Your nonprofit is bleeding money if you’re not leveraging CRM & Marketing Automation

Small businesses and nonprofits have a lot in common. The obvious commonality is that both need to make money to keep the lights on. If neither makes money it becomes exponentially more difficult to help people.

Small businesses now have an abundance of tools, especially marketing automation and CRM, to help them spend less time generating more revenue. These tools are not necessarily always marketed directly at non-profits so it wouldn’t be surprising if you haven’t yet taken advantage of such tools, or are even aware of their existence.

For smaller nonprofit organizations there can also be a cost barrier for many of these tools. I’ve noticed non-profits are less willing to spend big bucks on software than small businesses because of hand to mouth nature of the industry.

And that’s a shame because the strategies that small businesses deploy are not much different from the strategies that nonprofits need in order to maximize donations.

I’ve done a number of discovery calls with non-profits, and I’ve recorded a number of consistent issues that organizations typically suffer from.

  • “Donors are not re-donating…”
  • “We have a low donor conversion rate…”
  • “We don’t have a big enough budget for CRM or marketing automation…”
  • Etc…

If you’re in the same boat, I’m here to tell you what the cost is of not investing in CRM and marketing automation (which is massive) and the potential opportunities that exist to maximize donations for your organization.

Using GiveWP for your nonprofit?

Leverage the new Groundhogg GiveWP integration to deploy all the strategies covered in this article!

What is CRM?

If you’re not familiar with CRM, it’s customer relationship management software. Basically, it gives you granular details of every donor or potential donor on your list. You can see where in the world they are, how many times they’ve donated, how likely they are to donate in the future, if they interact with your content, etc…

And if you have a big list, it computes that data at scale and gives you insights about your entire operation to help inform you how to make better financial and marketing decisions.

CRM is like an oracle, telling you what to do by analyzing the data from your donors and spitting out actionable next steps.

What is Marketing Automation?

A CRM is valuable on its own, but when you pair it with a Marketing Automation tool that’s when stuff kicks into high gear.

Say someone who’s never donated opens one of your emails, and another, and another. That tells us that person is engaged! When someone is engaged, they are more likely to donate. 

You can set up automation to automatically send an email, or trigger a message to an agent to pick up the phone and call that person to collect credit card information.

And that’s just one example, I’ll be sharing a few more.

Opportunity cost…

How much is a single donor making consistent donations over 3 years worth to your organization?

$100, …$1,000, …$3,000, more?

Now, take the total size of your list who are non-donors, or one-time donors who haven’t donated in the last 6 months (if you don’t know that number that’s why you need a CRM) and then take 10% and multiply it by that single donor’s 3-year value.

What’s your total? That’s what you’re missing out on by not taking action, and I’ll bet it’s a lot more than $40/month over the same 3 years.

Converting that 10% (or more)

So the question becomes, “how do you convert 10% (or more) of your non-donors into donors?”

There are a few strategies we can deploy using CRM and Marketing Automation to convert that 10% on autopilot.

Identify low-hanging fruit…

First, we need to identify what we in the biz call low-hanging fruit, the people on our list who are the most likely to donate for minimal effort on our part.

If you don’t have a list, that’s exactly why you need to invest in CRM and Marketing Automation ASAP.

The people most likely to donate are:

  • Recent donors (last 6 months)
  • Active non-donors (last 4 weeks)

Recent donors because they are still enjoying the moral high ground of their recent donation, and active non-donors because they are showing active interest in your cause.

Most non-profits would try and speak to these two different groups of people the same way. But now you are armed with CRM and Marketing Automation, so we can reach out to them on their level and achieve a much higher conversion rate.

Speaking to non-donors…

These people are thinking about donating, might support the cause, but are not yet convinced that their money will make a difference.

The way we get non-donors to commit is to make them know that their donations will actually make an impact.

How do we do that?

We send them highly targeted stories of your organization’s recent successes thanks to the donations of people like them. Like this…

Hey {first}

I want to introduce you to Jane and her family.

[Picture of Jane and Family]

Jane was in a tough spot just a few months ago. She had lost her house in a flood, along with all her possessions and cash savings.

With schools closed and nowhere to put her kids, she was unable to go to work. Debt mounted up and she had nowhere to turn.

That’s when Pat, Chris, John, Sam, and thousands of others stepped in to help Jane and hundreds of families like hers affected by natural disasters by donating.

