Using Marketing Automation to Streamline Nonprofit Processes and Drive Better Donor and Constituent Experiences

As a nonprofit professional, you might think of marketing automation as something that for-profit companies do. But today, nonprofits are using it, too.

Commercial organizations have long used powerful marketing automation tools as part of a strategy to track customer data and drive highly personalized, automated customer engagement across email, web, social media, and other channels. Similarly, nonprofits also can (and are!) using it to streamline processes and deliver better donor and constituent experiences.

Nonprofit marketing automation in the real world

Let’s look at an example. As part of the boom in pet adoption and foster care during the COVID-19 pandemic, an animal rescue agency experienced a sharp increase in calls from potential fosters and adopters. The organization needed a way to field the inquiries more efficiently.

They decided to automate the initial steps of the process to filter out the most promising adopters. They worked with Heller Consulting to use Pardot, a marketing automation tool from Salesforce, to automate the process.

Here’s how it works:

The nonprofit collects information from people via an online form to determine if they qualify as fosters or adopters. The process automation uses data, such as other pets in the household and willingness to take a training course, to assess those who qualify, those who might qualify, and those who do not qualify. The automated process then sends appropriate messages to each audience.

  • Applicants who do not qualify receive an email that thanks them for their interest and informs them that they do not qualify at this time.
  • The automated process also identifies applicants who come close to qualifying but require additional evaluation by the organization. These applicants receive an email asking them to call a specific number to discuss adoption possibilities with someone from the organization.
  • Applicants who do qualify are asked additional questions, prompted to complete an application and pay an application fee, and given information about next steps.

The result of this process automation: The organization now quickly screens applicants to filter out those who are not willing to make the required commitments and do not qualify. The automated process also moves qualifying applicants more quickly through the initial process, giving these supporters a better experience and giving staff more time to focus on one-to-one phone and in-person communications with the most promising adopters.

This is just one example of one process automation at one nonprofit organization. Marketing automation has the potential to transform how nonprofits of all kinds do their work – especially at a time when many are adapting to new ways of operating. Some other examples:

  • You can use a marketing automation tool to “score” donors, such as transactional or event donors, based on specified criteria, and easily keep track of what donors are interested in. This allows you to identify the best prospects for specific campaigns, rather than emailing your entire list about every campaign. And sending emails to the best prospects can have an impact on your fundraising as well; one of our clients was able to double their fundraising revenue while sending fewer, more targeted emails.
  • Marketing automation can help you streamline the process of moving donors up the fundraising pyramid. A common use case is identifying people who have donated more than once in a four-to-six-month period or more than three times in a year and taking them through an engagement journey. The journey can start by giving them more information about the impact of their donations, then ask them more about their interests, and finally send a personalized request to become a sustaining — or monthly — donor.

Taking the next step with marketing automation

Any organization can employ marketing automation to operate more efficiently and provide a better experience for their donors, volunteers, and constituents. Ultimately, this can lead to greater donor and volunteer retention and better use of staff/volunteer time.

Learn more about how marketing automation can help you streamline processes and improve the donor and constituent experience: Read our toolkit, Scale Up Your Fundraising – Now: How to expand your fundraising right away with nonprofit marketing automation

About the Author

Catherine Moore
Catherine has served the nonprofit sector for over 20 years, defining and guiding the strategic pathway for technology, marketing, and fundraising at the Canadian Cancer Society and others. She is skilled at understanding and addressing the human concerns that arise... Read More
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