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How to Create Responsive Donor Journeys With Your CRM

Donor journeys deepen supporter connections through a holistic approach to engagement. In the past, nonprofits employed static donor journeys, which merely consisted of a one-to-many approach to communication. The problem is that this type of donor journey is impersonal and simply doesn’t resonate with supporters anymore. By leveraging your nonprofit CRM to create responsive donor journeys, you are nurturing relationships that are more personalized, meaningful, and likely to result in long-term engagement and support.

The experiences donors have with nonprofit organizations should be more than one-and-done engagements. The once-reliable trifecta of generosity, number of gifts, and trust is waning. The reasons are influenced by myriad factors, like economic shifts and evolving online behaviors. But the biggest factor is the donor journey—or lack thereof—that supporters receive.

Donor journeys are paths supporters take from the moment they first interact with your nonprofit to every other action they take. Simply put, well-thought-out donor journeys are the crux of retaining donor support.

When supporters move through a static donor journey that isn’t relevant to what they’re interested in, it creates a disconnect between their expectations and their actual experience. When the content they receive doesn’t strike a chord with them, they are much less likely to engage with your communications—much less take action to continue supporting your cause.

Fallbacks to the Static Donor Journey

A static donor journey often hinges on a one-size-fits-all approach. This one-to-many approach often pushes the same email or piece of mail to every donor at once.

The result? Impersonal messaging that largely looks like a promotional email and fails to resonate.

Your donors are unique humans, each with their own backgrounds, experiences, preferences, and motivations. So when everyone is receiving the same thing, messaging tends to fall flat because it responds to the needs of your nonprofit—not the donor.

This static donor journey overlooks individual actions donors take—what we like to call donor signals—and is purely based on what the organization wants the donor to see. Oftentimes, this one-directional mindset can lead to increased disengagement and donor attrition.

The Future: Responsive Donor Journeys

The foundation of our mission and the driving force behind how we build our technology is rooted in responsive fundraising.

The work we do is more than just raising funds; it’s forging a deeper connection between our mission and the passions of our donors. Through responsive fundraising, we harness essential insights from our technology and team expertise to cultivate deeper, more meaningful relationships with our donors. In turn, this cultivates longer-term support and loyalty from our supporters.

Using the fundamentals of the responsive fundraising framework, nonprofits can craft responsive donor journeys designed to nurture meaningful relationships. Rather than getting communications that are simultaneously sent to everyone else, donors experience customized campaigns tailored to their own behavior, persona, or intentions. This personalized strategy frequently results in increased donor retention, engagement, and average gift sizes.

At the heart of responsive donor journeys is personalization. This means going beyond using the donor’s first name in communications. It involves including content in your communications that directly speaks to their experiences, interests, and past interactions. This could range from customizing appeals based on previous donation amounts to acknowledging milestones in their journey.

Since switching to Virtuous, each email from the North Central University advancement team is personally crafted for every supporter, rather than a generic message meant for the masses. An effort that is paying off, the team is seeing a direct impact on their year-over-year giving, which is up 12.1%.

“We think of fundraising differently now, in terms of personalized touch everywhere we go. Now that we’re not spending as much time doing the manual processes and can connect more with our donors,” says David Duxbury, Associate Director of Advancement of North Central University.

How Your Nonprofit CRM Can Help You Build Responsive Donor Journeys

While building out these donor journeys from scratch might seem like an involved endeavor, this is where a modern and sophisticated nonprofit CRM makes the difference. A responsive CRM for nonprofits doesn’t just store donor data; it empowers you to take a personalized approach to crafting dynamic donor journeys.

These journeys adapt to the changing needs and interests of your supporters, ensuring each interaction is as engaging as possible.

Dynamic Donor Journey Lists

What if there was a way to use CRM automation to segment donors into relevant lists based on their interactions with your organization?

With a responsive donor management platform like Virtuous, it’s entirely possible. Now, instead of spending countless hours manually sorting through nonprofit data, your CRM software will do the heavy lifting for you. It’s all about setting up the automated workflow in the backend.

For example, let’s say you want to create a segment of donors passionate about environmental conservation. By setting up a rule in your CRM for nonprofits, you can automatically categorize donors based on their engagement with conservation-related content.

This grouping could be triggered by various actions, such as interacting with emails about conservation efforts, participating in eco-focused events, or contributing to targeted conservation campaigns.

