When nonprofits talk about growth, they’re usually tracking donors and their behavior. They want to see more donors giving more money, more frequently. But growth can also refer to resources — more time for your team to come up with new ideas or fundraising tactics. For that kind of growth, you need the right tools. You need the right systems. You need automation software.
What Is Automation Software?
To put it simply, automation software allows your team to execute tasks without any manual effort. This can be as robust as a marketing automation tool that manages multiple donor interactions at once; or as simple as scheduling a post in Facebook. In both cases, your nonprofit is connecting with your donors without requiring any additional effort from you.
Automation software adds much more to your organization than executing tasks, though. When paired with donor management software, automation creates a personalized experience for all of your donors. You can send each person the most relevant, compelling information based on what you know about them and their previous behavior and engagement.
Let’s say that your nonprofit celebrates every donor who passes the $1,000 in generosity milestone. To reach out to those donors manually, you’d have to coordinate with your accounting department, organize your donor list and check all your information against the date since the last time you did this. Chances are, no one on your team has enough time to do this on a regular basis.
All that manual effort turns a significant moment between you and your donor into a hassle for you, and most likely, delayed recognition for them. Marketing automation tools ensure that you never miss a milestone. More importantly, automation software allow you to give the personalized experience your donors expect. Your team will finally have the necessary resources to connect with your donors using meaningful, relevant information. The result is a deeper connection with your donor that leads to higher lifetime value.
Does Automation Actually Work for Nonprofits?
You know that marketing automation works well for for-profit businesses, but maybe you’ve heard it doesn’t work for nonprofits. We’re here to disprove those rumors. It does work. We’ve seen it work wonders for nonprofits across the country.
The reason is simple. The main difference between a donor who gives a single time and one that continues to give for years to come is the connection you build with them. Automation helps you establish that connection and strengthen it without requiring extra time and resources from your team.
When donors give the first time, they’re likely giving for a personal reason. Maybe their childhood dog was a greyhound and they gave to your nonprofit as a way of commemorating the anniversary of their pet’s passing. You can’t rely on that to drive them to donate again for next year’s anniversary, and certainly not next month.
But you can make them care about the work you do and the people working at your nonprofit. With storytelling, personalized interactions and custom messaging you replace their personal story with a connection to your nonprofit’s work. Your donors will start to feel more like a team member, an important piece to the success of your mission, than someone who gives once a year. And with that, you’ll have created reliable generosity.
7 Signs Your Nonprofit is Ready for Automation
Now that you have a general idea of what automation is and how it can help nonprofits, let’s find out if it can work for your organization, specifically. We want to make sure, before you spend time exploring your options, your team will need the extra support automation can bring. We suggest looking for these 7 signs that your team needs more from your suite of tools.
1. You Consistently Generate New Donors
One factor that can determine whether automation will work for your team is how many new donors you generate on a monthly basis. As with for-profit companies, automation works best when you are constantly adding people to your list of contacts. These are people you can send through a welcome email series, introduce to content you’ve created and learn more about their interests without creating extra tasks for your team.
If your nonprofit collects new names on a consistent basis, but doesn’t have a way to segment them, it’s time to look into automation software. Using behavioral data from your automated messages, you can start to get a clearer picture of who this new donor is, what they care about, and what they might want to give to in the future, without any extra effort. All of this is incredibly valuable information when you’re asking for that second donation.
2. The Current Team Can’t Scale Up
Consider the work your team currently does every day. Now, imagine how they would be affected if you gave them the responsibility of building a relationship with 2 new donors each. That might not sound like a big number, but it adds an extra few hours to their day, every day. If you can’t see how your team could possibly scale their current workload, it’s time to consider automation.
With the right solution, your team can delegate a portion of their to-do list to automation software. With more space in their day, adding responsibilities from your new donor contacts won’t overwhelm them to the point of burnout — something we all want to avoid as often as possible.
3. You Have Various Kinds of Donors
When your team is spread too thin, newsletters and other engagement tactics are often the first task to go. Instead of targeted, relevant messages, nonprofits are forced to send the same message to everyone. Perhaps unsurprisingly, donors don’t have a very strong emotional reaction to these kinds of generic messages. If anything, donors are turned off by the impersonal treatment.
If this sounds like a familiar problem to you, switch to automated marketing. More than just segmenting your donors to send personalized messages, automation software will also manage dynamic lists. If a single donor graduates from a standard donor to a major donor, for example, you won’t have to update your entire list. Your software will do it for you. All you have to worry about is telling the right stories about the work your nonprofit is doing. And that’s the fun part.
4. You Have Trouble Proving The Value of Your Efforts
At the end of the year, the only number that matters is funds raised. But what if you could prove the impact you made throughout the year, regardless of what the funds say? Automation software can help you.
Success indicators such as increased website traffic, number of events hosted, donor engagement or online sentiment all tell the much bigger story about your nonprofit’s marketing and communication efforts. It provides nuance that a single fundraising number can’t. With more robust reporting, you can see a more accurate picture of the long-term growth of your nonprofit.
5. Your Team Switches Tools for Each Task
As a young nonprofit, it makes total sense to take advantage of every free tool available. With limited funds, it’s important to be as cost-effective as possible. But as you grow, you start to realize your team needs 3 different tools to complete one task. It’s not efficient or pleasant for your team.
Consider streamlining all your communications efforts by investing in a single, powerful automation tool. Eliminate extra steps and avoid confusion by choosing a single place to manage all your tasks. When you consider the space that will create for your team during their day, automation more than pays for itself.
6. Donor Retention is Suffering
A decline in donor retention is an indication that your donors don’t feel connected to your nonprofit and the work you’re doing. Of course, several factors can contribute to this missing connection, but one that you have control over is the communication each donor receives throughout the year.
Automation software gives you the resources you need to talk to your donors more frequently. You can talk about progress, new initiatives and other exciting ideas you don’t have time to mention when you’re raising funds in December. Personalized communication makes it harder for donors to disengage with your nonprofit completely.
7. You’re Stuck at Your Current Fundraising Level
Finally, if you’ve been stuck at your current level of fundraising for an extended period of time (or worse, you’re actually seeing a decline in donations), you need the help of marketing automation tools. Your team is doing everything they can to raise enough to graduate your nonprofit to the next level, but they are just too bogged down with daily tasks. It’s nearly impossible to think of new, creative ideas or more holistic marketing strategies when you’re constantly thinking about your growing to-do list.
Automation software assumes those smaller tasks so your team can focus on the big ideas. Put your talented, passionate team to work on the things that will make the biggest impact and let your marketing automation tools do the rest.
How to Build Successful Automation
If you’re ready to start exploring your options for automation software, we can help. We have a dedicated team of experts who will walk you through data migration, help set up your automation programs and answer any other questions you may have. Let us start answering some of your specific questions today!
Mckenna is a writer and strategist who uses empathy and storytelling to connect nonprofits with their most committed donors.