Partner Post

What’s in a Name? Defining Donors, Members and Subscribers

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This post was originally published on CDS Global’s blog

By now we all know that you say tomato and I say to-mah-to, and we’ve agreed to disagree over potatoes and po-tah-toes, but if you work in a nonprofit with diverse revenue sources, you might struggle with defining your constituent groups. Are they members? Subscribers? Donors? Does it matter?

Actually, it does. The fact is, any fundraising nonprofit should care deeply about all the different types of constituents who provide funds and other resources that help further the mission. And there are many simple and important things that you should be doing to make all of these supporter groups feel appreciated. Things like sending prompt and personalized gift acknowledgements, delivering amazing content and offering targeted, but varied avenues for engagement with your organization and your cause.

But – and this is a big but – you also need to be 100% cognizant of the differences between types of supporters.

Acknowledging Differences to Inspire Engagement

You need to understand what uniquely motivates each supporter group, and in turn what distinct messaging and approach will inspire those groups to further engage with you. All three groups may be providing funds and resources, but donors are different than subscribers who are different than members.   If you get your marketing and fundraising mix right when it comes to these groups, you have the chance to do things like increase the average number of gifts per constituent per year, increase the average size of their gifts and increase satisfaction and ultimately retention.

If you get it wrong? Well, you’ll be like far too many nonprofits today.

Exploring the Donor/Member/Subscriber Dynamic – #Bridge15

Interested in learning new ways to enhance (or establish) your donor, member and subscriber base? I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss this fascinating and increasingly important topic next Wednesday at the Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference in Maryland. And I’m even more excited that my co-presenter in this session will be Lynn Swain, Membership Director at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The 115-year-old Lab is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds, and relies on supporters for 99% of its operating budget. Lynn will share some real world best practices regarding how the Lab has mastered working with donors, subscribers and members. It will be incredibly insightful and immediately useful to any fundraising nonprofit.

Catch our session “Who Should You Love Most? Your Donors, Your Members, or Your Subscribers?” on Wednesday at 4:00pm for tips and best practices on making the most of these constituent groups.

If you have any questions before (or after) the session, tweet them to me @JameyHeinze – I’ll be happy to answer them!

Missing the Bridge Conference? Some resources for you!

Follow the CDS Global blog for additional insights on the topic and links to the presentation when it becomes available. If you’re hungry for some fundraising and marketing tips now, you can check out the white paper based on my presentation from last year – “The Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Marketing Approach: Ten Techniques Your Organization Should Consider.”

What’s in a name? More than you think.

So forget what Shakespeare said. There actually is something to a name, and though a rose by another name would likely smell as sweet, your donors, members and subscribers by any other name might not be reaching their full fundraising potential.

Don’t miss Jamey and Lynn’s presentation at the Bridge Conference! Get the full details here.

About the Author:  Jamey Heinze (Twitter @JameyHeinze) is the Chief Marketing Officer at CDS Global.

CDS Global powers the modern nonprofit. For more information on our solutions, including donations processing, donor acknowledgements, mailing services, data capture, customer service, prospect insights, and more, visit

Or contact us at: [email protected] or 866.897.7987


About the Author: The chief marketing officer at CDS Global, Jamey Heinze is responsible for leading the company’s marketing efforts in the nonprofit sector as well as other industries. Heinze has more than 20 years of experience in technology sales and marketing and has held marketing, product management and sales positions at companies such as Xerox, Level 3 Communications, Broadwing Communications and OpenText/Vignette.