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How Marketing Automation Improves Donor Retention

1.22.15 By: Partner

One of our favorite exercises is to ask our nonprofit clients to look at some of the top enterprise business blogs from companies like Salesforce, and replace the word “client” with “donor” or “constituent”. The point of this exercise is to suggest that nonprofits can learn a lot from how the private sector handles the customer cycle. Nonprofits are no longer tied to simple direct mail tactics when engaging with new donors - they can use marketing automation, too. This post is adapted from our partners at Right On Interactive: visit their blog for Lauren Littlefield’s original post on “How Marketing Automation improves client retention.”


If you do a Google search for “lead management software,” chances are you’ll find results with ties to marketing automation. It’s no secret many growing organizations move to a marketing automation platform due to the overwhelming volume of inquiries, or leads, they receive on a daily basis. However, can marketing automation do more than manage leads and is it reasonable to assume marketing automation improves donor retention?

Most development staff are evaluated on their ability to generate donor prospects and cultivate them. By cultivate, I mean keep engaged with the brand. This is where marketing automation plays such a critical role. Nonprofits can automate campaigns for various audience segments to keep them engaged and “warm” them up for the donation— whether it’s online or requires personal assistance.

How can marketing automation not only capture one-time donors but continuously drive donation revenue for your organization? This is where lifecycle marketing comes into the mix. Instead of only using marketing automation as a “top of the funnel” tool for your organization, think outside the box (or the funnel in this case). How can you use marketing automation to build engagement beyond the lead or prospect stages? How can marketing impact donor engagement and drive donor retention and growth?

According to SiriusDecisions, only 8% of organizations in a recent survey were using marketing automation to nurture their existing customers (and it’s undoubtedly even less for nonprofits). Which means there’s a great opportunity to focus on the entire customer lifecycle.

When combined, the customer lifecycle marketing methodology and marketing automation not only improve prospect management and conversions but also donor retention and growth. The reason is simple: customer lifecycle marketing engages the customer at every stage of their journey with your brand. Engagement leads to relationships. Relationships lead to donation revenue. The stronger your relationship is with a donor, the more likely they will be to open your emails, attend your events, donate to you again and recommend your cause to others. Development officers have been focused on cultivation and retention for decades, but marketing automation and lifecycle marketing tools will help you do more, not just for your organization but for your donors.

Wondering how to implement your customer lifecycle methodology, or feel ready for enhanced marketing automation? 


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