate with your target audience.

These attributes might include:

  • Age
  • Geographic location
  • Giving history
  • Social media use
  • Communication preferences

For example, if you’re looking to grow your local audience for your auction events, you can focus on supporters who live in your community. If you’re looking to invite more high-value donors to your auction events, you can search for those in your database who exhibit wealth markers, like stock ownership or real estate holdings, as well as affinity markers, such as a strong history of giving.

Is your database too large for a manual review? Or do you need additional information on your supporters, such as wealth information and propensity to give? Partnering with a data marketing company to analyze your database and develop donor profiles or to enhance your data with key attributes might be a good step.

4. Segment your data.

Create supporter segments based on the characteristics you identified in the previous step. Segmentation is the process of grouping audience members based on shared characteristics or demographics. For instance, you might create segments based on age or communication preferences.

From this point, you can tailor your correspondence to each group. As this guide to donor cultivation states, segmentation allows you to personalize your outreach efforts to send messages that motivate each segment.

You might send auction promotions that emphasize your organization’s local ties to supporters who live in your community. Or, you could send targeted Facebook advertisements to supporters who prefer to communicate via social media.

Keep in mind that by making your segments more specific, you can craft highly relevant messages that are more likely to resonate with your target audience. To do this, you might create groups with several different characteristics in common, such as a segment of women over age 45 or supporters in your local community who prefer to communicate via email.

The more you know about your target audience, the more easily you can create marketing messages that move them.

5. Conduct outreach efforts.

Once you’ve created your audience segments, it’s time to start reaching out to them and marketing your auction event.

Use your research to determine your target audience’s preferred communication channels. Consider taking a multichannel marketing approach to reach each segment effectively.

For a multichannel marketing strategy, you can use platforms such as:

  • Social media: Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are effective for reaching a younger audience. However, people of all ages use these platforms, so this is an effective marketing channel to optimize.
  • Email: If you want to cut through the digital clutter and speak directly to audience members, an email marketing campaign allows you to send messages right to supporters’ inboxes.
  • Direct mail: Time after time, direct mail proves to have a high ROI and response rate for nonprofits. It’s also an effective platform for reaching a local or older audience. Promote your auction using well-designed postcards or letters.

With direct outreach, it can take from 18-20 different touchpoints to connect with a new donor for the first time, so a multichannel marketing approach helps ensure you’re reaching prospective supporters effectively.

To ensure your messages are optimized to convert audience members into supporters, conduct an A/B analysis of your marketing appeals. A/B testing involves creating two different versions of the same marketing message and analyzing which version performs better.

For example, you can adjust the wording of your social media advertisements to see what messaging works best. You might create one campaign that encourages supporters to “Sign Up for Our Night Under the Stars Event Today!” and another that says “Join Us for a Night Under the Stars!” Then, you can compare the success of each ad at converting recipients to event participants.

Remember to only change one aspect of your advertising appeals at a time to have a clear picture of which elements make a difference. Doing so allows you to pinpoint clear directives for how you should create future marketing materials.

6. Analyze metrics to determine success.

As you carry out your data marketing efforts, you’ll need a way to assess your strategy to identify areas of strength and opportunities.

Choose a few key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your organization’s success. KPIs are metrics that quantify your organization’s progress toward your goals, allowing you to analyze your results categorically.

Certainly, you can measure aspects such as your social media engagement metrics or email open rates. But the true statistic that will reveal the success of your marketing campaigns is your conversion rate. This is the number of audience members you were able to convert into event attendees or supporters of your cause.

With your online advertisements, you can determine your conversion rate by dividing the number of conversions by the total number of interactions with your ad. You can also determine your email conversion rate by dividing the number of conversions by the total number of email click-throughs.

Be sure to store these insights in your organization’s database to reference ahead of future auction events.


With these six steps, your organization should have the foundation it needs to market your auction events more effectively. Repeat this process for each new marketing campaign, keeping in mind the successes and failures of your previous campaigns. Good luck and happy fundraising!


Special thanks to Gabrielle from AccuData from Integrated Marketing for the expert advice on data marketing. Gabrielle is the Director of Marketing for AccuData Integrated Marketing. She joined the organization in 2017 and possesses more than 15 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding, communications, and digital marketing. She earned a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A in Marketing Management from the University of Tampa.