The Must-Have Data for Nonprofit Marketing Automation Success

Jenna Puckett is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub. She is an associate technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice, where she covers topics related to project management, marketing automation, employee performance and other emerging tech trends. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


Your nonprofit supporters aren’t all the same. So naturally, your marketing shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all.

You must inspire and mobilize communities to support your nonprofit’s mission, which requires you to successfully transition someone from a stranger to a donor. Or a volunteer. Or an advocate.

To do this, you need marketing campaigns that are as unique as your supporters.

How Marketing Automation Can Help Nonprofits

Your audience wants personalization: 75 percent of Americans appreciate when organizations customize messages to fit their preferences. This isn’t too surprising, since every person interested in your organization isn’t necessarily interested for the same reasons.
For example, an individual who fills out a newsletter signup form on your volunteer page is very different from one who signs up on a donation page.

To overcome these differences, you must create marketing campaigns based on an individual’s unique needs and interests.

If that sounds like a lot of effort, don’t fret.

Marketing automation software can help you produce more targeted marketing by creating multiple paths for your supporters (or potential supporters), so each person can have a personalized, relevant experience.

Transitioning to Autopilot

If your nonprofit already uses email marketing, then you’re likely wondering how marketing automation differs. Essentially, email marketing is just one piece of the puzzle.

Marketing automation goes beyond clicks and donations to help you understand your supporters’ preferences and desires. This insight translates to a more meaningful relationship with contacts, regardless of whether they’ve just found you or are one of your biggest advocates.

If the following situations resonate with you, then you may be ready to take your email marketing to the next level:

    • You already understand inbound marketing, and have a variety of content that is valuable to your target audience.


    • You have a donor management system or database of contacts, but lack the ability to qualify, segment or automate contact with your constituents.


    • Your contacts need to be nurtured because they aren’t all ready to donate or support, and you can’t manually reach out to identify who to pursue.


    • You are unsure which campaigns are most successful, and therefore unable to prioritize your marketing spend or outreach efforts.


    • You have a fragmented inbound marketing strategy and need to integrate several tools — social media, Google Analytics, CRM — in order to gain insight.


If you’re ready to capture more contacts, grow your email marketing, and nurture relationships, then it’s time to put your data to work for you.

The Data You Need to Get Started

To start an automated marketing campaign, you need a list of people to target. This data can come from a variety of sources, including:

    • Your CRM or donor management software. A list of former or current constituents is the most common place to begin a marketing campaign. The best nonprofit marketing automation software uses information collected through prospect and visitor tracking to help you leverage your database and scale one-to-one communication. Marketing automation is the tool that allows you to execute on the information stored in your database, such as birthdays, most valuable donors, etc.


    •  Event attendees. Concerts, 5k runs, and webinars are ideal situations to gather information about your supporters. Whether you hold in-person or online events, your attendee list can be leveraged in a marketing campaign.


    •  Web forms, newsletter signups, and landing pages. Any place on your website that collects supporter information should be used in your marketing automation efforts.


These are just a few of the most common data sources nonprofits have. Does your organization have a gift shop or ecommerce site? Do you have a large social media presence? Surveys, retargeted ads, volunteer lists — pinpoint all the touchpoints that tell you about a supporter’s needs and interests so you can use them to inform your marketing strategy.

How to Use the Data You Have

The goal of marketing automation is to grow your database and keep your audience engaged.

Once you’ve gathered supporter data, you can decide which groups you want to serve and then position your campaign to match their needs. Tailoring your message to a chosen segment enables you to optimize your campaigns, rather than blast everyone with the same, potentially irrelevant information.

What kind of tailored communications can you send? That will vary depending on your campaign goals, but below are a few to get you started:


    • Promote special events. Are you organizing a charitable golf tournament? Do you have a list of former participants? Then chances are they’d like to know about the upcoming event.


    • Share impactful stories. Newcomers and repeat donors alike want to know about the impact your organization has. Show volunteers how their efforts helped. Tell donors how their gift changed lives.


    • Offer valuable content. Provide guides, videos, and resources to help your audience learn and grow. Marketing automation software will help you track who is engaged with this content, and then optimize your campaign accordingly.


    • Follow-up with prospects and customers. Once someone takes action on your site, provide additional information or calls-to-action — such as encouraging them to share that they donated in order to help you reach a new audience.


    • Nurture prospects with a drip campaign. Over time, recipients will receive information that helps them get to know and trust you. These campaigns are often tied to CRM contact records, and then triggered by downloads, registrations, or landing page signups.


    • Onboard new contacts. Use a new contact’s interactions to further segment and personalize their emails. Let’s say you send a “get to know us” email that shares an impactful story about your nonprofit. If the contact watches a video about volunteering with your organization, then that action can trigger a drip campaign geared towards converting them into a volunteer.


  • Thank your supporters—for donations, sponsorship, and volunteering. Show gratitude for the people who take time to get involved with your cause. Follow-up emails are also an opportunity to add additional calls-to-action to keep the conversation going.

Once your campaign has started, it’s not set in stone. It’s important to continuously test, assess, optimize, and repeat. Supporter analytics and marketing automation software can work together to provide in-depth insight, allowing you to pinpoint which personalization efforts are worthwhile and which ones need to be improved. By personalizing your marketing efforts, your nonprofit can turn existing data into donations.


Jenna Puckett

July 15, 2015

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