Fundraising is quite a different game than it was before social media, and certainly before mobile phones. But by building a well thought out marketing funnel you will be able to better connect with the modern donor because:

  • Your donors are much more connected, but they’re also much more distracted. Your donors are bombarded every day with messages from friends, ads from brands, not to mention trending news.
  • Your donors also have a newly discovered power to easily talk about the causes they love, with hundreds or thousands of people who share the same feathers.
  • Your donors want to be more connected to the impact, via mobile, social, and email.

Many nonprofit marketers are now (somewhat reluctantly) embracing donor-centric strategies that truly engage donors on their timeline, and where they hang out.

For example, Human Rights Campaign often presents a fundraising ask only AFTER a supporter signs a petition.

Their assumption (a correct one) is that people signing a petition are more likely to give.

Plus, building their list is key to raising more money.

After signing a recent petition supporters were encouraged to buy a t-shirt:


One way to construct a donor-centric strategy like HRC’s, is to build a marketing funnel.

What’s a marketing funnel?

A marketing funnel is a framework to define the steps a supporter takes to go from awareness about your cause, to donating to your cause, to sharing your cause with friends.

But a marketing funnel isn’t just a nice idea. In practice, it’s a series of traffic sources, landing pages, and emails that work together to:

1. Capture interest – Once someone is interested in your cause, capture it.
2. Nurture interest – Build arousal through personalized and responsive email messages.
3. Convert interest – Maximize giving at the right moment.
4. Partner – Turn new supporters into spokespeople. Some are added to the development funnel.

marketing funnel diagram

Let’s break down each of these stages:

Top of the Marketing Funnel: Capture Interest

Once someone is interested in your cause, capture it. And by capture, I mean emails.

For example, let’s say a Facebook friend shares a petition to save the polar bears. If you aren’t interested, you’ll simply ignore it. But if you love polar bears, you will sign that petition (name, email, etc).

save the polar bears

Polar Bears International captures your email, but they also capture:

  • Your interest – In polar bears and other cuddly creatures.
  • Your past support – In previous campaigns and fundraisers.
  • Your permission – To send you emails about the polar bear campaign.
  • Your news feed – Targeting you with Facebook ads about polar bears.
  • Your future support – Volunteering, donating, and sharing campaigns.

The critical part of capturing interest (and emails) is this: You must offer enough value for them to give you their email.

What kind of offers provide value?

  • Free resources like toolkits, guides or ebooks.
  • A discount on membership or event registration.
  • Free invites to educational webinars.
  • Action alerts and volunteer opportunities.
  • Your amazing newsletter delivered via email.
  • Photo contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways.

Another (very creative) example of offering value is Malala Fund’s campaign to engage artists:

malala fund

Regardless of your strategy, you must exchange value for value. There is no value at all in filling out web forms.

To do: Create a landing page for your offer. Make sure emails are properly segmented as having participated in the campaign.

Middle of the Marketing Funnel: Nurture Interest

Once someone has joined your list, they’ve raised their hand. They’re saying“I want more”. They’re ripe for the asking. Your job is to offer compelling reasons to do more.

Email plays a critical role during the Nurture phase. Most email marketing software tools allow you to send the right message, to the right people, at the right time.

Make sure you follow-up right away via email. For example, after signing HRC’s petition, I received the following email:

hrc drip campaign

To do: Write an email drip sequence to nurture interest. 3 short but powerful emails should do it.

Money in the Marketing Funnel: Convert Interest

Let’s face it, when someone visits your donation page it’s an extremely rare and precious moment (OMG they actually clicked on our email and went to our donation page!). The story, relevance, timing, and ask, can literally make or break a fundraising campaign.

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It’s a moment you can’t afford NOT to seize!

There are several factors that increase the likelihood that someone will support your fundraiser:

  • Audience relevance – Who’s being asked to give? For example, people who signed the polar bear petition.
  • Massage relevance – Does the ask align with the audience? Your gift will save even more polar bears.
  • Timing – When are they being asked? Recent polar bear petition signers are primed for giving.
  • Feels – How amped up are they, emotionally? Unless they feel some love for the polar bears, very few will give money.
  • Mobile – If your donation page doesn’t work on mobile, fix it.

If you’ve done a good job in your follow-up emails, prospects won’t need much convincing to take that next step. But they will need a solid donation page:

  • Trigger giving with an impact story – Reinforce your stories told with social and email. One powerful picture that tells a story, along with 50 words (or less).
  • Make the potential donor the hero – Talk about the impact they will make. Remove your organization from the narrative.
  • Get rid of the word “donate” on your donate button – Instead, uselanguage that communicates impact. “Feed hungry families”, “Stop hate in your state”, “Give clear water”, etc.
  • Remove the sidebar and other distractions – You want them to make a donation, right?

Important: Remember that each email in the nurture phase (above) should include compelling reasons to support, along with clear call-to-actions.

Sharing in the Marketing Funnel: Turning Supporters into Spokespeople

The last part of the funnel is partnering, which can mean a number of things. But for new donors it will mean sharing your campaign.

Add sharing features to your “thank you” page. This way, donors are prompted to share immediately after giving.

Set and Forget It (Almost)

Once you’ve created your donation page, thank you page, and drip sequence, you can let the process run on its own. Your job now is to focus on driving relevant visitors to the top of the funnel (capture).

Lastly, make sure you monitor the effectiveness of your promotion: the conversion rates of your emails and landing pages.

You can learn how to write fundraising emails that convert more donors by enrolling in “Winning Fundraising Emails” online course from John Haydon. For more information, previews, or to enroll, click HERE

Learn, step-by-step, how to write better subject lines and copy for your fundraising emails. Includes examples from leading nonprofits and a template you can use right away.

Enroll in this online, on-demand course today!