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Your CRM Growth Partner: Marketing Automation for Nonprofits

Wondering what marketing automation for nonprofits can do for you? Nonprofits are constantly battling the need for more resources. Unlike your for-profit counterparts, you’re expected to do more with less, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to sustain your impact. Enter marketing automation for nonprofits. Discover the benefits of a responsive CRM with built-in marketing automation and how you can use it to scale your work and amplify your impact.

Nonprofit work is a dichotomy: Organizations are expected to run on finite resources, especially compared to our for-profit counterparts, but the demand for impact and transparency continues to grow. A tough terrain to navigate, but this is where marketing automation for nonprofits can make a world of difference.

Marketing automation won’t save the world on its own. Still, it can certainly alleviate the burden off you and your team to put toward more strategic initiatives like expanding your programs or finding meaningful engagement opportunities for donors.

Technology has grown from a costly investment that some organizations can afford to an essential partner in helping nonprofits achieve their missions at scale. With donor management platforms being the key tool used in improving donor relationships, marketing automation for nonprofits is a powerful extension that tailors the donor experience to suit their interests, preferences, and motivations at every interaction.

Exploring Marketing Automation for Nonprofits: The Advantages of an Integrated CRM System

Today’s donors are different and require more than just a good cause to give to. They’re looking for a deeper connection between themselves and the causes they give to. However, this also means that the way your donors like to be engaged varies from person to person depending on where their passion lies.

To appeal to the different types of donors in your file, it’s vital to take a more responsive approach—one that centers your strategy around the needs of the donor.

So, what does this look like?

By following this four-step model, your team is harnessing the power of responsive fundraising, combining the power of modern technology and data intelligence to create individualized touchpoints designed to unlock generosity to your cause at scale.

Achieving this level of data sophistication won’t come from a run-of-the-mill nonprofit CRM. What today’s nonprofits need is a responsive CRM that creates efficiency in your fundraising, removing the added pressures of tedium from administrative busywork on your staff.

Once revered as ground-breaking tools for consolidating donor data, traditional nonprofit CRMs haven’t kept up in meeting the robust needs of today’s nonprofits. If you’re in the market for a new nonprofit CRM, you should consider a holistic fundraising platform that comes with a comprehensive donor management system and marketing automation built right in.

Data That Lives in One Place

Fragmented data has long been the enemy of our sector. When data lives in different places, there isn’t uniform visibility across fundraising and campaign performance. This causes a domino effect of organizational disruptions, such as errors in data entry, inconsistencies in messaging and outreach, and communication gaps between departments.

With a responsive nonprofit CRM like Virtuous, establishing a centralized hub of information provides full control and visibility into all your fundraising activities. Plus, having an open API also ensures that if you do decide to use other tools, you can easily funnel that data into your CRM and preserve the integrity of your data.

Mel Trotter Ministries anticipated a difficult migration moving away from Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge. However, Virtuous made the process as painless as possible.

Seth McLaughlin, Director of Development at Mel Trotter Ministries, summarizes their migration to Virtuous from Raiser’s Edge experience by saying, “[Coming from Raisere’s Edge] Our data was kind of a mess… We were waiting for the migration to be terrible, but it wasn’t.”

Accurate Personalization and Segmentation

PSA: One-size-fits-all, mass communication tactics are out. This typically happens for a variety of reasons: a lack of strategic planning, poor data health, and limited segmentation capabilities from an inefficient CRM.

Whatever the case may be, your donors deserve a treatment that is unique to their interests, engagement styles, and giving tendencies. Clean and accurate data from your nonprofit CRM helps you segment donors based on these factors, allowing you to get more granular with how you personalize your communications.

Marketing automation takes this a step further by automating the delivery of content based on the donor’s interests and preferences. This can look like a new donor welcome series, gift acknowledgment campaign, or educational series.

Let’s use a new donor welcome series as an example:

  • Kick-off with a welcome email: Upon receipt of the donor’s contribution, they should receive an email that acknowledges their gift and welcomes them into your community
  • Share impact stories: Send this one week after the first email. The purpose of this email is to make the donor feel good about their contribution to your cause. What good did they help create for your community? Add any specifics to this email!
  • Showcase other non-financial ways to engage: Send this email two weeks after the second email. Try not to make this one an ask and offer alternative ways they can support your organization. This is a great community-building tactic, encouraging them to show up for those who you support. A few examples are attending an upcoming event, starting a peer-to-peer fundraiser, sharing your mission on social media, or donating an in-kind gift (such as clothes or canned goods).
  • Send another appeal: Send this a month after the third email. Based on what content they’ve engaged with in past emails, encourage them to sign up for your monthly giving program or make an additional gift to the cause area they’ve shown interest in.
A new donor welcome series inside of Virtuous CRM.

Extra Support for Your Team

While nonprofit CRMs have created a lot of efficiencies between fundraising, data management, backend administrative duties, and transparency across teams, these donor management systems typically require a person or a staff to manage it.

However, the reality oftentimes is that most nonprofits don’t have the budget. This then forces organizations to push this responsibility to other staff members who don’t necessarily have the know-how or the bandwidth, which then leads to the organization not taking full advantage of the system.

Our sector has two main categories for a nonprofit CRM: a single-source solution and a custom-build solution. On one end, you have a single-source solution like Raiser’s Edge that is widely used yet comes with restrictions in marketing automation, prone to errors in data hygiene, and limited visibility across teams. On the other, you have a custom-build solution like Salesforce that gives you total control and full customization over the system. However, it comes with a steep learning curve and high budgetary spending.

