Using Data Mining for Donor Profiling (Part 1)

In the age where we are all a string of numbers that can be reduced to categories and patterns through which organizations and politicians target us with their products and agenda, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to stay completely off-the-grid and keep your information private. Only a nomad living in the woods can afford the luxury these days!


Data mining, the process of extracting meaningful data on individuals and organizations to find trends, patterns, and characteristics, has become increasingly prominent in today’s macro-world. While it is predominantly used to ascertain consumer choices and preferences by large corporations, it can be used for non-commercial purposes with proper implementation. One such cause is philanthropy and charitable giving.


While the act of donating may seem linear and straightforward, the process is often tedious and unfeasible. Donor profiling, a process becoming increasingly important to assess which type of donor would be more likely to donate to a particular cause and group of donees, is often used by NGOs to simplify the process. Although it is more common to use data such as income level, religious beliefs, and location to identify donors, it is equally important to determine the underlying psychological traits and categorizations to help provide a comprehensive donor profile.

Psychographics, a combination of the words ‘psychology’ and ‘demographics’, can help with just that. A model developed in the 1970s by Arnold Mitchell called the Values, Attitudes and Lifestyles (VALS) framework, requires customers to fill 34 questions in order to assign them to one of eight profile segments: Thinkers, Innovators, Believers, Achievers, Strivers, Experiencers, Makers, or Survivors. A psychographic framework such as this one can contribute to donor data and profiling tremendously, especially in India where such data is not maintained.

In the next post, we will discuss potential benefits of using data mining in order to systematize the process of donor profiling and increase the overall efficiency of the philanthropy and charitable sector.

  • Juhi Vajpayee, Research Associate

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *