Sybil Ackerman-Munson Discusses the 3 Types of Donors

 Sybil Ackerman Munson

We all know how important segmentation is, but how can you use donor segments to create more meaningful communication with our supporters? 

Sybil Ackerman-Munson is a philanthropy professional with over two decades of experience working with donors to establish the best fundraising practices that will help them to avoid costly mistakes. As the founder of Do Your Good, she helps them make a true impact and meaningful difference in the world through their donations.

Sybil joins the show to share her top 3 donor segments and how you can shape your communications to match these 3 types of donors. 

Sybil’s 3 Types of Donors

  1. Sustainer Donor: Love your nonprofit and the work that you do. Supports you because they are a fan of your work specifically. These donors are your biggest cheerleaders. 
  2. Campaigner Donor: Is passionate about a specific issue like climate change or homelessness, not necessarily the work that your nonprofit does. 
  3. Launcher Donor: Similar to the campaigner donor, they are also focused on a specific issue but seek to fill the gap in finding a solution. 

Favourite Quotes 

[7:10] I represent in my business, sustainer campaigner and launcher donors. And so I actually firsthand can see when a nonprofit is doing a great job at sussing that out first and then pitching me in the appropriate way. I love it when I'm pitched well, because I want to help donors give money away and the donors want to give money away. We just want to have the right reasons. We w3ant to understand what you're doing in the way that the donor cares about it.

[11:30] the most important thing is that if you're talking to a campaigner or a launcher donor, you will lose them at Hello. If you just sit down and start talking about how important your group is and how you just want general support money and that they should just be giving you money year after year, and that's the obligation that will lose them. They'll sit there and smile and they might give you a little bit of money, but they won't give you much.


What are the three different types of donors you will encounter with your organization? Let's find out.

Hi and welcome to Driven's Fundraising Superheroes Podcast. You know me. I'm your host, Sabrina Sciscente. And as innovators in nonprofit technology, our team at Driven is determined to help you unlock your true fundraising potential. Visit us at to learn more. We are happy to talk about your volunteer, member or donor management.

Every donor is different, right? No matter your organization, it's going to be hard to find two donors that are exactly alike.

Everyone's motives, desires, and connections to your nonprofit are completely different from one another. And it's up to you to find ways to connect with each of these people. But how can you do that are so unique? Well, you have to find patterns and in those patterns, you have to create segments. Sybil Ackerman Munson is a philanthropy professional with over two decades of experience working with donors to establish the best fundraising practices that will help them to avoid costly mistakes. She helps them make a true impact and meaningful difference in the world through their donations.

But she also has helped donors give away over $45 million in donations throughout the course of her career. She talks with us today to share her tips on connecting with your donors in a meaningful way. So thank you so much. Double for joining me.

Thanks for having me. Sabrina. I'm so excited to be here. We're going to have a great conversation I'm sure. 

So can you begin by explaining the vision behind Do Your Good and your journey leading up to it?

Yeah, my vision. Oh, my gosh. I'm so committed to this vision. So I worked as a nonprofit professional for over a decade raising money, but also as a person in the field doing program work. So I did both. And then I moved over to be a donor because one of the people who funded my work asked me to then run his foundation, and he said, I want to still be a trustee, but will you run my foundation? So then I moved over to that side of the table and started giving money away.

And I have done that for over a decade now, too. I'm getting old and I've been working on this. I feel so strongly that it's important to support important nonprofits and to support wealthy folks to give money to important work in the field that I've been doing that for so long but Ive been amassing all this information, and I want to share it with the world because I feel like everything I've learned can really help people, not leave money on the table, can help both donors and people from the nonprofit community make a bigger difference in the world.

So I'm really excited to be here to talk about sort of the tips and tricks that I've learned over the years and just to talk about maybe some of the challenges, too. So you  go ask me any question you want. I'm happy to answer.

Fantastic. Well, that's amazing, because you get that unique perspective from both sides of the situation as a donor and as a nonprofit professional, given that you have worked with both donors and organizations, what is the one thing you've noticed that donors want to see within the nonprofit they support? What are they looking for before they give out their donation?

And I love that question. But I hope it's okay if I answer the one main thing depending on the kind of donor that I see. So the most important thing- I'm creating online courses, special spotlight mini-courses for nonprofit, so they can dig into some of this stuff. I know that they're super busy, even the nonprofit world. So that's why I'm doing these special highlight pieces. And one of the things I really lean into is that there actually isn't one thing for every donor, but there's three different types of donors.

