Making sweeping assumptions about donors and activists is dangerous. Our guesses are often wrong, and that’s why getting to know our supporters is critical to effectively engaging them.I recently posted some fascinating information on ethnicity and online behavior; now there’s a study on various donors by religion, political persuasion, ethnicity and age and it, too, may reveal some surprising things.A Russ Reid/Grey Matter study found that one of the donor myths that proved to be untrue is that religious people only support specifically religious causes. Among donors who attend religious worship services on a regular basis, just 41% supported a cause they described as “religious,” other than any contributions they made to a place of worship. “In fact, donors who attend religious services are more likely to have given toward disaster relief (68%), domestic hunger or poverty relief (66%), helping people with disabilities (56%), health care or medical research (54%), and veterans’ causes (52%) than they are to have supported specifically religious work,” the study notes.The study authors caution, though, that “These numbers reflect how donors think of the work that’s being done, and not how various experts might categorize it. It’s possible some religious donors are supporting disaster relief or domestic hunger through overtly religious organizations, but that’s not how they’re thinking of the work that’s being done.” That said, only 18% of donors who regularly go to religious services prefer supporting organizations which have their religious beliefs as a major part of everything they do, and 28% prefer organizations that have a religious background but which are not necessarily conducting religious work. Add in the fact that just 21% of Americans who financially supported a place of worship in the last year also gave to a religious cause through a non-profit, and it’s clear that a majority of religious donors are not actively seeking to support specifically religious work.The study also looked at the influence of political persuasion, ethnicitiy and age.Here are key highlights from Russ Reid and Grey Matter: • Disaster relief (61% of all donors): less likely to receive support from Caucasians, political conservatives, and people in the West than from other groups, but more likely to be supported by women, Spanish-speakers, people born outside the United States, college graduates, suburban and urban residents, donors with children in the household, and those who also support and/ or attend a place of worship (particularly Catholics).• Domestic hunger or poverty relief (57% of all donors): a favorite or women, Asians, political moderates, people age 40 or older, those who also support and/or attend a place of worship, and especially a favorite of Catholics. Less likely to be supported by people with no particular religious identification.• Healthcare or medical research (53% of all donors): more likely to receive support from women, married donors, suburban residents, college graduates, and donors from the Northeast. Far more likely to receive support from very high-income households than from very low-income households. • People with disabilities (53% of all donors): more likely to get funding from donors who are 40 or older, who financially support and/or attend a place of worship, who identify themselves with a religious group of any type, and who have never attended college.• Veterans (50% of all donors): a favorite of Caucasians and those who were native-born to the U.S., as well as people earning under $30,000 per year, less educated donors, married donors, people who attend and/or support a place of worship, and those who have no children in the household. Far more likely to be supported by people 55 and older than by those under 40, and far less likely to be supported by political liberals and urban residents than by other Americans.• Animal welfare (38% of all donors): especially unlikely to be supported by Blacks, urban residents, Protestants, and donors who also give to and/or attend a place of worship. Most popular among people in the 45 – 69 age group and political moderates and liberals.• Wildlife or environment (35% of all donors): more likely to be supported by Latinos and Asians, as well as people who are either under 25 or 40 – 64 years old, donors from households earning $60,000 per year or more, and those who do not financially support a place of worship or attend religious services. Political conservatives are far less likely to support this cause than are moderates or liberals, as are self-described Protestants or Catholics.• International relief and development (33% of all donors): a particular favorite of Latinos (especially Spanish-speakers) and Asians, people born outside the United States, those who attend and/or financially support a place of worship, college graduates, and urban or suburban residents.• Child development (28% of all donors): supported by a greater proportion of Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics (especially Spanish-speakers), people born outside the U.S., those living in the South, donors with children in the household, and those who also support and/or attend a place of worship. Less likely to receive support in the 55 – 69 age group than among other ages, and among people living in small towns or the suburbs as opposed to rural or urban residents.• Religious (27% of all donors): less likely to be supported by Caucasians than by other ethnic groups, and by donors under age 25, those who are not married, and those living in the Northeast. Four times as likely to receive gifts from those who also support a place of worship as from those who do not, as well as far more likely to be supported by those who regularly attend religious services, and who are politically conservative.• Human rights (25% of all donors): especially likely to be supported by Blacks and Latinos (particularly Spanish-speakers), as well as donors under age 25, those who are not married, urban and suburban residents, and political moderates and particularly liberals.• Childhood education (25% of all donors): a higher proportion of donors are Asian, Black, or Hispanic, speak Spanish, were born outside the U.S., are under age 55, have children in the household, attend and/or financially support a place of worship, and earn at least $60,000 annually. People from religious perspectives other than Catholic or Protestant are more likely than others to support this cause, as are political moderates and liberals, as well as residents of rural and urban areas.• Higher education (23% of all donors): a favorite of men, Blacks, Asians, donors from households earning at least $60,000 per year, people who also supported a place of worship and/or who attend worship services regularly, those with a college degree, and political moderates and liberals.• Cultural (23% of all donors): a particular favorite of donors under age 25, people from households with at least $60,000 of annual income, college graduates, urban residents, political liberals, and those who have no specific religious identification.• Influencing public policy (16%): more likely to be supported by men, more educated individuals, political liberals, those who do not self-identify as Protestants, and people living in an urban or suburban area.According to its authors, the study was conducted using a demographically representative and behaviorally balanced national online research panel, along with telephone data collection among people who do not use the Internet. The sample size of 2,005 people has a potential sampling error of Â±2.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval. The bottom line? Know your donors – and know that they are not all the same.