How A Donor Journey Map Improves Responsive Fundraising


All of your donors are on a journey with your organization. Whether they’re loyal givers to your year-end fundraising campaign, first-time givers who are just getting to know you, or even people who haven’t made a gift yet, they are having an experience with you. You need a plan for how you’ll build deeper connections with each donor so you can strengthen relationships, engage more deeply, and you’ll inspire even more generosity.

The foundation for deeper relationships and better fundraising is a donor journey map. With a plan in place, your team will understand exactly what they need to do to drive generosity. You’ll also be able to create better donor experiences and, ultimately, help your nonprofit do more good. 

Building Better Donor Journeys

Want a quick overview of the six steps to building donor journeys? Check out this video, or watch our entire Donor Journey training here.

Donor Journey Maps Start with Donor Personas

Before you can create an actionable donor journey map, you must create donor personas. Essentially, personas are character studies built from characteristics and demographics that your ideal donors share. Having personas will help you think of the who, what, when, where, and why that drives your interactions. For example, if your persona is Stephanie, a 60-something living in the northeast who loves birdwatching, you can target your birdwatching messaging to the people who are “Stephanies” in your database. Knowing how she would respond will help you send the best messages to all the people who would respond similarly, while excluding the other personas who wouldn’t resonate quite as much. Most nonprofits have 3 to 4 donor personas that represent all of their donor base. 

There are a few different ways you can identify your most important donor personas. Most nonprofits find it best to identify actual individuals in their donor base that they have direct experience with. Knowing a bit about those kinds of interactions can help determine characteristics that can represent a donor persona as a type. From there, they create donor profiles with wealth data, engagement drivers, passions, and other demographic data. 

If you aren’t in a position to pull from your current donor database, think of an ideal donor you’d like to attract. Add the same kinds of information based on your general knowledge of people who engage with you currently. 

In either case, make sure that you’re highlighting information based on motivations. While demographic information (location, age, occupation, etc.) is helpful, it’s not as critical as what drives people. Better responsive fundraising relies on knowing what pushes people to give, what creates a deeper connection, and what activates them to advocate for you. 

Once you’ve created your donor personas, start tagging each individual donor in your database with one of the personas. With each individual tagged, you can begin collecting engagement data from every donor. These donor signals are the starting point for better responsive fundraising. 

Responsive Fundraising Strategies from The Donor Journey

When your system is collecting data from each individual donor as well as adding details to each donor persona, you can start implementing better responsive fundraising strategies. Here are just a few ways your donor signals can create a more efficient donor journey. 

1. More Efficient Conversion Points

The goal of your efforts boils down to increasing generosity. In order to do that, you have to know exactly what your donors need to hear, at what time, to push them into action. The donor journey map will specify conversion points for each donor persona, giving you a way to track where they are converting and where they’re dropping off. 

Over time, you might notice that new donors want to provide a wealth of information about themselves upfront, when their excitement to join your community is at its peak. Conversely, you might find that donors need you to build trust before giving you more. Or, you might find that donors want a high volume of conversion opportunities in the first 6 months, but react better with a slower pace after 9 months. 

By collecting engagement and website behavior data and comparing it to your donor journey map, you’ll see right away how each donor persona is reacting to your conversion points. Your team will be better able to predict the right time to suggest the best action for each donor. The result will be higher returns and more efficient fundraising. 

2. Better Suggestions for Each Individual Donor

Reporting on the different touchpoints of your donor journey map also helps you make more relevant suggestions to your donors at the right time. As you know from The Responsive Framework, not all suggestions to donors will be financial asks. More often than not, your suggestion will simply be to learn more or connect with your nonprofit. 

What a donor journey map reveals to your teams is how often you are engaging with donors in between asks. Remember, responsive nonprofits connect more than they suggest. Rely on the donor journey map to keep track of each suggestion, how each resonates with donors and which ones need to be changed in order to give donors what they want at the right time. 

Each donor persona will require different engagements, including a different frequency and variety of suggestions. As you report on engagement and conversions, make sure to segment your audiences by personas. You don’t want to risk losing trust or making your donors feel alienated by serving the wrong message at the wrong time.

3. More Relevant Follow Up After Donations

Closing the loop with donors is essential to improve donor relationships and increase revenue. With a comprehensive donor journey map, your organization can see how many times you follow up with each donor. If you’re missing opportunities to explain impact to your donors, or skipping them entirely to ask for another donation, consider updating your donor journey.

Responsive fundraising works because it pulls the donor closer to the cause. It highlights their contribution to your cause, which wouldn’t be possible without them. With the donor journey map, you not only have a guide to ensure you close the loop, but you also have a way to check their relevance with donors. 

As with all engagements, some donors will want more information and some will only want high-level details. As you test each engagement and report on performance, you’ll start to see which donors want which kinds of updates. The result is more relevant content delivered where your donors are most likely to engage with it. More relevant content with your donor at the center will inspire loyalty, advocacy, and more generosity. 

4. Faster New Donor Recruitment

Perhaps the best part of using a donor journey map for your responsive fundraising strategies is the insight it provides for new donors. Your existing donors are the perfect teachers for learning how to recruit new donors and inspire them to give. 

First, analyze the awareness and consideration phases for ways to improve your donor recruitment strategies. Listen for signals that donors want more from you or different messages. If a communications piece is particularly effective at inspiring generosity, try sending it sooner to potential donors. Speed up your timeline or slow it down. By testing the strategies of converting a potential donor into a new donor, you increase your opportunities for giving. 

Remember, much of these touchpoints can be automated with a marketing automation platform. These tests, engagements and reports can be running while you’re focused on other responsibilities. Let your system carry out the tasks for you so you can do the broad strategic thinking necessary to create a better donor experience of your nonprofit. 

5. Deeper Community Relationships

Finally, your donor journey map will reveal opportunities to build deeper connections to your existing donors. Often, nonprofits overlook the ways individual donors are treated after their first gift. They simply move those contacts into a mass-marketing machine. But with an intentional donor journey, you’ll start to be more thoughtful about how your donors are treated. 

Marketing automation and responsive fundraising tactics give you the tools you need to make personal connections with each donor without adding extra hours to your work day. Your team sets the foundation and makes adjustments along the way. But largely, you can accomplish better donor relationships without adding staff or hours. 

If it means recurring generosity and a better connection to the people who care most about your cause, the choice is obvious. 

Create Your Donor Journey Today

To learn how to create your donor journey and donor personas, download our guide. We’ll give you a step-by-step tutorial for creating the donor journey strategy necessary to improve fundraising and do more good. 

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