And if you understand what kind of donor you're talking to, then you lean into the one top thing. So can we break it down to the three types of donors and then the one top thing each of those types want to see.

Okay. So the three types of donors are sustainer donor, campaigner donor and launch your donor. The sustainer donor just loves your nonprofit. Let's say and I always use this example, but I just can't help, but I love it. Let's say that they're bird watchers, and I worked at autobond. So that's why I lean into that. But let's say they love watching birds. They love going on outings. And your organization does that. That's what they do. And so a sustainer donor, they just love going on your outings.

They give you money year after year. They might sit on your board. They might volunteer for you. That's a sustainer donor. A campaigner donor. What they do is they care more about a major issue like climate change or education reform or houselessness. They care more about that issue honestly, than they do about your nonprofit. The third kind of donor is a launcher donor. They also like a campaigner donor care about the issue more than your nonprofit. So they care about climate change, house lessness homelessness, any issue you name it that they care about.

But what they want to do if they're a launcher because they want to find the gap in that issue and fill it. Okay. So as a nonprofit person, if you're talking to a sustainer donor, a person who just loves your group, the number one thing that you do to keep them loving your group is you talk about the major outings, the things you're doing and get them involved in what you're already doing. That's the number one thing. I mean, there's other elements, too that I go into in my courses that's the number one thing.

Give them your annual report. Talk about all the great things you're doing and go for it. That's the big thing is make sure you have clear messaging, but be focused on your organization and what you're doing. If you're talking to a campaigner donor, the number one thing is to ask them what's the major issue you care about. If they say it's an issue that your organization is working on, focus only on that. Talk about what your group is doing, how you're collaborating with other nonprofit, how you're moving the needle.

Just talk about that. Don't talk to them about how they should come to your annual meeting or give them your big annual report. Talk to them about that issue. If you're talking to a launcher donor who wants to fill a gap, you ask them, what are you interested in? And then you start talking about the gaps in that field. Like, what are the things that aren't happening that need to happen to help move the needle? That's what you talk about. So those are the top things for each one of those donors I wanted to emphasize, because a good fundraiser is really good at doing that.

I represent in my business, sustainer campaigner and launcher donors. And so I actually firsthand can see when a nonprofit is doing a great job at sussing that out first and then pitching me in the appropriate way. I love it when I'm pitched well, because I want to help donors give money away and the donors want to give money away. We just want to have the right reasons. We want to understand what you're doing in the way that the donor cares about it. So it's really cool.

Yeah, that's amazing. And when you segment, that's the best way to get a personalized message to the people you're working with. So I love how you broke it up and how you explained it in such a beautifully simple way. So thank you.

Thanks, Sabrina. I can't tell you personally sort of why I decided to divide it into three. When I started as a donor, I started out first, full time as an executive director of One Family Foundation. And when I first started all of these different donors, both the people I worked for and others. When I started networking with other donors, they started telling me, this is the way you're supposed to fund nonprofit Sybil, and they acted like their way was the only way. And when I was just starting out, I started getting really confused.

And I'm like, man, if I'm confused than the nonprofit must be completely confused and not really know how to access this. And so over these years, that's when I started realizing, no, there's not only one way to fund. There's not only one way to pitch. There's these special ways, though, so that people can maybe navigate it more effectively over time. So, yeah, I really feel passionate that's sort of why I'm doing this.

Yeah. It's really important again to challenge the way that things were. So I like that you got creative and you thought of your own way to make fundraising a lot more effective.

And thanks for saying that. I appreciate it, I love the words of encouragement. Keep me going.

So when it comes to actually now communicating with these donors, are there different methods of communication that will work across all three of these types?

Yeah. Okay. So once you're pretty clear on what kind of donor you're talking to, being relevant is really important. And the number one thing that I have found that's really helpful is when there's a trending news story, something that, you know, most people will pick up the newspaper. Well, I date myself. There's not really newspapers anymore, but any kind of social media, any news that's trending that your nonprofit is working on, don't assume that the donors that are already giving you money or donors that are your prospects already know what you're doing.

And so what I do get a lot is I already get, like, blast emails and the website links that are updated and stuff like that. But what really works well is when you in the nonprofit world, send me a personalized email that say you might have read this in the news. This is exactly what we're doing, but it's personalized to me because it knows the person knows exactly what my donors care about. I can then forward that to the donors.

It also helps me just make sure and say oh, yeah. It reminds me I process so many different proposals a year and talk to so many nonprofit. It reminds me of what you're doing and that you're relevant. The reason I say this, it seems obvious, but the weird thing is out of all of the work that I do, there's only around four or five nonprofit that do this well, every year and actually in one of my courses, my mini courses I'm creating, I actually break down in very much detail, like an example of an email that works really well and why and how folks just think about it.

