Is Your Nonprofit Ready for Marketing Automation?

nonprofit marketing automation

You’ve heard the buzz. Marketing automation saves time. It’s effective. It’s the new “thing”. You know you want in on this. Anything that will free you up to get more done and ramp up support for your nonprofit is worth pursuing.

Before you jump in though, there are a few things you need to consider. You want to go into your first marketing automation campaign fully prepared – no surprises.

You need to understand how marketing automation works and what a campaign entails. Once you’ve got those two things down, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need to create a successful campaign. While there are a lot of things it would be great to have, there are four things you absolutely need.

Automation Software

This one may be kind of obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. You need something that will carry out your marketing automation campaigns.

Like most things today, there are a ton of options. You can use software specifically created for marketing automation or you may be able to use an automation tool through your email service provider. What you decide to use really comes down to personal preference, but there are some great resources out there to help you decide.

People to Email

You need people to send your campaign to. In the for-profit world, these potential supporters are usually called “leads”. Now, there are two ways you could go about this. You could work with a pre-existing email list of people who have already expressed interest in your organization. Or, you could develop triggers to get people on the email list for a specific marketing automation campaign. We’re going to focus on the latter method for now.

Now, it’s worth pausing to note here that marketing automation can be applied to more than just email, but, since this is probably where your nonprofit will jump in, it’s what we’re talking about today.

Are your triggers on target with your campaign?

You want to make sure the trigger action is relevant to the campaign. If you’re looking to turn a one-time donor into a monthly supporter, then it would make sense that the trigger action might be making that first donation. When your trigger is on target with your campaign objective, it makes it easier to provide valuable content to subscribers and my help keep the number of unsubscribes down.

Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy exists for moments like these. It’s your roadmap, guiding you through every marketing-related decision you face. You’re going to want to reference your nonprofit’s marketing strategy as you dive into marketing automation. It will help you identify what goals to set for your campaigns, who to target and how to go about measuring success.

For your marketing automation campaign to be its most effective, your organization needs a solid marketing strategy. Not only will this provide your overall approach to marketing automation with a bit more direction, it’s going to make it easier to design campaigns that will achieve your goals.


Content is extremely important. It’s the bread and butter of your campaign. You need to have content at the ready if you’re going to lead people to take action through these automated emails.

Content is where your inbound marketing strategy could come into play—depending on the campaign. Marketing automation campaigns are essentially drip campaigns—you’re slowly delivering bite-sized pieces of content to subscribers over a period of time. Oftentimes, your content needs to align with their needs and preferences to keep their interest and gain their trust. You need to prove yourself valuable.

Not currently practicing inbound marketing?

Depending on the campaign, you may want to get this rolling before you start marketing automation. It’s important to understand your audience(s) and have content that will be valuable to them. Even more, it’s important to be in the practice of creating content with your supporters and potential supporters in mind. This ensures you’ll always have an arsenal of content sure to meet any campaign’s needs.

And, that about wraps it up. These are four things you absolutely must have to get your nonprofit going with marketing automation:

  • Software to implement your marketing automation campaign
  • Well-defined triggers to get people on your email list
  • A marketing strategy to help you create effective campaigns
  • Content that will help you build trust with subscribers

Is your nonprofit currently using marketing automation? How’s it going? If not, is it something you’re considering? What concerns do you have? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.