How to Move Donors Through the Funnel With Email Marketing

Emma Wolfe September 10, 2018, by Emma Wolfe

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So you know how your nonprofit has lists of donors? And this list includes donors of all shapes and sizes: donors who gave once, twice and thrice mixed together with potential donors who have expressed interested but have never actually given money. Well here’s the deal. If you want to successfully move donors from point A (thinking about giving) to point B (giving all the time) you are going to have to give them a gentle push. This push comes in the form of email marketing.

Email marketing you say?

Yes, I’m very serious.

You can use email marketing to move your donors through the funnel and land on that point B. We’ve got your back so sit back and relax while we do the marketing dance.

Step 1: Identify and Segment Your Donor Groups

Like I mentioned earlier, you probably have lists of donors and potential donors all together in some excel or Google sheet. Well, not all of those donors are the same and separating them using some important criteria will make your email marketing that much more effective.

Your first group are your potential donors. These lovely little fairies have expressed interest in donation in a few ways. Perhaps they have volunteered in the past, come to an event or literally said “hey I might be interested”. However they have indicated they might want to give, these folks represent group one.

Your second group are your “gave once 2 years ago donors”. These lovely people are hanging around the edges waiting to be convinced yet again that your organization is awesome and that giving to it is basically the best decision ever. They gave once or twice, maybe to a crowdfunding or peer-to-peer campaign and you just have to re-engage them to secure consistent donations!

Your next group are your consistent small gift donors. These folks make up your awesome base that just love your organization and all that you do. They may not have a ton to give but they love being involved in all that your nonprofit is doing but you need to maintain them (cough, email marketing, cough). We heart these donors.

Finally your last group are your unicorns and I’m not going to spend a ton of time on them because I don’t actually think they should be included in your email marketing strategy. You might disagree, as I’m sure many will, but these folks are your consistent major gift donors.While they might be subscribed to your newsletter, you should not be soliciting donations from them via your email marketing. They are the personal email, handwritten letter, phone call and pretty fruit basket donor.

Now any good email marketing tool will allow you to create segmented lists. Each of these donor groups should be put in a separate list so that you can send emails specifically to those groups. Now, here’s where I add that you might well have other donor groups and that’s awesome! Segment how you see fit because you know your organization better than we do!

Now that you’ve got your donors in their proper lists, let’s look at how to take full advantage of this personalization!

Step 2: Automated Workflows and Content

Email and workflow creation time. Now it’s time to take those donor groups and create specialized email campaigns for each of them. These campaigns will be automated and set up how you see fit. We (obviously) have a few recommendations however.

Keep it light. Make sure that your emails are easy to read and that they follow the logical path set up by the previous email in the sequence.

Think specifically about the user groups in each of your segmented lists and ask “what information would they need to move to donate?” Your potential donors might need a lot of numbers. They have never given before. Maybe they need impact statistics or your annual report. Your consistent donors probably don’t need quite as much information, they want to see some nice photos of recent events and maybe a testimonial or two! Always think about it from their point of view. They are after all the ones giving.

Step 3: Analyze

This is the often-forgotten but extremely important part of the process. You need to analyze your campaigns. Look not only at open and and click-through rates but also where you might be losing people. Do you have everyone opening email one and then lose them completely on email two? Or are people opening all of them and still not donating at the end? Whatever the case, look at those statistics and make small changes to grow your conversions.

Just a general email marketing tidbit for open rate, your subject line matters. Again think about your donor group and what’s going to make them open your email. Because if they don’t even open it, you’ve done a ton of work for nothing!

Step 4: Not really a step

This isn’t a step, I just thought it was important to mention that having a nice looking email template will make a huge difference. If you have the choice between a not so cute template that costs nothing and a super cute template that’s a couple bucks, just go for it. In the case of email marketing, looks matter.

So there you have it! Moving your donors through your email marketing funnel can be fun if your approach it strategically. Identify those donors, segment those lists and create content for each group. You will be getting more donations in no time! If you have any other questions please reach out to us at Elevation! We love talking email marketing and can’t wait to hear from you!


How to Build Your Nonprofit Email List: Website & Social Media



Emma Wolfe

Emma Wolfe

Emma Wolfe is the Content Marketing Growth Manager at Elevation, a full-service nonprofit web design agency. Emma has been involved in the nonprofit world for years working at multiple NGOs located both in the United States and abroad. Her experience ranges from refugee occupation counseling to empowerment programs for youth in West Africa. When she isn’t traveling Emma loves doing yoga and trying new food.

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