And I know we have more limited time today, but it's really important to think about how to make it really personal because we are all really busy. And so it's good to say: hey, here's Sybil what we're doing here's the brass tax, here's why we're effective and what we're doing with the issue you've been reading about today.

And then when you're going into more specifics for each of the types, are their communications that work best for a campaigner as opposed to launcher, or is it more the messaging you have to look out for?

I love the question, and I sort of want to reverse it, if that's okay. I want to talk about  the most important thing is that if you're talking to a campaigner or a launcher donor, you will lose them at Hello. If you just sit down and start talking about how important your group is and how you just want general support money and that they should just be giving you money year after year, and that's their obligation that will lose them. They'll sit there and smile and they might give you a little bit of money, but they won't give you much.

And a lot of times they'll say, well, what would the audacity of these folks? Why do they think that just because they're doing XYZ, that it's actually going to be effective in moving the needle and climate change. So they actually want to hear you talk about that. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think that it can be a problem if donors aren't asking the questions in the right way and being empathetic. And I actually also am developing an entire course for donors to make sure and to help them approach the challenges in the conversations in a way that's also empathetic open minded and doesn't wield too much power.

But as a nonprofit person, you can also make sure that you're communicating well by linking it into the issue they care about and not just sitting back and say, just find my group because I happen to generally be working on good stuff and you should know about it. Now, a lot of nonprofit will say, oh, of course we never do that. We always lean into the particular issue. But I'm telling the reason I'm saying this out loud is that's not actually true. 

A lot of nonprofit because they're so engaged in the work they do every day they sort of make a lot of assumptions that the donor one step removed, who gets pitched all the time from so many different places from great nonprofit, how are you going to stand out? And the way you stand out is by really focusing in on making sure that you're telling the donor the kind of work you're doing that fits their interests.

Okay. And so if you're dealing with the donor who's really passionate about you and your organization, that's when it's okay to start talking more specifically.

If they're a sustainer. And that's why I made those three categories, because if there is sustainer donor great talk about general support, supporting your after year. Talk about all your great work, but campaigner and launcher you don't want to lose them at Hello, you want to say first find out what their interests are, and then either talk about the gaps if they're a launcher or if they're campaigner, talk about how you're moving the needle on the issue they care about, which I'm sure you are great nonprofit person, you are.

Just talk about it.

Of course, when they're speaking with a new donor, is it easy do you find to distinguish between me three types.

Or are there key things that they should be looking out for?
Great question, Sabrina. There are. And in my courses, I do get into this in even more detail. But let's talk about it now. A door a lot of times won't tell you. They won't sit down at the table and say, Hi, I'm a campaigner donor, and I care about climate change. They're not going to do that. So you need to as a nonprofit person such this out. And it's actually fairly simple if you know you're looking for this.

So you sit down with them. And the first thing you ask them is, what do you care about? And they will tell you. They'll say, I have seen your group for years. I love bird watching. I just have been engaged and wanted to be involved. And that's a sustained donor, because you know that they're saying that I'm being extreme. They might not be that clear, but it can come out pretty easily if they just start saying, hey, this is the issue I'm in general interested in.

They don't have a really clear plan of action. They're just like your organization is named Birdwatching Group X, and I love bird watching. So it's pretty clear if you want to suss out. If you're talking to a campaigner donor, you can say campaigner. You can say that the donor, what is the major issue that keeps you up at night? What are you really worrying about? And don't even start off with your organization's mission statement or anything that you're doing with your organization. You're probably meeting with them because you both have sort of some idea of who each other are.

Hopefully you've done that research and they've done the research. But you just say, what is the thing that keeps you up? And don't make any assumptions about that. And if they're very specific, they're like, the thing that keeps me up at night is the fact that our transportation system is right now dependent on fossil fuels, and we're going to transition to an electric renewable transportation system. But how the heck are we going to get there? That's a campaigner funder all the way. Then you lean in and talk about that.

So that's a key thing. If somebody says to you, this is an issue I care about, then you know, you're not talking to a sustainer donor. They're like, very specific very much how to move the needle, then to suss out. If you are talking to someone who's in general a campaigner donor versus a launcher donor, you can say, hey, are there any gaps in this area that you're worried about? Like, I know you're worried that the fossil fuel based transportation system is going to move to a renewable economy.

