In my line of work I spend most of my time thinking about the intersection of fundraising and technology. I’m constantly looking for new technologies capable of helping charities inspire generosity. And, in my opinion, Marketing Automation is the most powerful (and underutilized) new fundraising technology available on the market today.
Marketing automation is simply software that helps organizations more effectively market on multiple channels (mail, email, social media, etc.) by automating a series of tasks. In other words, it helps you automate and personalize communication for 10,000 donors in a way that used to be possible for only your top 100 donors. Recent research shows that over 70% of businesses use marketing automation to drive customer behavior, but this technology is often underutilized in the fundraising space. When it’s fully integrated into your donor management software, we believe that automation can be the key that unlocks generosity at your organizations – without dramatically increasing your costs.
Each marketing automation series kicks off automatically (without your intervention) based on specific donor behaviors, passions, giving capacities, location, etc.
We’ve included a few examples of our favorite marketing automation series below to provide clarity on how your organization can use automation to increase giving.
Workflow 1: Welcome Series
Creating a strong relationship with new donors is critical to building generosity over time. An important aspect to new donor engagement is the effectiveness of your “welcome series” in getting a second gift in the first 90 days after a donor comes on file. Studies show that only 23% of your new donors will go on to donate again – but once they give a second gift, there’s a 60% chance that they will give a third time. The key to getting a second gift is your ability to connect the passions and super powers of an individual donor to your mission; then you have a donor for life. They need to feel like they are a part of your cause.
A great way to create this connection is through a welcome series of communications that introduces a donor to your cause, as well as to stories about the impact of your work. Unfortunately, 70% of charities don’t send a welcome series to new donors, which often doesn’t lead to a second gift or foster a personal connection in the first 90 days. This lack of early connection is a generosity killer! We recommend a welcome series that touches the donor on multiple channels in order to dramatically increase the likelihood that they’ll stick around. Here’s an example of an automated series that we recommend to start immediately when a donor comes on file to maximize results:
Automatically notify a team member of the gift based on the size/designation of the new donor.
Send a thank you email to the donor that references the specific project they have given to. If possible, include a link to a video web page with details about that project or a similar project. If not, send them a link to a page that describes the impact of the organization.
If you are able to segment your mailings, add the donor to a “New Donor” direct mail segment so that they get a special insert in your next mailing thanking them and giving them an overview of your impact.
Send a more personal email with a story from the front lines. For example, “Hi again! We thought you’d enjoy this note from a Turkish business owner, as well as a few links to a couple of similar stories from Istanbul.” In addition, make sure you’re giving the donor a chance to give again.
Send an email that asks the donor to engage as an ambassador for your cause. (Your donors are more than just checkbooks – enlist them in work!) For example, “Ready to tell the world about our impact in Turkey? Here are 3 ways to get the word out!”
Assign a task to a team member at your organization to call the donor (or send a handwritten note). For example, “Hey Beth, thanks again for your generosity. We love that you’ve chosen to join us in our work. I wanted to check in to see if you had questions and give you a quick update on our work in Turkey.”
Send an email asking for the next gift. Refer to the initial project/designation if possible. If the original gift was under $300, then ask for a recurring gift in the amount of the original gift.
Workflow 2: Project Impact
Modern donors expect you to close the loop and let them know what their time and money are accomplishing in the world. Most nonprofits do a bad job of reporting impact back to their donors. As a result, donors feel like they are just transactions instead of feeling like collaborators in your cause. When a project completes, we recommend automating a series of communications to all donors who gave to that project. That series can look something like this:
Day 1 Email:
“We did it! The house that you helped fund is complete! We couldn’t be happier with the results, and your generosity made it possible. We’ve included a picture of the family in front of their new home.” If possible, film a quick smart phone video from the field of one of your staff thanking donors for the generosity, and include the video in the email. We’d also recommend including a gift ask for a similar project.
Day 3 Email:
“The family is in the process of moving into the house you helped fund. We thought it would be helpful to hear from someone in the community about the impact you’ve made. Harold from the village said, ‘We couldn’t be more thankful for the impact of xxx org in our village. I’ve never seen kids smile so much!’ We’d love for you to share this story with your friends. Click here to share this story via email or social media.”
Day 5 Email:
“Are you ready to continue your impact by funding another house? Click here to fund your next project and continue to partner with us in the village.”
Day 7 Task:
If the original donation was over $1000, assign a task to your team to call the donor, thank them for the gift and ask if they have any questions. Be prepared to talk about other related projects that need funding. Also be prepared to tell the donor about ways they can share the story to others in their community.
Workflow 3: Lapsed Reactivation
It costs far more to acquire new donors than to keep the ones you already have. Communicating with lapsed donors to reinvigorate their passion is an important strategy for growing generosity. Your CRM should be able to detect lapsed and pre-lapsed donors so that you can automatically kick off a stream of communication to reactivate. One of our favorite workflows for this includes:
Day 1 Email:
“We miss you! We noticed that you haven’t given in a while, and we’d love to re-engage you in our cause. Would you consider giving again? If you have any questions about the work we’re doing, feel free to call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx or email me at email@example.com. In the meantime, here’s a story about the life of a woman that was impacted by one of our wells.”
Day 10 Task:
Assign a team member to call the donor and relay, “I wanted to make sure you received our email with the story of the woman impacted by our work. Can I answer any questions for you about our work? Can we do anything to improve our work?”
Workflow 4: Planned Giving
Most charities lack a proactive strategy for soliciting planned gifts (wills, etc.). These long term gifts can be crucial for the sustainability of your organization over the long haul. By mining donor data, you can identify planned giving candidates and proactively engage with them using nonprofit marketing automation. Here’s a marketing automation series that can be helpful in driving new planned givers:
IF a Donor is over 55 and IF they have a wealth score of over X, THEN:
Day 1 Email:
“Thanks for your faithfulness to the cause. Have you thought about how your gifts can affect the next three generations of students in Malawi? Learn more about our ‘Leaving a Legacy in Malawi’ Planning Giving Program.”
Day 5 Handwritten Note:
“Thanks for your faithfulness to the cause. Our Legacy team sent an email a few days ago about a program we have to expand your impact over the next 30 years. I’d love to talk more about it when you’re ready.”