Jane’s now relocated her family and has a stable income thanks to donations from people like.

We were able to help Jane, but we need your help to help thousands of other families just like hers.

Donate today to help a family like Jane’s.

Even just a little goes a long way.

Thank you,

People donate based on emotional responses, attachments, and identifying with stories, so use them!

By showing how lives are changed by other members like them, they get a “longing for belonging,” and donate out of a need to be a part of something larger than themselves. 

Speaking to previous donors…

Previous donors are already invested in your cause and could be willing to donate more if they see how their money is making a difference. 

The way that you get previous donors to commit is by identifying that their money did something specific and how donating more will make even more of a difference. 

How do we do that? 

We send them a highly targeted story of how your company has achieved a recent goal thanks to the money that they specifically donated. Like this…

Hey {first}

I want to introduce you to Jane and her family, who has currently been able to relocate thanks to your personal donation. 

[Picture of Jane and Family]

Jane was in a tough spot just a few months ago. She had lost her house in a flood, along with all her possessions and cash savings.

With schools closed and nowhere to put her kids, she was unable to go to work. Debt mounted up and she had nowhere to turn.

That’s when you stepped in to help Jane. Thanks to your [X] donation, you were able to help Jane buy new clothing, school supplies, and food for her kids. 

Jane’s now relocated her family and has a stable income, and it’s all thanks to the help of you and other donors. 

However, the battle isn’t over yet. Thousands of other families suffer daily from natural disasters.

Donate today to continue helping other families like Jane’s. 

Even just a little goes a long way.

Thank you,

By showing exactly how the donor’s money helped your cause, they will form a more emotional attachment with your organization. 

This will make them more willing to donate again so that they are able to see what new family, or other cause, they have helped. 

It’s not, “one and done”…

Don’t just put one story in front of them, send them 3, 4, as many as you have access to!

Set up a timed sequence of emails, text messages, ads, whatever you have at your disposal to send consistent reminders to your low-hanging fruit to push them over the edge and make a contribution.

And once they do donate, that’s just the beginning.

You need to upsell new donors.

When you receive a new donation, that patron is in the giving spirit. There is no better time to get them to give more than after they just did. And to do that, you need donation tiers.

Donation tiers?

Much like how software companies have pricing tiers, you need donation tiers. 

Tiered systems have always been an effective way to encourage people to spend more based on the fact that the distribution of sales is always in favour of whichever tier is in the middle.

Why does it work? Well, if they donate at the lowest tier, they’re “cheap,” so they’ll be drawn to the higher tiers by virtue of avoiding the feeling of being cheap.

Then you put the nail in the coffin by assigning real-world scenarios and effects to each donation amount, showing how each level creates a greater and greater impact.

Let’s look at an example for our flood relief organization.

Help displaced flood victims get back on their feet!

Support for families with school-going children.

Support a family of 3 for a day with food and waterSupport 2 families of 4 for a day with food and waterSupport 4 families of 4 for a day with food and waterSupport 6 families of 4 for a day with food and water
+ buy their children new clothes and school supplies+ buy their children new clothes and school supplies+ buy their children new clothes and school supplies
+ 3 days of transportation for adults needing to get to work+ 3 days of transportation for adults needing to get to work
+ Help a family move back into their home

As the tiers increase, so does the impact of their donation. When people don’t know, “where the money goes,” it’s much more difficult to have them part with it.

Get ‘em while they’re hot!

We consider a donor to be “hot” right after they’ve made a donation, as mentioned earlier a donor is most likely to give right after they’ve already given.

Let’s say someone donates with the silver package, we want them to donate with the gold package, we quickly shoot them an email, or give them a call and say the following, right away.

Hey {first}!

Your silver donation is going to make a big difference for those 2 families and we’re super grateful.

Did you know that you can make a little money go a lot further? By donating an extra $250 you can help twice as many families and help the parents work and get closer to financial stability!

Help us help more families by pledging just a little more to go a long way.

Donate an extra $250 now!

Thanks in advance for your help!

If that doesn’t get them to donate right away, send them another message detailing a cause that you need their donations for. For example…

Hey {first},

Thanks so much for your silver donation a few days ago! Right now two families are fed and hydrated thanks to your support.

But there are more families in need of your help!

Meet Jane and her family.

[Picture of jane and family]

They lost their house in the flood and she’s now out of work because her car was destroyed and she can’t commute.

