Marketing Automation for Nonprofits: What is it, what can it achieve and how to implement it?

Published by Eva Hieninger and Gregor Nilsson on

Marketing automation for nonprofits

Things weren’t better before. But much was easier. Also in fundraising.

For decades, organisations only had to design and coordinate their print mailings and the number of telephone campaigns.

Even today, the measures of fundraising activities are often still the focus of attention.

First a measure is conceptualised and then the fundraisers think about which people from the database have a profile that fits the measure.

This worked well up until a few years ago.

There must be a paradigm shift.

With the rising of digital channels, however, something has changed radically.

There are not only a lot of channels available, but also the timing is massively faster.

Instead of one mailing per month, several additional posts, e-mails and push notifications are now sent per day.

Due to the large number of interactions and touchpoints, the same person suddenly appears in a (too) large number of selections.

The result: donors are confronted with a flood of messages that are often hardly coordinated.

They are often sent by different departments, some of which work with different systems. This is not only inefficient, but also overwhelms or even annoys the recipient.

Bad: The focus is on the marketing measure and not on the donor.

But how can this be prevented?

The solution is donor centring.

Instead of thinking in terms of measures, we have to start focusing on the needs of the donor.

In concrete terms, this means identifying the right measures for each donor, not the other way around.

This is a small but important difference: because with this approach we ensure that each donor only receives a certain number of messages and that they are coordinated with each other.

Good: Two donors, with different expectations and desires = two different donor journeys.

In order to identify the different types of donors, you need one thing above all: data.

Because those who correctly collect and maintain the data of their donors understand their needs and thus can build better and more long-term relationships.

The big challenge, however, is not to collect the data, but to use it efficiently, purposefully and in compliance with data protection regulations in order to conserve human and financial resources.

The communication measures should not be manually orchestrated by employees and lead to even more work.

This is where marketing automation comes into play.

What is Marketing Automation?

With Marketing Automation, various processes and tasks of lead generation and donor development run automatically in the background and solve manual processes such as the target group selection for newsletters, the posting of a Facebook post, or the commissioning of print mailing and telephone marketing.

This saves you money, time and nerves in the long term.

So-called marketing clouds serve as an extension to the CRM system and combine web tracking, email marketing, SMS marketing or messaging and social media listening in one.

The centralised management and tracking of all online and offline marketing activities enables a global overview of all interactions with donors.

Additional data can be imported via interfaces, e.g. information from the CRM system on offline payments.

This means that all important data from all channels is available in one system, which forms the basis for personalised, automatic and orchestrated omni-channel communication.

This data can be used to define sequences of actions that the system executes automatically.

This is typically based on three categories: triggers (e.g. “has opened an e-mail”), conditions (e.g. “belongs to target group x”) and actions (e.g. “notify an employee”).

In this way, complex, cross-channel donor journeys can be automated and integrated online and offline.

Although setting up such a journey is more time-consuming than with simple one-time mailing newsletters, the return on investment is significantly higher for three reasons:

  1. The campaign can run for several months and thus continuously brings new leads or donors.
  2. The individual steps are triggered by the donor’s trigger. They are therefore a direct reaction to the person’s behaviour and hence have a much higher relevance than classic campaigns based on the scattergun approach.
  3. Online and offline fundraising no longer live in different worlds. A digital donor journey can also be used to trigger an individualised print mailing and vice versa.

The result is better and more long-term relationships with the donor, which means higher revenues and lower acquisition costs.

Last but not least, this methodology has a positive influence on internal cooperation: When designing a donor journey, it quickly becomes clear to all participants that a harmonious experience for the donor can only be achieved through genuine cooperation and coordination across departmental boundaries.


Paul Okong'o · May 31, 2019 at 15:06

I am in a village working with children and these children some of them are total orphans but some have single parents. Because of poverty some dropped out from school since they were left without someone to take care of of other siblings. So they could go to be employed that they get at least something to take back home to help the siblings to eat. Because of love and compassion I hired a peace of land and put up a school to help such kind of children. Because of high level of poverty we do feed them at the school. The is registered with Kenya government under ministry of education science and technology. Since the place we built a school is still hired, it is very expressive on us. Your prayer to get funds to buy a place for the school. We are also looking for a people who can stand with us to help us run the school. Feeding program is very critical here and funds to balance both is very challenging. Our school started in the year 2011. And now we are in grade 8 according to education system in Kenya.
Praying your support and help to enable us help these kids to realize their potential.
Our plan is also to build an institution where by the children who can not manage to join high school to do technical training like tailoring, welding and wood work.
This will help them get their income for a living.
Your faithfully
Paul Okong’o.

smmus.es · September 28, 2019 at 21:15

As an FYI,  Marketing Automation could include more than just email, but, in this post, we’re focusing on email as it is most likely where a nonprofit looking to get into marketing automation will start. (For instance, in the Engaging Networks’ Marketing Automation tools you can integrate SMS messages.) Now, let’s get into some out of the box automations you can set up for your organization using the Engaging Networks platform.

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