Top 10 ways marketing automation helps nonprofits raise more money for less

Quick review

In my previous post  I outlined the 3 types of marketing automation tools fundraising operations really should understand. Plus I recommended you deploy high-level automation to support the raising of major and planned gifts. Plus, I said it can help you move your mid-level donors up.

Support fundraising staff with marketing email automation

In this post I’ll detail how automation technology helps people like you win big in the era of Fundraising Climate Change

Here are my top 10 ways it can improve your team’s output and enhance its effectiveness.

1. Communicate frequently and effectively at scale (and at low cost)

Hearing from you often enough convinces people that you know what you’re doing. For nonprofits, this boosts confidence from the donor. Especially if your messages are non-solicitous. 

You know it’s true. Your supporters want to hear from you. They want to be kept in the loop. It makes them feel valued and important. And it’s fair. Your mission matters to them. They deserve to know what’s going on. 

But not only through solicitations. That’s annoying—sort of like a so-called ‘friend’ who only calls to ask you for a favor. 

Instead, your supporters seek value. And if they get it, they’ll be more likely to respond favorably when they finally get asked to help.

Communicating frequently and effectively is all about providing value to your supporters in line with their interests and needs. 

If your automation system can’t satisfy both those requirements, you should keep searching for alternatives. 

2. Be relevant: tell them what they said they want to hear

Fundraising automation should be responsive to requests, preferences and stated desires. 

Take the example from earlier. If you send out an email talking about a certain program and tell your readers to click on the link if they want to hear more about it, that means everyone who clicks that link is probably interested in that program.

With automation, you can speak to the stated interests, preferences and passions that are relevant to their lives. 

Being relevant includes the timing of communication, too. 

How often do they want to hear from you, and when? 

If I tell you I am only somewhat likely to consider a gift of appreciated assets, your nonprofit should listen and recognize that I’m not ready to make a decision to give. How would such a person feel if, after telling you that vital information, you went ahead and asked for a gift of stock right away? 

Would they feel heard? Respected? 

Or say you sent them a survey asking for input about several branches of your overall mission. A wealthy potential donor responds. But your basic level automation offers no way of seamlessly segmenting your follow-up communications based on their survey selections. So your messages seem irrelevant. 

Is this effective?

Of course not. It’s annoying, and you wouldn’t like it either.

Fundraising automation helps you provide value to your high value supporters by hyper-segmenting your communications based on their stated preferences.

3. Be respectful: consider your supporters’ consideration process

Giving a large gift isn’t just a transaction. It’s much more like a partnership. Your automation should be respectful of that, which is another reason why timing—and waiting—is so important.

When I was in college, I had an experience that revealed the importance of respecting large gifts. 

I was working for my school newspaper, trying to make ad sales to local businesses. I got a meeting with a local pizza shop owner. Had a great meeting. Showed him the ad he had in mind. The owner liked it. Said he was interested. So, I handed him a pen and asked, “Should we go forward with this?”

And here’s when it all fell apart.

The owner became quiet. He stared at the ad for a while. In the silence, I panicked, and started blurting out facts, figures, and reasons why doing this ad was such a great idea. I went on and on with stories and anecdotes, assurances, and all kinds of babble. I even interrupted the owner a couple times when he tried to say something. 

Finally, the owner spoke up, and said, “Don’t they teach you anything about how to close a deal in college? I was thinking! Now get out of my shop!”

I failed to give him consideration time. I jumped the gun. Overplayed my hand. Call it what you want. 

The point is, anytime someone is spending or donating what represents a large amount of money to them, they want time to think about it. They’re not making a snap decision. 

Similarly, out of respect, your fundraising automation needs to accommodate the time it takes to consider a major gift.

4. Be polite: reserve calls and meetings for when they matter most

Some fundraisers and organizational leaders put too much emphasis on vanity metrics. They press their staff to make calls and visit people no matter how qualified or ready they are. But not everyone needs a philanthropy facilitator—especially if they aren’t ready.

Plenty of donors just don’t want to meet. Some want to give anonymously. Some want to call you up and initiate their gift. And, yes indeed, some are happy to participate in calls and meetings.

The point of all this is that fundraising automation can sift out the donors who want meetings and phone calls from those who don’t, so you don’t waste your time trying to talk to people who don’t want to hear from you. 

If your automation system can’t help you do this, keep looking.

5. Reduce pressure on the donor and the fundraiser

This is a big one. You likely face constant pressure to deliver revenue and results. Your donor prospects can sense it. They aren’t stupid.

What if you could look at a list of 100 prospects in your fundraising automation system, and know that 93 of them aren’t ready to be called or met with this week, or even this month?

That means you’d only have seven to reach out to for the month. Whew! Can you feel the tension and pressure pouring out of the room? 

As a result, you would be able to spend more time on strategy, ensuring that your outreach will be successful. This is just one way fundraising automation can reduce pressure by giving you breathing room to do your job the right way. 