But are you worried about some of the gaps there? Let me tell you about some of the areas where we're doing really well moving the needle here. But then here are some of the gaps, and there are some really big, important things that we have to worry about when we transition. What's going to happen with workers who are dependent on the fossil fuel economy? Is there a gap? Is there any nonprofit that's actually working there? How can we fill that gap? And so then you can start talking to the launcher donor about those gaps.

And that launcher donor can get excited about coming in and helping you work with others to fund that. So it's all about a back and forth. And it can be really, really helpful when it goes well. 

And then when you're connecting with them, obviously focusing on their values, they're going to see that you not only care about their donation to them as person. So I like, exactly.

Yeah, totally. And none of this is to say that you should just be like an automaton and just like, work a person and not be real and genuine. I'm talking about this because if you are in the nonprofit space, you're pretty amazing, like you're doing stuff, labor a love. So you're there because you care about it. You're not just there because you want to make money. You're not there to be like scamming anybody. You're there because you want to, like, help people and make the world a better place.

And I think the donor does, too. It's just that sometimes and I serve as a translator a lot between the nonprofit and the folks who want to give money away. Sometimes the communication doesn't work as well as it should. And I don't want that to stand in the way of anybody. I want everyone to maximize the benefit.

Definitely. Before we go today, I love to get tips from you on how nonprofit organizations can become more relevant in their communities. We talked about the different types of donors, but I'm curious to see what they can be doing outside of the organization in the places that they serve to help attract those donors to them.

Oh, what a great question. And it's interesting because it's more multi faceted a lot of folks who are giving back to the community through wealth because they have wealth to do this work. They're also volunteering, and they're doing public service. So one place you're going to want you can think about as a nonprofit person is if you're really trying to move the needle on something, you can go out into the community and make sure that your nonprofit is working and you have your logo and your brand and everything out in.

Okay. So let's use an example of tree planting, right. So maybe there's a nonprofit that organizes all the tree planting, but you as a nonprofit are doing something that's complementary to that. And you know that there's a lot of donors working in both spaces, and they volunteer their time also with tree planting, and they bring their kids to that. And so what you can do is you can partner with this other nonprofit to get your name out there in piggyback with their events. And a lot of times, folks that are volunteering their time.

That means they also have time and resources, so they could then also work with you. And usually nonprofits want to support each other, even though it's a little bit of a competitive atmosphere out there. If you ask, you'd be surprised. So that's one thing. Another thing is your executive director and your campaign director or any person who's working on a particular program and project. What's really good is to give that person some time. The staffer, not just the executive director, but anybody who's working on the particular project.

If you know that you want campaigner donors, for example, those people who are working on the project, that a group of campaigner donors that you know of care about. Make sure that you have special workshops, special outings just for those kind of campaigner donors that care about your work. And so that's really important. And you don't want to have it be large amounts of big. You don't want to go for numbers, you want to go for really intimate conversations. And if you're testifying in front of key places where you're trying to make sure that the public like, let's say there's big, huge rallies about a particular issue where people want to have an open space or anything you can talk about.

Be sure you're there, too, to be able to get your word out and your voice. But there's also lots of marketing strategies, too. But I don't want to get into that too much because you have other people that I've seen in your amazing podcast series. You talk about very targeted marketing strategies, so they should listen to those podcasts too. 

Thank you. Yeah, there's a ton of other content that goes into that. But before we head off, I would love if you can share to our audience how they can get in touch with you, how they can learn more and where they can access all those amazing courses that dive in to be skilled you touched on in our interview.

Wonderful. Thank you. So I'm launching my Be Real minicourse series very soon. And so if you can go on my website, you can sign a pre sign up with interest. And my website is www. Dot Your Good dot Com

And then I also have myself a weekly podcast series, too, where I talked to donors about their different strategies. That kind of thing. And all my tips and tricks are in there, too. That's super fun. And you can listen to the podcast on any of the regular streaming sites as well. Thanks very much. Sabrina. This is awesome.

Thank you again. Simple for joining me on the show. I have linked all of the resources in the description box. I have links to your website. We can get more information on her and her courses as well as her podcast, which I highly recommend you check out Sybil is incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to connecting with donors and really making a difference with your donation. So if you're interested in learning more, please give her podcast a listen. And if you want to stay updated on everything Driven Fundraising Superheroes We're so excited to announce that we do have a newsletter and that you can sign up on our website at trust driven dot com

I provided a link directly to our blog page with a sign up form for you in the description box as well. We would love to have you join the Driven family and as always, thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next time on Fundraising Superheroes.

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Podcast Oct 13, 2021, 12:00 AM

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