When it comes to generating donations we all know that there is more to digital fundraising than simply broadcasting to your supporters.

It’s important to understand who the audience is, whether they likely to convert into volunteers and/or financial supporters and what the best method is of communicating with each stakeholder group to get the best return on resources.

A non-profit’s unique donor conversion funnel, steps that a prospective online supporter goes through before donating, is not a new concept to many third sector digital marketers.

Though each process is exclusive to the charity in question there are some basic similarities in the marketing process that we can explore:

Donor Funnel

Understanding your audience

By gaining a solid understanding of your market segments and their location in your donor funnel you can focus on providing them with the right message at the right time to improve their chances of converting into a paying supporter.

Marketing personas are a fantastic tool to create a well-rounded view of your charity’s market segments by forming a personification of your market segments to use as a reference point within campaigns.

Gather your existing data

Start by gathering all available qualitative and quantitative information about those who have already interacted with the brand; from recent event signups and newsletter subscribers to regular financial contributors.

When searching for demographic data for your personas, look no further than your own organisation’s social network profiles.

People freely volunteer their demographic information on social networks providing you with information such as age, gender, location and language about those already engaging with your non-profit. You can also gather information on demographics based on the advertising profiles of websites.

There are a number of great tools that can be used to mine persona data such as:

Don’t forget to have a look into your own website analytics data as this can be a great source of data to help identify intent and offer other clues about user behaviour.

Probe for more detail

Finding demographic data is great but it often needs supplementing with further information to get the full picture. Expand your research by gathering more qualitative customer feedback to deepen your insight into your chosen segment’s decision-making process.

Use wider market research (Econsultancy's own resource section always a good source of information) to look for commonalities that align with the data you have already captured.

Build a data-centric set of personas

Using all of the data gathered you can begin to piece together a set of marketing personas that blend all of your research into a series of documents, each focused around a single personification of a market segment as this example highlights. Remember to maintain your persona profiles by adding in new data to keep them fresh.

With the persona completed, you now have a (hypothetical) person that represents a whole market segment. This allows you to imagine, understand and plan your campaign around how they might act in response to your charity's marketing methods.


Being aware of what affects a donor’s decision-making process is vital and allows you to tailor each of your marketing activities to guide prospective donors through the donor funnel, beginning with an awareness campaign focused on each persona’s specific characteristics.

This is the stage in which you can begin to raise the awareness of your cause in the mind of the supporter. Though each campaign needs to be creative and innovative there is value in learning from past attempts from similar organisations.

There are some fantastic examples of broad awareness campaigns in practice such as Water is Life’s great #FirstWorldProblems campaign.

This not only raised awareness of the good work the charity does but also gained monumental support from national media. Raising your awareness of your charity’s issues through real stories can be a great way to humanise a digital entity.

Use your social media accounts to share insight into the good work being done, the people being helped or the situations that need assistance from your supporters.


Awareness campaigns are great in getting your cause in front of new audiences but to drive real value from those messages you need to engage with your new found friends.

Evaluate the responses to your awareness campaign and you will begin to identify influential evangelists that have shared, commented on, written about and helped broadcast your message. These people are fantastic to interact with as they are already open to your brand and interested in furthering your cause.

There are many tools on the market that attempt to measure the social influence of a user such as Klout and PeerIndex. These can be really useful as long as you understand the limitations social influence apps like these have.

Now that you have a list of prominent users, by reaching out to them to discuss your next campaign we can help drive social sharing of future releases and use their influence to create a network of vocal supporters.

This can be especially effective when working with bloggers as new relationships with their audiences as well as the SEO benefits you gain can drive real value.


Once a user has been engaged they are much more likely to convert into a paid supporter of your cause as they not only understand the need for their donation but also have a genuine relationship with the brand that further extends their empathy for the cause.

The key to success at this stage is to understand that the web has made us all incredibly lazy and impatient. Make donating easy. Keep web forms fields to a minimum and make sure that your website load times are kept to a minimum to stop users from bouncing away from your signup forms at the last minute.

How do you tailor your marketing approach to your organisation’s unique conversion funnel? Let me know in the comments below!

Andrew Isidoro

Published 30 August, 2013 by Andrew Isidoro

Andrew Isidoro is SEO Manager at GoCompare.com and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow Andrew on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (5)

Tara West

Tara West, Senior Biddable Media Manager at Tara West

Great post! Digital for non profits really interests me and your section on engagement particularly resonated with me, as I often get really tired of non profit brands doing things which reach the stage of awareness but don't appear to do much more. Awareness is really important but if it can be turned into engagement the likelihood of donation is much higher! Thanks.

almost 5 years ago

Andrew Isidoro

Andrew Isidoro, SEO Manager at GoCompare

Thanks Tara.

I've had the pleasure of working with a number of charities and many really do great stuff when raising awareness of the cause but tend to lack in the area of engagement.

Glad you liked it!

almost 5 years ago


Cynan Clucas, CEO at nerv

Interested on your perspective / experience on whether charities should force donors into the monthly donation plan (Ofxam) or allow the choice of a one off payment (CharityWater).

almost 5 years ago


keri karly, microsoft job at Bill gades company

my classmate's mom makes $88/hour on the laptop. She has been without a job for 5 months but last month her check was $12255 just working on the laptop for a few hours. over here... http://xurl.es/pmlci

almost 5 years ago

Andrew Isidoro

Andrew Isidoro, SEO Manager at GoCompare

Hi Cynan,

Good question but again I think it all boils down to a deeper understanding of the donor. If you think about the demographics of the group you are targeting then that question becomes much easier to answer.

For instance; a young (18-24) target could theoretically be much less likely to have the disposable income (and social awareness) to offer repeat donations compared to an older audience. Again this is something that your research and user personas can help with.

Hope that helps

almost 5 years ago

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