Frequently Asked Questions

DonorBureau’s analytics and modeling can tell you who is most likely to donate at any given time. Because we are constantly tracking what is happening within the fundraising community, we maximize your ability to raise money by dropping names that will lose money for your campaign.

What is DonorBureau?

DonorBureau is an industry leader in data and analytics, including the acquisition and cultivation of high-quality donors. Utilizing proprietary analytical techniques and machine learning technology, DonorBureau identifies characteristics of likely donors, predicting giving frequency and donation amount to improve the effectiveness of fundraising appeals.

How does PrecisionProspecting and the DonorRetention Model work?

DonorBureau creates a modeling database from your historical mailings and donations, then builds customized predictive models. DonorBureau evaluates an individual’s likelihood and capacity for giving based on hundreds of variables which describe behavior on previous campaigns, seasonal response patterns, and demographic information.

My clients vary, how does DonorBureau fit the needs of each client?

Precision Prospecting and the DonorCultivation Model work by assessing an individual’s propensity to donate to each client individually.

Does DonorBureau take into account long-term value of donors for both Prospecting and House?

The lifetime value of a donor is the most important characteristic we take into account at DonorBureau. Both the short term and long term likelihood and capacity of donations are built into all of our products to ensure those most likely to improve overall net donations are selected for both prospect and house mailings.

What is the difference between RFM models and Lifetime Value models and why are LifetimeValue models better?

DonorBureau’s Lifetime Value models use data mining to find similarities between responders from previous mail campaigns to predict who is likely or not likely to donate to a future campaign. The model is then scored against the prospects of the new campaign and an agency can choose to mail only those people that are most likely to donate. This increases conversions and decreases costs by only mailing to those most likely to respond.


RFM can identify good donors and provide a lift in response rates versus not using any targeting at all. It is also both simple and descriptive, so it is easily understood by people without a statistical background or who truly understand data science. Unfortunately, RFM doesn’t take into account life stage or seasonal donating and assumes that donors are likely to continue to respond the same way. The most attractive segments are likely to be over-mailed at the expense of other potential donors that could be invested in. This can destroy the life time value of a donor.

Lifetime Value Models

Lifetime Value models determine the correlation between hundreds of variables. Unlike RFM models, lifetime value takes into account that scores can quickly change when combined with other variables. It isn’t a one to one comparison. For instance, a donor that gives to a $5 package I/O is not the same type of donor that gives to a $.50  package I/O.  Someone that donates around the holidays, is not the same type of donor that donates in July. Lifetime Value models are built off of hundreds of variables that take all of that into account to give you the best, most predictive outcome.

How do your models predict which donors are which?

In any given file being mailed for any given appeal, there are strong, average and weak candidates. We rely on years of historical data to segment these groups:

  • Demographic data – Characteristics about individuals. E.g. – age, gender, ethnicity, income.
  • Psychographic data – Measure of attitudes, values, lifestyles, and opinions.
  • Behavioral data – Records of past actions by individuals.

When analyzed, patterns emerge. By constructing a 360-degree view of an individual, these patterns allow us to predict future behavior.
We are able to predict how receptive a prospect will be to an organization, to a specific appeal, at a specific time of the year, and to any given frequency of contact.

What makes a prospect unsuitable?

Prospecting for new Donors is an investment. The goal is to target prospects most likely to become loyal donors. Those with negative Lifetime Value should be avoided in the Donor Acquisition stage.

What if we don’t want to mail less?

Because DonorBureau is able to predict the poorest performing names, cutting them saves you money. By saving money on the poorly performing names, more packages are successful, more mailing lists perform, and there is more available mail quantity. We don’t decrease the mail quantity you send – we increase the net income and ROI for any given mail quantity you choose. The end result is actually MORE mail quantity, more net income, and happier organizations since each piece is more profitable.

You’ve mentioned Lifetime Value a lot. What is the focus on Lifetime Value?

Acquisition mailing results are an incredibly important driver of financial performance for your program. But it’s important to identify donors who will remain loyal. Our model targets donors who will become longtime benefactors to your organization.

 You will notice that the donors we identify have a higher average gift than the average. The donors we target have significantly higher retention rates and value in Donor Programs.

How do we get set up?

When a firm partners with DonorBureau, historical data is collected for incorporation into our data warehouse. DonorBureau builds custom predictive models which are optimized for each specific client and integrated into our system. Using the system is as easy an uploading a file to an FTP server. You can upload your files for scoring from any computer with an internet connection.

How do we test DonorBureau?