By donating an extra $250 you can feed Jane’s family and another, plus help Jane cover commute costs so she can get to work and get back on her feet.

Donate $250 now!

Thanks so much for your support, it makes a world of difference!

Remember, just a little goes a long way.

Thank you,

Sometimes you have to pull at the heartstrings a little by creating an emotional connection between supporters and victims.

After you send this message, keep sending similar ones and stay in front of your hot donors, at least for a few days.

It’s a fine line. We don’t want to go overboard and alienate the donors either, so keep it respectful, at least one message per day for three days. 

If after that they haven’t re-donated we’ll put more time in between messages and appear in their inbox just enough to make sure they don’t forget about you.

Recruitment, indoctrination, and onboarding…

Working with patrons and volunteers is not unlike working with employees. It’s a group of people working toward a common goal.

The purpose of an onboarding sequence is to clearly define a person’s role when working towards that goal, and what their next options are.

For example, after someone is added to your list, you might give them the option to:

  • Become a volunteer
  • Donate to the cause
  • Read up on your organization history
  • Join your community on social media

So over the course of a week or two, drip them a concrete action to take that will make them more invested in your organization.

Day 1: Join the Facebook community

Day 2: Follow us on Twitter

Day 3: Become a volunteer

Day 4: Invite a family member to donate

Day 5: Share this post about impact of ________

Day 6: Etc.…

Your onboarding should cover every facet of your organization so that they live and breathe your cause and share in the responsibility for the outcome.

Staying top of mind.

You don’t stop there, of course. Now all you need to do is stay top of mind so that when a new donor or non-donor is in the donating mood, they know where to put their money.

Thanks to the onboarding, it’s likely the patron would have subscribed to at least two or three of your marketing channels.

  • Email
  • SMS
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YoutTube
  • Instagram
  • Etc…

Now all that’s left to do is spin up the content engine and drip content through all your feeds to your base.

The content is not always meant to make them take an action like donating, it’s purpose is solely to remind them of your existence and to make them feel like they are part of the cause.

For example, you could share with your base:

  • Recent successes from your efforts
  • New causes which need to be funded
  • News about people of interest within your organization
  • Interviews with patrons, victims, or people related to the cause
  • Showcase breakthroughs and stories
  • Strategies to promote the organization
  • Etc…

Just check in at least once or twice a week via email, social, or any other channel you have so that when you do ask them to take action, they’ll respond.

Tip of the iceberg…

There’s obviously so much more that I wasn’t able to cover. There are more strategies, templates, ideas that I haven’t shared, but if I shared them all I’d need my own book.

CRM and Marketing automation can help you amplify the good work you are already doing ten-fold, you just need to set aside a small budget of both time and money to get it done.

Fortunately, I have a cost-effective solution for non-profits, as well as practical education and support channels to help you implement all that I have shared so far and much more.

If you are using WordPress for your website, you can use Groundhogg, my open-source CRM and Marketing Automation plugin.

With it, you’ll be able to manage your patrons and donors, reach out to them regularly, drip them content, and activate them when needed (like when you really need some donations). You’ll also be able to collect details and analytics about your audience so you can make more effective marketing and business decisions.

While most software that can do that costs thousands of dollars a year or more and gets more expensive as you grow, Groundhogg is a flat-rate yearly fee

For more details on how Groundhogg can help your nonprofit maximize its impact, find us at and

Using GiveWP for your nonprofit?

Leverage the new Groundhogg GiveWP integration to deploy all the strategies covered in this article!

Your next steps…

Your organization could be bleeding thousands of dollars of donations, but it doesn’t have to. 

Set some time aside, delegate, do what you have to do to implement CRM and Marketing Automation into your organization, and reap the rewards.

  • Onboard and indoctrinate new patrons and members
  • Upsell new donors to higher tiers
  • Drip content to your audience stay on top
  • Reach out to inactive subscribers
  • And more!

As they say, “the money is in the list,” are you leveraging yours?

We want to help!

If your nonprofit organization needs financial assistance in adding Groundhogg to your marketing stack you can apply for a CRM & Marketing Automation Grant to cover software and email sending expenses through Groundhogg and sister company MailHawk.

Picture of Adrian Tobey

Adrian Tobey

Adrian is the founder and lead developer of Groundhogg. He believes that marketing automation should be simple and accessible so any business can use it to grow.

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