Marketing automation has the potential to increase your day-to-day efficiency. It can help you reach goals like boosting volunteerism, increasing donations, ramping up event attendance, and more. However, creating the campaigns for these automated emails that drive people to act takes a fair amount of work. Taking the time to think through the details of your campaign is critical to its success.

Now, before we jump into our marketing automation tips, we highly recommend reading our post on the basics of marketing automation. A good understanding of how it all generally works will make this post much more interesting. I promise.

Got the basics under control? Cool. Let’s start talking specifics.

Your campaign can be broken down into three simple pieces: the trigger action that throws people into your campaign, the action you want them to take, and the emails you send between those two actions.

It takes a bit of time and a lot of careful planning to get the ball rolling, but the end result makes it worth the effort.

Identify the Trigger

What action are people taking on your website that is going to add them to your marketing automation campaign? All you need is their email, so it could be something as simple as signing up for your newsletter or downloading a piece of information.

It’s not so much about what trigger action you choose, as it is about where you’re catching that person in terms of their interest in your nonprofit.

Determine the Desired Action

What action do you want people to take? What’s your end goal for this campaign? This action is probably going to be one that ranks high on your organization’s most current priority list. Do you want to increase donations? Get more supporters at your events? Boost the number of people signing up to volunteer? There’s no wrong answer.

Create a Communication Pathway

Once you’ve determined your trigger and the action you want to lead people to take, you need to set up emails to lead them from Point A to Point B. This is the piece of marketing automation that takes a bit of time to compile. You need to determine the flow of emails, the timing of those emails and the content those emails are going to contain.

While this can seem a little overwhelming to think about all at once, it’s definitely doable.

Flow: Think about opportunities, information and content that will engage your subscriber and push them toward taking the desired action. and organize them in a logical order.

Timing: The last thing you want to do is annoy the people on your campaign by sending emails way too frequently. You’re wooing subscribers. It’s a slow process. Take your time by spacing these emails out. The goal is to find that place between emailing them too often and so infrequently that they forget about you. You can also use your data to refine timing. If people are unsubscribing, you may be reaching out too often. If they aren’t taking any action, you may be waiting too long between emails.

Content: If your nonprofit is already on the inbound marketing bandwagon, then this piece shouldn’t be too much of a problem for you. You’re going to want to share content in these emails that your subscribers will find valuable. You need to supply them with content that fits their needs and interests. This is how you’ll keep them engaged and successfully lead them to take that desired action.

Marketing automation can be an extremely effective way to drive people to action, if you take the time to develop strategic campaigns. Think through the finer details of each section of the campaign. Use your marketing strategy to help guide you as you make decisions. Being thoughtful and strategic as you put it all together will save you a lot of time down the road.

Just don’t forget our marketing automation tips: identify the trigger, determine the goal and map out a logical communication pathway to get them there. And remember to evaluate your campaign constantly to make refinements and drive further results. But we’ll save that topic for another day.

Does your nonprofit use marketing automation? How is it working for you? If not, what’s holding you back? We’d love to hear your questions and thoughts in the comments.


  1. Simple but accurately right. I like your idea about “identify the trigger, determine the goal and map out a logical communication pathway”. It’s a solid strategy to improve and utilize the use of marketing automation. Thanks for the tips.