Automated Donor Journeys

The journey begins from the moment a donor first interacts with your organization and continues at every moment the donor interacts with your nonprofit, whether that’s passively engaging with relevant content or actively making a contribution.

It’s impossible to manually track these interactions and deploy right-fit, timely communications, especially if you’re running on a small team. But marketing automation for nonprofits can give your team the lift it needs, adding in the much-needed staff support.

A CRM with built-in marketing automation can track this initial engagement and trigger a series of tailored connections, like marketing communications, events, and one-on-one conversations. Especially with the option to assign tasks, organizations like UMOM New Day Centers stay on top of critical relationship-building opportunities.

“With tasks and automation, we are able to easily assign things like thank-you calls to staff and volunteers. The results improved our overall stewardship efforts,” says to the UMOM New Day Centers team.

Multichannel Donor Journey Communication Sequences

Integrated multichannel fundraising helps you get in front of the right people at the right time. This increases your chances of deepening connections with donors and maintaining sustained support.

To do that, you need responsive nonprofit CRM software with native integration capabilities that consolidate data across all of your platforms. With such a system, your nonprofit can harmonize different communication channels—email, social media, direct mail, text messaging, and more—into one seamless donor journey.

“To make this work, we need marketing automation because we have to be able to automate those touchpoints in real-time on multiple channels—SMS mail, email prompting your team to make a phone call. It’s too much manual work to actually run these dynamic campaigns,” says Gabe Cooper, CEO of Virtuous, explains in a webinar on the responsive maturity model.

Let’s break this down further:

  • Unified messaging across channels: Whether a donor reads an email, sees a post on social media, receives a direct mail piece, or gets a text message, the message and tone remain consistent. This brand uniformity reinforces your nonprofit’s brand and mission, making it more memorable for the donor.
  • Dynamic content: For example, if a donor regularly engages with content about a specific project on social media, they could receive more detailed information about that project via email or direct mail.
  • Optimized donor journeys across online and offline channels: The ultimate goal of integrated multichannel communication is to provide a donor experience that feels both personalized and part of a greater mission narrative. Each interaction, regardless of the channel, builds upon the last, creating a cohesive donor journey.

Dogs on Deployment really leans on their fundraising platform, so it was crucial for them to get their data migration just right. Thanks to the seamless native integration, fundraising data is automatically sent from Classy into Virtuous and categorizes them into different levels based on their giving behavior, runs queries on specific donor characteristics, and allows staff to assign tasks to themselves to remember to follow up with specific donors.

“Choosing a CRM to your fundraising strategy can seem like a large investment. If you use it properly and have a strong strategy, you’ll see that the investment is worth it,” emphasizes Alisa Johnson, President and Co-Founder of Dogs on Deployment.

A/B Tests for Engaging Donor Journeys

As a responsive nonprofit, A/B testing is essential to optimizing the giving experience and growing the generosity of donors and their tenure with your programs. Experimenting new tactics against older ones is key to understanding what truly resonates with your audience, guiding you in establishing more meaningful engagement strategies.

Here are three strategic ways you can use A/B testing in your fundraising:

  • Tailoring donor journeys: Use A/B testing to personalize donor journeys. These learnings will help you craft more resonant and engaging experiences.
  • Optimizing user experience: Apply learnings to enhance the user experience on digital platforms, such as donation pages or email marketing, ensuring higher conversion rates.
  • Content strategy : Inform your content strategy with A/B test outcomes, aligning it more closely with donor preferences and behavioral patterns.

Next step: Leverage AI-Powered Tools

To help you become a more responsive nonprofit, we’ve adopted a maturity model framework, a step-by-step guide often used by organizations to benchmark their current level of maturity against industry best practices.

As you progress across each step, you’ll see increased team effectiveness, increased average donor retention and gift size, decreased staff burnout, improved advocacy, and improved donor acquisition metrics.

Download The Responsive Maturity Model: 5 Building Blocks to Drive Increased Generosity to learn the five building blocks of responsive fundraising.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

See the Virtuous platform in action.  Schedule a call with our team for personalized answers and expert advice on transforming your nonprofit with donor management software.

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

If you know another nonprofit pro who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via Email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

The Responsive Maturity Model
5 Steps to More Personalized Donor Experiences
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Todd Shinabarger
Chief Information Officer