6. Be analytical: identify who is actually engaged

How does fundraising automation empower you to know that 93 out of 100 major gifts prospects don’t want to hear from you this week or month? 

Using tools like lead scoring (mentioned earlier), your automation can monitor your metrics. It can show you who is opening and clicking on emails, when they are engaging with them, how much time they’re spending online with your content, how you rank in the list of organizations they support, whether they’re interested in speaking with a gift officer or not, and many other indicators of engagement. 

If a prospect is digitally inclined but hasn’t opened an email in several months, they probably aren’t the best person to call up. They’re not thinking about you right now. 

Engaged donors give and give more. Disengaged donors don’t, and bothering them when the timing isn’t right only drives them further away. 

Without automation, being analytical takes time. With automation, it doesn’t.

7. Be efficient: uncover who is truly interested in making larger gifts

Fundraising automation helps supporters lean in and self-qualify so you can filter and segment large lists of donors, subscribers, event attendees, and anyone else in your list. Over time, as you use the system to its full potential, the cream will rise to the top. 

Consequently, your major gifts officers will be able to easily determine which contacts are likely to be dead ends and a total waste of their time and energy. This is essential because when fundraisers waste time pursuing people who were never going to make a large gift, what happens? The good candidates get neglected. 

Fundraising automation eliminates this problem so you and your staff stop wasting valuable time on unqualified false positives sourced solely by other means.

8. Be donor-centric: learn how a prospect prefers to give

Some people prefer to give appreciated stock. Some like to write checks. Some like being challenge sponsors or lead donors of a campaign. Some like to fund big projects with opportunities to gain notoriety. Some like to fund back-end costs so your fundraising campaigns can claim that 100% of everyone else’s donations go directly to the cause. Some want to give using their IRA, family foundation, or donor-advised fund (DAF).

In fact, DAFs have multiplied in popularity the past few years because of the convenience and flexibility in deciding when and to whom to give. But it doesn’t make much sense to send out emails about DAFs to a bunch of people who have never heard of them. In fact, the best way to generate DAF gifts is to first determine who has one. 

Fundraising automation can be used to monitor who is clicking on your DAFwidget online, or work in conjunction with a survey to discover giving preferences. Then it can segment your large donor-prospect lists accordingly so you know how to follow up with them best.

9. Be gracious: bolster your follow-up after the gift

What happens after someone makes a large donation?

Even the most passionate and well-intentioned donor will immediately start wondering what you’re doing with their hard-earned money. It’s just human nature. 

They will now be thinking more than they ever did before about your organization’s professionalism and credibility. They’ll start asking themselves if maybe that one gift is enough. 

“Should I remain involved, or should I move on to something else now?”

If you give the cold shoulder and the silent treatment to a donor after they make a major gift, or if you fail to show them the value of what their money has accomplished, you greatly increase the possibility of creating ‘donor remorse.’ 

Just like buyer’s remorse, donor’s remorse is the death knell to donor retention. 

Fundraising automation ensures that donors who have made large gifts or planned legacy gifts continue to be served, thanked, valued, appreciated, respected, informed, and engaged. 

10. Be effective: assign prospects to persona buckets

Automation can create segments seamlessly. It can group people by age, how passionate they are about your mission, where they reside in the consideration process for particular gift vehicles, whether or not they have kids, and many other factors.

Persona buckets are one form of segmentation, but they represent much more than mere demographics and factual information.

With personas, you’re grouping people by shared commonalities. 

Consider this. Thanks to a survey, you’ve collected valuable self-reported donor discovery information (‘verbatims’). Then, thanks to fundraising automation you’ve monitored each supporter’s engagement online. Together the data helps to carve out a group of older (over 70) supporters with no children who said they’d be likely to leave the remainder of their IRA savings to support your cause as a bequest and who’ve clicked on information about such a gift online.  

If you put all those supporters into one bucket, you can now ‘speak’ to them on a much more personal level. You can speak to their interests as they relate to the stage of the consideration process in which they reside, and they will value your messages much more because they will be relevant and fitting. 

Do you know how powerful that is?

Every nonprofit’s list can be broken up into persona buckets that will allow you to more authentically connect with supporters effectively—thereby providing a higher level of donor delight. But you can only achieve this with fundraising automation. It would be nearly impossible to do this, and maintain it, any other way. 


Related Posts:

>> The case for marketing automation: Why nonprofit fundraising operations should automate tasks to optimize staff performance

>> How marketing automation helps nonprofits raise more major gifts, planned gifts and mid-level gifts at lower cost

>> Can your nonprofit organization afford to invest in marketing automation?

>> Do you really need MORE gift officers to raise more money?

>> 3 types of marketing automation fundraising operations need to understand (including one you really need to deploy right away) 

>> How to put marketing automation to work for your nonprofit’s fundraising


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Get smarter with the SmartIdeas blog

Subscribe to our blog today and get actionable fundraising ideas delivered straight to your inbox!