With advancements in technology, nonprofits have an incredible opportunity to revolutionize the way in which they engage with donors, cultivate relationships, and approach the donor journey.
The donor journey is the path individuals take from initial awareness to becoming dedicated supporters. At a basic level, it encompasses the following stages:
In this guide, we’ll explore how technology can be harnessed to streamline and optimize each of these stages. From online platforms to automated software, these tools will help you leave a lasting impression on donors and foster their long-term loyalty.
In this initial phase, potential donors become aware of your nonprofit’s existence and mission. Awareness can be generated through various means, including social media, word-of-mouth, and events.
Keep these tips in mind as you introduce your organization to a broader audience and work to pique their interest:
- Create audience personas. Conduct research to gather data on your target audience’s demographic information, interests, motivations, and behaviors. This can be done through surveys, interviews, social media listening, and analyzing existing donor data.
- Optimize your website. Optimize your website content for search engines to improve organic traffic. Conduct keyword research to identify keywords that are relevant to your mission and incorporate them naturally into your website’s content, including page titles, headings, and meta descriptions. For example, an animal shelter might have a page optimized with the keyword “pet adoption.”. This will increase the page’s chances of appearing first in the search results for users interested in adoption.
- Utilize social media. Determine which social media platforms your target audience is most active on. Then, share impactful stories, videos, infographics, and images that highlight your nonprofit’s work and impact. Use hashtags related to your mission and encourage social sharing to expand your reach.
To further raise awareness during this time, consider revamping your nonprofit’s branding. Interview supporters, board members, and other stakeholders to assess your current brand identity, including visual elements like your logo, typography, and color scheme. Do they stand out online and accurately represent your mission? If not, work with a graphic designer or use graphic design software to make the necessary adjustments yourself.
After individuals are made aware of your nonprofit, they enter the consideration phase. During this stage, they explore your organization further, learning about your programs, impact, and how their support can make a difference. This is where a customer relationship management (CRM) system can be especially useful.
With robust CRM providers like Salesforce or Blackbaud, your CRM can help you make data-driven decisions that nurture and engage potential donors as they consider supporting your cause. Follow these steps to make the most of your software:
- Personalize outreach. Use the segmentation tool in your CRM to group donors based on shared characteristics such as donation history, engagement level, or demographics. For donors at the consideration stage, share outreach materials based on how they first engaged with your organization. If a supporter subscribes to learn more about your advocacy campaigns, focus on sending them advocacy-related content to hold their interest before pushing them toward making a donation.
- Compile an annual report. Extract relevant data from your CRM, including financial records, donor information, program outcomes, and engagement metrics. Use reporting tools to create dynamic and customized visuals, such as charts and graphs, to illustrate your nonprofit’s performance and impact over the year.
- Create success stories. Identify individuals within your CRM who have benefited from your programs or services. Collect detailed data and testimonials from these beneficiaries to build a compelling narrative that highlights their journey and the positive outcomes they’ve experienced through your organization.
With the information they’ve gathered, donors now make a choice of whether or not to support your nonprofit. This phase often involves making a donation.
An optimized donation platform allows for quick and hassle-free transactions, encouraging donors to follow through with their decision to support your cause. If you haven’t already, invest in a platform that:
- Simplifies the donation process. Create a user-friendly, intuitive, and streamlined donation process on your website. Minimize the number of clicks required to complete a donation and use clear language to guide donors through the process.
- Offers multiple payment options. Provide a variety of payment options, including credit/debit card payments and digital wallets like Apple Pay, to cater to donors’ preferences. Additionally, set up a convenient recurring donations option, so donors can contribute on a regular basis without having to revisit your donation form each time they want to give.
- Integrates with an automated matching gift platform. 84% of donors state they are more likely to give if their gift will be matched. Matching gift auto-submission functionality simplifies the matching gift process for donors. Instead of manually navigating their employer’s online portals and providing various information for approval, donors can complete the process within seconds directly on your nonprofit’s website. This streamlined process increases the likelihood of donors requesting matches, resulting in more funds for your cause.
Nonprofits that lack technical expertise can benefit from working with a nonprofit technology consulting firm to improve their technology’s ability to capture donor data and create positive supporter experiences. They can evaluate your current platform, identify areas for improvement, and provide guidance on the best practices and strategies to optimize the platform for fundraising.
Your relationship with donors doesn’t end when they make a contribution. Instead, the relationship enters the retention stage in which your nonprofit is tasked with showing appreciation and keeping donors invested in your cause.
Here are two ways technology can assist in this process:
- Online donor portals: Develop online donor portals within your website where donors can log in to access their contribution history, see the impact of their donations, and receive recognition for their support, such as thank-you messages and special badges. This self-service approach empowers donors to engage with your organization and feel appreciated without direct staff involvement.
- Automated acknowledgment. With email automation tools, you can create personalized thank-you emails triggered when supporters donate. Customize these emails to automatically populate with donor-specific information, expressions of gratitude, and tax-deductible information.
Use your CRM to track key donor retention rates and measure the effectiveness of these stewardship strategies.
From initial engagement to continued donations, technology can optimize the process of building authentic donor relationships. However, technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Nonprofits must carefully evaluate their needs, resources, and the preferences of their target audience before implementing any technological advancements. A well-thought-out strategy, combined with ongoing monitoring and evaluation, is key to ensuring that technology truly enhances the donor journey.