When we talk about marketing automation for nonprofits, it’s easy to see what the organization gets out of it. Better communication with less tedium, more meaningful donor engagements, and increased giving. But we also talk about leading nonprofits shifting their engagement strategies to be more donor-centric.
So how does nonprofit marketing automation fit in to the donor-first mentality? Why does it matter to donors at all? Do they even notice the ways you manage your marketing?
While your donors may not be analyzing your strategy or be aware of which donor management software you use, the output you can achieve with marketing automation matters a lot to them. It brings them closer to the causes they care most about, keeps them interested and informed of your nonprofit and allows you to express your never-ending gratitude for their generosity.
While all donors care about these engagements, they are even more important for new donors. Marketing automation allows you to make the most of the early days when new donors form an impression of your organization. It shines a positive light on your work when donors are deciding whether they will give again to your cause. Marketing automation helps ensure that new donors are engaged at every opportunity, encouraging them to get more involved as soon as possible.
To understand the details of how marketing automation serves your donors, and ultimately, your cause, here are the top four things that marketing automation does that donors love.
Nonprofits can’t afford to look disengaged from donors. Yet, without marketing automation, many often do. And that radio silence is one of the first things donors notice. They want more than constant asks for more money. They want to see the impact and know that you are a transparent, trustworthy organization.
Even perceived inefficiency can impact how donors think of you. If a for-profit business is seen to be haphazard or disorganized, they may lose customers. “Wow, they’re sure willing to waste money!” their departing customers may think, as they carry on with their lives.
Nonprofits are different. If a nonprofit is seen to be inefficient or out of touch, supporters are more likely to think, “Wow, they’re willing to waste MY money!”
Marketing automation helps nonprofits communicate efficiently. You can show that you’re on top of things. A regular communication flow builds trust and loyalty, shows donors that their money is being used well, and demonstrates that your organization is proactive with gratitude and celebrations. More than anything, it proves you care about the details.
When your communications are responsive to their interests and behavior, you let them know that you’re paying attention to the little things.
Your donors want to be excited about your organization. The initial thrill of making a donation doesn’t last forever, so you’ll need to spur excitement by sharing new details and programs in your organization. One of the ways you help new donors stay enthused is with a continuous (responsive) stream of communications that cover accomplishments, projects and updates with them, giving them plenty of reasons to share with their communities.
Without a plan, it’s difficult to stay consistent. More commonly, it’s easy to prioritize more pressing tasks, like gift asks, which leave your donors in the dark. Marketing automation allows your team to work ahead, planning for what the next engagements will be. You can trust that your strategic, relevant communications will be delivered at the right time for each individual donor.
For example, let’s say I’m going to host a small event, at which I hope to acquire new donors. With marketing automation, I can create a communication flow and:
I can give calls-to-action in my messages that encourage greater engagement, such as, “sign up for the newsletter” or “give me a call with your questions,” all before my event even happens. Instead of scrambling to stay in touch, the flow is ready to go. What’s more, I can use the framework of this automation workflow and apply it to future events. Of course, the details and information will change, but the template can be replicated to save time.
Marketing automation helps nonprofits develop a proactive relationship with donors. Since you can plan ahead, you can be more deliberate as you consider follow-up. Each engagement will create deeper connections. That connection is the key to increased generosity and lasting donor relationships.
Some might think that marketing automation creates an impersonal connection to donors. We’ve seen through our customers, that it doesn’t feel that way to your donors. To them, personalized, immediate engagements are infinitely more valuable than the silence they receive now. It doesn’t matter to them that you used software to create a better experience for them. Their biggest concern is receiving the information in a timely manner.
As you look at your dashboard and reports, you’re probably thinking of hard data and cold numbers, but remember, marketing automation is actually part of the “touching hearts” part of development.
Unless you have a very tiny donor base, you can’t send a personalized engagement message to everyone manually. If you’re doing them one at a time, you’ll be able to make, perhaps, 5 donors feel very special, but 500 more will have to be content with a mass email. A mass email, by definition, can’t be personal and relevant to everyone. But “personal” and “relevant” are necessary for donors to engage deeply with your organization.
Marketing automation allows you to make all donors feel closely connected to the cause and impact. It makes donors feel seen and reinforces their belief that they are making an impact in the world. It lets you scale “major donor” style engagement to your entire donor base, and makes your brand-new $30 donor feel like a million bucks from day one.
I have a pet peeve that’s probably the result of too much time thinking about fundraising: I really hate getting messages from nonprofits that start out “Dear Friend” or “Valued Supporter.”
If I’ve given an organization money, and they don’t use my name in their appeals, I admit that I get a little testy. If you are using email software, which they always are, this is the bare minimum of personalization, and so easy to do. The fact that they’ve opted not to do even this little thing does not build my confidence and makes me feel like an anonymous ATM, not part of a community.
Granted, most of your donors are probably not as specifically annoyed about this as I am, but the risk of making people feel like ATMs is real. Donors want to know they matter to your organization. Personalized donor journeys help them feel seen and show that you’re listening.
But just like you can’t send 500 individual, personal messages, you can’t craft 500 specific donor journeys that you run individually. Marketing automation makes personalized journeys much easier by helping you communicate with donor segments based on behavior and interests.
Different groups have different needs and interests. Just like your regular weekly volunteers need something different than people who’ve volunteered once, new donors don’t have the same interests as established ones. They need to be welcomed and introduced to various aspects of your organization, not overwhelmed with updates about things they haven’t learned about yet. With marketing automation, you can create separate communication flows for each group, giving donors a more relevant, personal experience.
Marketing automation helps donors trust and engage with the causes they care about. It increases their personal connection to your organization, which in turn, drives giving. To see how marketing automation for nonprofits can work for you, schedule a demo with Virtuous.
Traditional fundraising strategies no longer work. This blueprint explains why today's donor expects more, and how nonprofits are shifting to responsive fundraising.