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Marketing Automation: A Quick Guide for Nonprofits

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By: Gerard Tonti, Senior Creative Developer at Salsa Labs

As a nonprofit professional, you’re always trying to maximize the impact you can make with your limited resources. Especially with the current economic uncertainty, it’s important to focus on the fundraising and marketing strategies that will yield the strongest results.

Automation is a growing trend for organizations looking for effective ways to drive their missions forward. Many core nonprofit operations can be automated, including donor management, volunteer organization, payroll, and more.

Automation is also a powerful way to improve your nonprofit’s marketing efforts. With automation, your team can save valuable time and make better use of your data. 

At Salsa Labs, we specialize in helping nonprofits leverage technology to engage supporters and raise more. We’ve seen firsthand the innovative ways nonprofits are using automation to supercharge their marketing efforts, and we’ve compiled a short guide on how to implement this practice in your own organization.

We’ll address topics including:

  • What are the basics of marketing automation?
  • How can marketing automation help nonprofits?
  • How can you implement automation into your marketing strategy?

With this advice (and the right automation tools), you’ll be well-equipped to develop a high-impact nonprofit marketing strategy. Let’s get started. 

Marketing automation can help your nonprofit send the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

What are the basics of marketing automation?

Marketing automation gives you the power to send the right message, to the right person, at the right time based on their engagement with your organization.

Despite it’s robotic sounding name, marketing automation isn’t completely automatic. It can’t do the work for you! Rather, it allows you to automate repetitive tasks to quickly build upon a strong foundation for a bigger impact. 

In other words: automation works best when you already have a sound marketing strategy in place. These tools should amplify your existing ability to create content that appeals to your audience. 

If you’re already a pro at targeting different segments of donors and tailoring your messaging across platforms, automation can help elevate and scale your approach. As the Salsa guide to fundraising software discusses, your fundraising application may already have automation capabilities built-in! If not, look for a solution that includes automation features for emails, social media, and website landing pages.

Marketing automation can have many powerful benefits for nonprofits.

How can marketing automation help nonprofits?

Marketing automation can be a huge boon to nonprofit staffs for many reasons. This practice can help you move supporters more quickly through the engagement pipeline and ultimately take the desired action sooner, like making a donation, signing up to volunteer, or getting involved in an advocacy campaign.

With marketing automation tools, your organization has the power to:

  • Plan ahead. Marketing automation allows you to schedule emails to different segments of supporters in advance. Before you even kick off a marketing campaign, you can create lists, draft templates, personalize details, preview formatting, and choose the optimal time to send for the best open rate.
  • Gather and leverage data. Marketing automation applies to both outgoing communications and incoming data. You can automate the flow of data from supporters to be saved and organized directly in your donor database. Then, use this information to direct your next campaign. According to Accudata, a data-driven marketing campaign can have an ROI that is 5 times higher!
  • Save time. Marketing automation reduces time-intensive manual processes like building templates and creating groups. By segmenting your lists, you can achieve a more targeted message that references individual donor-specific data without having to actually craft individual messages. Plus, scheduling features mean nobody needs to watch the clock to hit “send” at the right moment! This will give your staff more time to dedicate to higher-value outreach activities that only a human can handle, like a phone call with a major gift prospect.

Each of these benefits can help your organization spread greater awareness of your mission and raise more funds.

Your nonprofit can implement marketing automation through email, social media, or in your donor database.

How can you implement automation into your marketing strategy?

Idea #1: Create an email series.

One of the best places to incorporate automation is in your email marketing strategy.

You can create an email stream (also sometimes called a drip campaign) that is triggered automatically by a supporter action, like signing up for your nonprofit’s newsletter. The campaign will run at a predetermined cadence for a specified period of time or until the next desired action is completed.

For example, if someone signs up for your nonprofit’s newsletter, they’ll start receiving an email nurturing series that will guide them towards becoming a first-time donor. This “welcome” series should include compelling content about your organization’s mission and work. The subscriber would continue receiving these emails until they make a donation. And of course, in that case you’ll finish with a donor thank-you note as the final email in the campaign.

Idea #2: Use social media.

Marketing automation allows you to more strategically craft your approach to social media. You can plan out your editorial calendar to post on each platform at the optimal time for supporter engagement.

This is also useful for expanding your reach across platforms. For example, if you are launching an online advocacy campaign, you can schedule posts encouraging supporter actions to go live at the same time as your action alert email. This multi-platform approach can help you widen the total audience of your campaign. Just don’t forget to include a clear call to action for maximum success!

Idea #3: Connect to your donor database.

Remember, marketing automation also includes the ability to streamline the incoming flow of data. You can automate the flow of information from lead capture forms into your CRM in order to jumpstart the process of building relationships with supporters. 

With integrated solutions, if someone signs up for a newsletter or signs a petition on your nonprofit’s website, that information will be automatically added into your donor database. You can skip the process of manually entering form data and save your team valuable time. 

Automation tools can help you level-up your nonprofit’s marketing efforts. As long as you’re starting with an effective marketing strategy already in place, these strategies will help your team unlock powerful results quickly. Good luck!


About the Author

Gerard Tonti is the Senior Creative Developer at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Gerard's marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.