Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > How to Profile

How to Profile

The help sheet Relating to Contacts – Profiling looked at what profiling was, and how it could benefit your community group's direct mail-outs.

For a community group or not-for-profit organisation, profiling can be viewed as a way to build up an identikit picture of those on your database you wish to specifically target through direct mail-outs.

Profiling can help your group sort the information on its database, find out more about those on it and, by doing so, allow you to better focus your direct mail-outs to make them more relevant to recipients.

More relevant messages to your contact list can result in your group receiving a better response rate from its direct mail-out – a response which can generate more donations, members, volunteers, funds raised or awareness; whatever the focus of your mail-out may be.

This help sheet looks at how, by using your database or contact list and a few simple questions, your organisation can quickly develop profiles to help better focus its direct mail-out campaigns.

It also includes some examples of basic profiling tasks your community may need to do at some stage!

Profiling Your Contacts – Questions to Consider

The first step towards developing a profile is actually looking at what characteristic it is you wish to define.

Below are just some of almost a countless number of questions your group might like to consider to help develop your profile.
  • What do you feel are the basic distinguishing features of those on your database or contact list – are they young or old, male or female, have certain occupations or live in similar areas.
  • Do you believe these characteristics set them apart from the wider population?
  • Are then any links between our group's best donors/most active members/best fundraisers and their job/age/gender?
  • What characteristics make for the best donors or fundraisers for our group?

Some Examples of Profiling

Once your group has settled on the reason it wishes to develop a profile, it is time to narrow down your list by filtering it through certain questions and conditions.

Following are two examples of profiling that a community group or not-for-profit might do to find out some common characteristics of certain sections of their database.


A community group may wish to find out the proportion of young people who are members.

  • The first step would be to decide on the age range you wish to profile.
    • If your group is concentrating on young people, it might want to narrow its wider or member database down to a list of members aged between 18 and 30.
  • By running this question, your group will find out who and how many of your contacts match this profile.
    • It may, for example, reveal that 40% of your contacts are aged between 18 and 30.
  • You could leave it at that, having discovered a characteristic matching the profile of 40% of your group. Or it could tighten the profile further by asking another question.
  • Your group might want to profile those on your list which were aged between 18 and 30 on another feature – for example, gender.
    • By doing this, your group may find out some more detailed information – maybe it will discover that of the 40% of those on your database aged between 18 and 30, three-quarters of them are women.

So, just by asking two simple questions to profile your group, you might have confirmed that not only does it have a significant representation of young people on its database, but that most of those young people are women.


A not-for-profit might want to investigate who its best donors are, and build up a profile of them by looking at any common features they may share.

  • The first question your group might want to look at is which of those on your database have donated more than $500 in the past year.
    • Depending on the size of your not-for-profit, that could eliminate a small or large portion of those on your database!
  • Following that, you could then examine those contacts and investigate any common characteristics they might have.
    • For example, you might want to find out the types of jobs these donors have – whether they are professional, blue-collar, not working or otherwise.
    • By looking at their employment type, your not-for-profit could find that more than two-thirds of those who have donated more than $500 in the past year are classed as professional or white-collar workers.

Again, you have used your database and a couple of quick questions to build up a profile of your biggest donors.

Using This Information

Profiling is only the first step in focussing your group's direct mail efforts.

Once you have profiled a certain sector of your contact list or database – finding any common characteristics or features they might have - you have the information to do so much more:
  • You can segment that group of people and treat them as a separate "audience within your audience"
  • You can then tailor your direct mail outs to them, targeting them specifically through tailored messages or requests to elicit a higher level of response.
  • You can also test specific messages, mail-out styles, contents or other approaches on them to see what gains the best response before you use this approach on your wider list of contacts.

For more information on segmentation, targeting and testing, refer to the help sheets:

All of which are available at the Media & Marketing Centre on the Our Community website.

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.