Marketing is a key pillar in any nonprofit organization's plan to grow and scale its funding, outreach, and impact. However, marketing tactics can take up two of the most precious resources an organization has: time and money. The best way to reduce the administrative burden of marketing while simultaneously boosting the impact and effectiveness of your marketing efforts is to utilize automation.
What Is Automation?
Automation is the leveraging of digital tools designed to streamline and simplify common tasks across your organization. When applied to your marketing initiatives, automation is simply the platforms and processes you use in order to reduce or remove the admin time it takes to conduct monotonous or predictable tasks. Whether that be email marketing, social media posting, advertising, or more, marketing automation allows you to boost efficiency, cut costs, and even create a more personalized experience for your constituents. Marketing automation can help to drive a 14.5 percent increase in fundraising while reducing marketing overhead costs by 12.2 percent.
Benefits of Automation
Aside from the cost and time savings of marketing automation, there are many other benefits that your organization can consider when planning to increase or implement automation.
- Improve Brand Consistency: Automation tactics naturally allow for bulk content development and ensure that everyone in the organization is on the same page on the organization's messaging, branding, and imagery used across marketing channels.
- Strengthen Loyalty: Automation allows you to build processes for communication with stakeholders so that they never fall through the cracks. Using action- or time-based automation will allow you to connect with previous supporters and donors at the right time for that individual.
- Increase Productivity: Automation frees up vital time that allows your staff to focus on larger projects. Removing routine tasks gives your staff the space and time to focus on fostering relationships with larger donors, applying for grants, and most importantly, helping the communities you serve.
- Grow Engagement: Automation leverages the power of data to send the right message to the right people at the right time. Match previous donors with campaigns that align with content and causes they have shown interest in previously. Target promotional messages for volunteers that match the demographic information you have collected with the target audience and demographics of the event.
At the end of the day, marketing automation can help your organization move away from the "spray and pray" model of marketing. Also known as outbound marketing or traditional marketing, this form of mass messaging sends generalized messages across expensive channels, in the hope of reaching your intended audience. This dilutes your messaging and impact and will lead to the disinterest of contacts who would otherwise be a good fit for your organization, simply due to saturation. Automation is the ability to do less, better. Here are the top four tactics to automate for scalability and growth.
Donation Email Campaigns
The lifeblood of many organizations, yet typically the hardest nut to crack: individual donors. Finding and converting individuals to support your organization can be very time-consuming without the proper platforms and processes in place.
One effective way to automate this process is to create email drip campaigns around donation efforts. Email drip campaigns are a series of emails that are written once and then triggered when a contact takes a certain action or a specified amount of time has passed. For example, someone makes a one-time donation and is enrolled in a drip campaign to nurture them into becoming a monthly supporter. Another example is triggering a drip campaign after a contact attends an event or fundraiser.
Automating donation campaigns in this way also allows for testing and continuous improvement over time. This structure allows for A/B testing. Also known as split testing, this tactic is the randomization of variables in a campaign to determine which variant is more likely to lead to conversion. Using A/B testing and analyzing the productivity of specific messaging in the subject line, call to action, and even imagery will help you to figure out what aspects of those messages are the most impactful for your given audience.
You can also start to identify trends and segment your messaging to leverage those insights. For example, one subject line might convert really well for constituents over 50 years old, while another has high conversion rates for those under 30. In future campaigns, it would be productive to split your lists into age groups to ensure that the right audience is getting the messaging proven to work for them.
Donor and Supporter Retention
According to a study, 53 percent of donors who have stopped supporting a particular nonprofit cited their primary reasoning to be bad donor communications. There are three main reasons why communications with donors can be unproductive: communication is too infrequent, communication is too frequent, and communication is not applicable. Luckily, marketing automation can solve all three potential problems.
The power of data behind marketing automation allows you to determine the right cadence of messaging. An email automation system such as HubSpot allows users to trigger emails based on actions. If a donor visits your website for the first time in a while and hasn't donated in a few months, you can set up parameters to send that person an email that highlights new accomplishments. On the other hand, if a donor has not opened a newsletter email in the last three months, you can set a filter to remove that person from receiving the next few, so as not to overwhelm them.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect to solve is the accuracy of messaging. A donor management system or customer relationship management (CRM) system such as DonorPerfect or HubSpot will support your organization in the collection, reporting, and analysis of demographic data, behavioral patterns, and interests to segment and optimize messaging for your donor base.
For example, a donor who spends more time visiting and reading an impact story page on your website will likely convert higher on an email highlighting a new community success. Whereas a donor who frequently reads your quarterly financial report will likely convert higher on an email highlighting a reduction in administrative costs and increase in direct community support.
Social Media Publishing
Social media is a great way to meet your potential donors and supporters where they already are online. The challenge with social media is the time it takes to create an impact. Those organizations that have found success in social media have done so by posting often, generating engagements, and responding to and interacting with followers. Luckily, social media tools allow for two key aspects to be largely automated: publishing and monitoring.
As a rule of thumb, nonprofits should be posting three to five messages across two or three channels every week. These time-consuming tasks can be accomplished in only a few hours a month using an automation tactic called batching — grouping together similar tasks and accomplishing them at once to save time and increase optimization.
Monitoring your social media channels is just as important for building a healthy and productive online community. Monitoring allows your followers to build deeper relationships with your organization. It also allows you to ensure that no bad actors are flooding your pages with spam. This is especially important for organizations that support or deal with controversial or political topics.
Not sure where to get started with social media? TechSoup services offer everything from social media planning to content creation and even total social media management.
Volunteering is a dynamic aspect of every nonprofit organization and can look very different from one organization to another. However, the one thing that volunteering initiatives tend to have in common is a heavy burden on administration to collect the right volunteer info, disseminate timely messages and instructions, and organize event and post-event reporting. One example workflow you could automate for a potential volunteer could look like this:
- To begin: The volunteer fills out a form on your website requesting information about becoming a volunteer.
- Immediately: An email is sent with a one-pager explaining volunteer expectations.
- One day later: Emails are sent with onboarding information and upcoming info sessions or training with links to register.
- After training is complete: An email is sent with a form to collect information needed for volunteers, such as emergency contact information or a copy of a photo ID.
Once the volunteer has begun working with the organization, other automation tactics can be put into place. They could track the frequency of the volunteer's work, nurture and alert them to similar opportunities, collect feedback on their experience, and encourage them to share the opportunity with their network.
Automation when applied to your marketing, operations, and fundraising can have an exponential impact on the scalability and growth of your organization. Our expert team at TechSoup's Digital Marketing Services has helped dozens of organizations build, automate, and optimize their marketing efforts and impact. Contact us today to learn more.
- See the recorded demo event How Nonprofits Can Use AI and Automation for Good.
- Sign up for TechSoup Courses' offerings on Social Media and Email.
- Read about 6 Email Marketing Trends Transforming Nonprofits in 2022 and Beyond.
- See Tools for a Great Communications Strategy at Your Nonprofit.
- Watch a webinar about how to Raise More Money by Automating the Right Message at the Right Time.
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