What do you think of when you hear the phrase “marketing automation”? Factory lines, pushing out a product? Mass emails, devoid of the personal touch? A bunch of robots, slowly taking over your nonprofit?
How about greater personalization, high-touch donor journeys, and better engagement with your supporters, on and offline?
Fundraising and marketing automation is a tool, not an army of impersonal robots stealing your job and ruling the world. It allows you to automate the processes of donor engagement, giving you more time for the big picture thinking you need to grow.
When your nonprofit marketing automation workflows are based on donor signals and actions, executed across all your channels, and timed to ensure that messages arrive right when donors want them, you can bring a “major donor” experience to every donor in your database. In turn, this inspires trust, loyalty and greater engagement.
Without automation, it’s impossible to deliver a personal experience to everyone. If you had to track and respond to each individual’s signals, you’d either have to employ a staff of hundreds or limit yourself to a small pool of donors. Traditionally, that’s what fundraisers did: give personal attention to a small group of major donors and mass message everyone else.
That split between major donor/everyone else made sense back when fundraisers only had a Rolodex and a desk calendar to depend on. But in the modern world, where every platform you interact with online remembers your preferences and every brand you buy from is ready to suggest what to buy next, people expect personalization, no matter what their gift size. Automation makes meeting that expectation possible.
In an age of personalization, “cold contact” just doesn’t cut it. A remarkable 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations. Donors expect you to know who they are. If you have a significant number of donors, automation is the only way to make every communication warm and personal.
If you interact with your long-term supporters as if they’re brand-new, you can’t build a community or grow your relationship. You risk inadvertently sending the message that you don’t value them as individuals, just as ATMs. Since we know donors want to be part of something and make a difference, not “just” financial contributors, that’s a dangerous message for a nonprofit to send.
Automation prevents this scenario with donor tags that immediately put donors in context. When you pull up donor information, you see the tags that remind you how they’ve engaged in the past. Even if the fundraiser doesn’t personally know the donor, they can use the data and tags to inform their conversation, making the donor feel seen, heard and valued.
Where do you connect with your donors? Marketing campaigns that integrate four or more digital channels outperform single- or dual-channel campaigns by 300%. Multi-channel marketing uses all your channels, digital and offline, to ensure that you’re having one conversation with the donor everywhere they encounter you.
Many nonprofits have automated some of their email, but that’s only the beginning. When you integrate all your communication channels, including direct mail and interpersonal interactions, you’ll give them a cohesive and consistent experience.
Customize your workflow to include direct mail and assign tasks like sending hand-written notes or making phone calls in response to their behavior and signals. A welcome series workflow, for example, could include an initial email in response to their sign up, followed by a welcome call assignment the day after they open the email, followed by an automated welcome letter going in the mail a week later.
Marketing automation helps you respond to donors in real-time by tracking their behavior across channels. A visit to your website can trigger a follow-up email. Event attendance can trigger a thank-you text message. Every time your donor sends a signal, marketing automation lets you capture it and respond in the best possible way.
When competition for attention is high, it takes a lot of touches to stand out, make an impression and spur action. You need to communicate with your donors a lot, responding to their signals and connecting in the ways they find most meaningful.
Obviously, you can’t send an individual birthday text message to every donor in your database or email each supporter one-by-one, but with nonprofit marketing automation, you get the next-best (and much more possible) thing.
Automation allows you to set up personal donor journeys, triggered by donor actions and the calendar. These donor journeys encompass both on and offline engagement. In addition to automated communications, like welcome email series or text message calls-to-action, you can assign tasks to staff like, “Giving anniversary, call donor” or “Put hand-written note in mail.” The donor journey isn’t just about what happens online.
With these donor journeys running in the background, you can make sure every donor is appropriately welcomed, thanked, appreciated and recognized. You can connect at every opportunity, without trying to keep track of every personal detail of every one of your donors.
Despite this communication being automated, it’s likely that your donors will feel more connected with the organization in a much more human way.
Nonprofit marketing automation can help you make the right ask at the right time, based on the donor’s own signals. Often, the next ask you’ll want to make is a financial one, but that is not going to be the right ask for every donor at every moment. With automation, you can become responsive to your donors, instead of pushing your agenda on them.
When you automatically segment and tag donors by personas and passions, you can offer asks that are likely to get a “yes.” A group of college students will probably not be very receptive to your planned giving materials, so why send them messages they’ll ignore? Offer volunteer or peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities to them. If one group of donors at your animal shelters loves cats, invite them to contribute towards your cat cafe, not your dog run.
Automation can help you manage the timing more thoughtfully, too. Instead of establishing an appeal schedule and sending out one-to-many generic messages, regardless of what donors do, you can set up your automated workflow to trigger asks based on donor behavior like website clicks, abandoned donations or new ways they’ve engaged with you.
When people resist nonprofit marketing automation, it’s often because they’re concerned about losing the human touch with their donors. The truth is, marketing automation makes it possible to be more human with more of your supporters. Instead of most of your supporters getting impersonal mass messages and generic asks, automation allows you to give each one more personal, relevant and meaningful communication.
No robot could replace a fundraising professional, and that’s not what automation is. Human beings are still writing the emails, making the calls, telling the stories and creating the strategy. Automation just makes sure that you can spend your energy on those things, instead of tedious repeatable administrative tasks. The robot takeover will have to wait for another day.
Traditional fundraising strategies no longer work. This blueprint explains why today's donor expects more, and how nonprofits are shifting to responsive fundraising.