This has created a pretty wide spectrum of nonprofit CRMs available on the market, but most nonprofits need something that falls somewhere in the middle. The responsive CRM meets this need. A holistic solution like Virtuous gives nonprofits the added customization and functionality they need without compromising the user experience. Plus, with the built-in marketing automation, Virtuous has saved countless hours for nonprofits like Dominican Friars.

“We got a sense that Salesforce takes an entire team dedicated to babysitting the database. With Virtuous, we felt like we were adding staff to our team by having all these automations do data cleanup, moves management support work, things like that.”

Bryan Fegley, Senior Director of Advancement at Dominican Friars

6 Ways Marketing Automation for Nonprofits Can Scale Your Work

When used right, marketing automation for nonprofits has the potential to create efficiencies across the organization, giving your staff more time back to focus on critical tasks, like campaign strategy, donor engagement, and mission impact. It goes beyond just automating routine processes—it’s amplifying your team’s efforts and enabling them to achieve more in less time.

Let’s explore six ways to use marketing automation.

1. Automate the Gift Acknowledgment Process

Of course, every donor should receive a thank-you letter for their gift. What’s even more important is that it should be sent 24 to 48 hours after receipt of their gift. Donors thanked within this time frame are four times more likely to be repeat givers, making this a gold standard in your donor stewardship strategy.

Marketing automation can help you streamline this routine process. Set up emails to express gratitude the moment someone makes a donation. Use merge tags to include pertinent information about the donor, ensuring that donors receive timely and personalized acknowledgments for their contributions.

2. Trigger Workflows for Specific Donor Segments

Whether it’s acknowledging loyal donors, welcoming new supporters, or re-engaging lapsed contributors, marketing automation helps deliver targeted communications for each segment. Workflows in Virtuous are more than just static steps, you can think of it as more of a dynamic donor lifecycle. Our platform recognizes donors as individual people, so every donor journey looks different.

“We can build workflows based on who clicked on what email or through a channel… and you can decide what you want to do with this… The [opportunities are] pretty endless,” Seth says.

Communication looks different for every donor, and nonprofits base their triggers based on donor signals—actions they take with your organization. Need some inspiration? Here are recurring donation automation workflows to get you started.

3. Personalize Communications Using Data Filters

Unlike the mass communication we once held in high regard, today’s donors want more personalized communication that speaks to them as individuals. How much did they give? What campaign did they donate to? What cause area piqued their interest? What type of donor are they?

Use your marketing automation tool to tailor communications based on key data filters, such as the ones mentioned above. This ensures that your engagement remains relevant and resonant with each individual’s interests and preferences.

To take it a step further, Virtuous offers a query tool. Nonprofits can use queries for more complex data extraction compared to simple data filters. For example, instead of creating a list of people who donated in the past year, you might use queries to segment out a list of people who donated in the past year to a certain cause area (e.g., youth education vs. workforce development).

4. Send Donor Surveys

Donor surveys are a big part of listening in the responsive fundraising framework. Listening is more than just reviewing and evaluating your data—it’s also hearing from your donors firsthand. Using automation, you can schedule donor surveys to send at the end of each quarter. It creates a consistent flow of feedback for your team and deepens relationships with donors at the same time.

This becomes a valuable resource for nonprofits to make informed decisions and refine their strategies. Understanding donors’ opinions and preferences allows organizations to tailor their communications, fundraising campaigns, and engagement activities to better resonate with their audience.

5. Ensure Data Integrity

Nonprofits grapple with myriad data challenges, navigating through inconsistent data collection practices and elusive attribution tracking. To improve the health of their data, many nonprofits look to a responsive nonprofit CRM.

Using Virtuous, organizations are adding processes that can identify and swiftly rectify data inconsistencies, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring a reliable source of information.

“We have about 30 or so workflows, and what we double down on is using them for data integrity. We have a bunch of workflows checking when a new contact record is created,” Bryan attests. “It’s really improved our data health overall because those workflows just clean up the data.”

6. Schedule Data Reports on a Recurring Basis

Reporting is a vital task in fundraising, as it keeps everyone abreast of the performance of your initiatives. However, it can become a cumbersome and time-consuming task for your team when it has to be done frequently. This is where marketing automation becomes a valuable ally for your team.

Whether you’re exporting the same reports regularly or in charge of updating key stakeholders, marketing automation can work with your team to schedule recurring reports. By automating this process, key stakeholders receive timely updates, allowing everyone to stay consistently informed about KPIs for nonprofits, campaign performance, and the overall success of fundraising efforts.

The benefits of marketing automation for your nonprofit go beyond what we’ve covered here. Virtuous, with its end-to-end nonprofit CRM featuring built-in marketing automation, online giving, and event management, serves as your growth partner as you expand your mission and impact.

To discover the full potential of marketing automation, schedule a chat with one of our team members.

Watch the full webinar: Is it time to switch? Lessons learned switching from Blackbaud to Virtuous.

What you should do now

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

Take a self-guided tour of Virtuous, where you can explore the platform at your own pace and see if Virtuous is right for you. 

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.

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“Virtuous truly understands nonprofits and the importance of our mission. And their open access to data and built-in custom reports gave us access to the data we need.”
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Todd Shinabarger
Chief Information Officer