We always do a head to head test to make sure we are increasing the number of net donations for both prospecting and house. We are almost always successful on the first try, but in the off chance we aren’t, we will hone the model and test again. It’s always risk-free.

How long does set up and testing take?

Once data is provided to DonorBureau, customized predictive models are built and ready to go within 15 days. After you have the results of your appeal, a short analysis is conducted to determine the improvement attributable to DonorBureau.

How long does it take to integrate PrecisionProspecting or the DonorRetention Model into our current process?

Precision Prospecting and the DonorRetention Model are simple to incorporate into your current processes. You will set up an automated process for sending data to our data warehouse. We will walk you through the process. The scoring of prospecting lists or house files is simple by uploading the file to an FTP interface. We return files by FTP to your team.

We already have analytics in house, why is this better?

DonorBureau uses proprietary predictive modeling techniques that have been proven to increase net donations above traditional analytical methods. DonorBureau’s expertise in statistical analytics, data science, and data management has provided a foundation to create a system that taps into proven analytical techniques in the world of fundraising. Unlike DonorBureau’s Precision Prospecting and DonorRetention Model, most traditional methods in direct mail analytics rely on only a few variables, like an RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) approach, and are exclusively based on the data they have in house to make decisions.

DonorBureau uses global data and hundreds of key variables which are derived from billions of transactions to choose the best potential donors. By amortizing expense over hundreds of partner organizations, we are able to invest in the purchase of data and in data tools that no one organization or agency can acquire cost-effectively. And with our universal data, we know who has been mailed, how many times they’ve been mailed, and how much they are capable of giving. Analytics, applied to a less comprehensive data set, will not produce equivalent results.

Do other organizations have access to MY data?

That is a choice YOU make. Many of our clients prefer to keep their data in our data warehouse which is completely isolated from our cooperative database, DonorDemocracy.

Is that different than other modeling companies?

Many companies are co-ops, and rent the contributed names to other members and that is the only solution they offer. We offer the luxury of both options, keeping your data private or making your data part of DonorDemocracy where you get paid list rental income for your names. If you are part of our private data warehouse, we do not provide your names to other Partners. We use your data to build our models, but we never use your names, unless you have specifically requested to be a part of DonorDemocracy.

We NEVER collect list rental income from our private data warehouse. Our fee is only for screening your mail lists.

How quickly will we see results?

DonorBureau’s response models deliver noticeable results with the first test. When Precision Prospecting and the DonorRetention Model eliminate the worst performing names from a prospect list or chooses the best names from a house file list, the client improves the average donation rate per piece mailed immediately.

How often do you update your response models?

Our models are constantly monitored for performance. If at any time the performance deviates from acceptable levels, new models are built on new data and reevaluated.

What is required of a Partner to DonorBureau?

After the trial period, a Partner provides frequent updates of their mail activity – all mail sent and all donations received (and all non-donor responses, where appropriate).

Why do we contribute our data?

Response Rates fall dramatically once prospective donors see the same piece – one example of key insight to predicting program results, and the importance of regular data updates.

Data contribution serves three purposes:

  1. Construct a customized model.
  2. Constantly improve the model with the ongoing data updates.
  3. Provide critical information about the recent behavior of prospects.

What’s the free trial offer? How does it work? Is it hard?

If your program is in a niche similar to our existing data, the process is incredibly fast and simple:

1.    Provide 12-24 months of mail history and donation history.

2.       Allow 3-4 weeks for model development, testing, and deployment.

3.      Send over your file before it goes to the mail shop.

4.       We will score it and return it in under 24 hours. We will provide two classifications: “Good” and “Bad.”

5.       Mail the two files as separate appeals. Wait, and compare results. This requires greater investment on your side (providing the data) and DonorBureau’s side (building and deploying a model). However, we are so confident in our ability to show dramatic improvement in your results, even in our initial model launch, that the trial is still FREE.

What if my program is unique?

If your program is not sufficiently similar to our existing Partner base, it is essential we construct a customized model. This process takes a little longer, but yields the same results:

  1. Provide 12-24 months of mail history and donation history.
  2. Allow 3-4 weeks for model development, testing, and
  3. Send over your file before it goes to the mail
  4. We will score it and return it in under 24 We will provide two classifications: “Good” and “Bad.”
  5. Mail the two files as separate appeals. Wait, and compare results. This requires greater investment on your side (providing the data) and DonorBureau’s side (building and deploying a model). However, we are so confident in our ability to show dramatic improvement in your results, even in our initial model launch, that the trial is still