Why show donors love? Get started now on a better nonprofit donor journey

Creating a donor or customer journey is really about showing love by building a more profound, long term relationship. As a not-for-profit organization you are deeply dependent on the love that your supporters show towards your cause, it’s only natural that you should want to show how much you love them by taking the time to put yourself in their place.


The way a donor gets to know who you are as an organization, why they choose to give or raise funds for you, who they are, what motivates them, and how they interact with you, are the basic elements that you will investigate when creating a donor journey map.

The insight you discover will help you create a better engagement strategy for fundraising efforts and communication initiatives because you will have a much better idea of your audience and the ultimate goals of each action you take in regards to your community of supporters.

Why is this kind of donor stewardship important?

The world is a donor’s oyster, that’s why. The digital world makes choosing a charity very easy – in a couple of clicks or scrolls they can evaluate your organization, come to a conclusion, and make a decision about giving without even having met a human being involved in your nonprofit.

You reap what you sow. Cultivate your donor relationship.

That means you have to up your game! A few years ago, it was commonplace for charitable organizations to use the funnel approach to donor journey mapping. The idea behind this strategy was to look at donors as a homogenous group of generous people who either were new, recurrent, or lapsed donors split up into donation amount categories. But today we must adopt a much more customized and personalized approach that takes into account all of the new real time data that the digital world provides.

Why a personalized donor journey is key to better donor experience?

  • Paths are laid out to accommodate a variety of donor behaviors.
  • Communications are delivered to the donor based on actual donor behavior in near real-time. 
  • Donor preferences are honored with regards to channel, frequency, and content. 
  • Nearly every aspect of the communication can be personalized for a donor. 
  • Donor behaviors such as opens, clicks, and dollars donated can alter subsequent communications.

Who are your donors?

“Know thy donor” is the golden rule of fundraising. Who are they? What do they like? What will they do next? So many questions that unfortunately most small to medium-sized organizations don’t take enough time to ask. 

The more you know about your supporters, the more you can tailor every interaction to them as individuals. Your database, web, and social media analytics are essential tools to understanding the many profiles that exist within your donor base. 

You have a wonderful opportunity to segment your donors using these different methods:

  • Begin with your database: Identify and qualify donors. Don’t forget that what programs or services a potential donor is interested in are also a key metric to track. There are many affordable cloud-based solutions out there that provide a better set up for tracking and measuring, you must go beyond basic Excel sheets. The more data points you can identify the better equipped you are to personalize your interactions. 📌
  • Do a donor study: Ask the important questions about how they feel about your relationship. Are you connecting with them on their terms? How do corporate donors feel after giving? Ask lapsed donors why they don’t love you anymore.💔
  • Use data analytics: Find patterns that are unique to your organization and environment to group different people together that might not fit into traditional categories like age, geographic location, or donation amount. Invest in a small analytics exercise with a professional to see what you’re missing. You’re not expected to be an analytics expert overnight! Get outside help to understand the data and build better relationships. 📈

Speaking of analytics, by taking a look at who is spending time on your campaign pages you can gain insight that will help content development. According to a recent report by the good folks at Classy, “conversion rates peak in the 4 to 5 minute window …. and shorter checkout/donation forms generally lead to higher conversion rates.” 

Modern donor behavior means that campaigns need to hook donors in an engaging way if they want to increase the likelihood of a digital donation. Website data can provide more insight into what information your donors are looking for, and what actions they tend to take before becoming a donor. Organizations must be ready to adapt to this reality if they plan on succeeding in an increasingly online world.

How to create a donor journey map?

The basic recipe for creating the modern donor journey must include the following elements:

  1. Inspiring material and content is a must – Speak directly to your donors, facilitate a dialogue, establish a connection, and build a sense of excitement that you are collectively working towards a meaningful goal.
  2. Learn about and engage with your donors – Use every data point and opportunity you have to understand more about your donor. Involve your donor in your organization. Respond to social media inquiries. Be part of conversations that affect your community. 
  3. Ask for donations – Make the ask direct and personalized. Always go to where the donor is, don’t make the donor come to you. Make it easy to donate online, by phone, or in other ways. Test the experience for yourself, don’t assume it is a streamlined process.
  4. Thank donors promptly and show the direct impact of their gift – Do not just send a tax receipt. Phone older donors and text millennials to tell them who has been helped by their donation. Communicate information creatively and emotionally.
  5. Ask again for their continued support – Make sure that you give a compelling argument to ask for more money. Personalize this second ask by acknowledging their first gift and propose a more generous amount to help solve a more complex or immediate issue.The more targeted your messaging, the more likely a donor is to consider a second action.
  6. Start the process all over again – Don’t be a stranger, keep in contact without asking for a donor’s implication in your fundraising event. Share your successes, introduce them to your volunteers, and continue to offer engaging material all the while taking the opportunity to learn about who the people are that care about your organization.

When to update your donor journey template?

The easy answer is now! What better time than now to effectively engage your donor base and create meaningful connections with your supporters? Donor engagement is a year-round activity, not just prompted by campaigns.

Taking the plunge and updating your donor journey might reveal that your communications strategy needs to be rejigged to increase the commitment of your one-time donors, for example. By incorporating trust-building content and social proof in your marketing messages, occasional supporters might sign up to take the leap and “go steady” sooner than you think.

Where to start with a digital donor journey?

With Phil, of course. We are always up for a road trip! Let us walk you through the donor journey process, and help your organization be more effective at communicating with your donors and more successful at fundraising for your mission. The key to any journey is finding the resources to make the trip as smooth as possible. Phil’s unique and long-standing experience in the nonprofit sector means that you will have the perfect sherpa to guide your team along the most direct path to crafting a donor journey map for your nonprofit organization.

Reach out today to begin a stronger relationship with your donors.