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Nonprofits run on passion, grit and the drive to make a difference. But in a world ruled by tight budgets and constrained resources, sometimes accomplishing your mission takes a little extra support. 

That’s where marketing automation comes in—a powerful tool that enables nonprofits to work smarter, not harder, to boost audience engagement and amplify their impact. Let’s dive into the power of marketing automation for nonprofits and look at a few ways to get started. 

But first, the basics.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is a veritable nonprofit superhero: A digital tech that allows organizations to automate, streamline and improve their marketing efforts—from email campaigns to direct mail, social media, donor appeals and more.

Marketing automation platforms (like Sprout for social media or Firespring’s email marketing tools) help orgs reach their audience and drive home calls to action—all while saving precious time, energy and resources. Let’s find out more.  

Why do nonprofits need marketing automation?

When it comes to marketing, nonprofits face a unique set of challenges: from limited budgets to attracting and retaining supporters, building brand awareness, measuring impact and more. Fortunately, marketing automation is making it easier than ever to overcome these challenges with benefits like: 

Saving time and resources: Nonprofit staff wear multiple hats and work under strict marketing budgets. Automation platforms (like our nonprofit websites with email marketing integration) can take much of the effort out of repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable staff time without sacrificing quality.

Personalizing communications: The power to instantly collect and categorize data (e.g., donor email addresses and contribution history) enables nonprofits to tailor their messaging to specific audiences, producing stronger campaigns that get better results. 

Boosting donor retention: By tracking donor behavior and sending timely communications (e.g., follow-up emails to donors who have become inactive), nonprofits can improve their retention rates and maximize revenue.

Encouraging new donors: By delivering personalized messages, nurturing leads and providing data-driven insights that optimize engagement and conversion, marketing automation is a powerful tool for scoring new donors. 

High-powered marketing 

Marketing automation platforms offer plenty of high-tech tools to help your organization achieve its goals. Let’s look at a few examples before we talk about getting the ball rolling. 

  • Drip campaigns: Want to turn new contacts into lifelong donors? Nothing beats a solid drip campaign. Make these campaigns easier by launching strategic, automated emails to subscribers or donors over a set period. You can even customize your campaigns based on user behavior and interests (like previous causes supported for example) for better traction.
  • Direct mail automation: The ability to collect user data means you can generate a killer mailing list segmented by demographics, donation history and more. With the right data, you can fully customize your mail pieces (think Dear Linda instead of Dear Donor) for maximum impact. 

Need help with direct mail? Talk to our experts

  • Social media scheduling: Tired of constantly feeling like your agency is running uphill in terms of releasing social content? Platforms like Sprout or Loomly make it easy to build and automate a planned social calendar and reinvent your digital strategy. Planning ahead and not worrying about release dates will help you focus on quality, engaging content to attract supporters. 
  • Automated workflows: Automated workflows take the effort and guesswork out of repetitive-but-essential tasks like sending thank you emails after a donation or following up with event attendees. This not only frees up valuable staff time but ensures you never forget another thank you note. (Aka set it and forget it.)
  • Analytics and reporting: Most automation platforms offer robust analytics and reporting capabilities, allowing nonprofits to track user behavior and measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts over time. That’s the secret sauce to launching more targeted, effective campaigns. 

How to get started with automation platforms. 

Now that you understand the benefits and capabilities of marketing automation for nonprofits, let’s talk about how to get started. Here are a few steps to consider:

  1. Identify your goals: Start by identifying what you want to achieve. Do you want to increase donor retention rates, boost donations or improve engagement with your audience? Identifying specific goals will help you determine what capabilities you need from a marketing automation platform.
  2. Pick the right platform: There are many marketing automation platforms available, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. Research and compare different platforms to find one that meets your needs and budget. Look for tools that are easy to use and combine multiple capabilities.
  3. Consider asking an expert: Automation can save your org significant time and money over the long run—but it does come with a learning curve. The right expert can get you started with the best tools for your specific needs, and you’ll save resources and hassle over time. 

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4. Generate content: The best marketing tools mean nothing without high-quality content that captivates your audience—from email campaigns to social media, direct mail, blogs and more. Not a fan of generating content? Consider that with the time and money you’re likely to save through automation, your nonprofit could potentially allocate more to strategy, including help from an outside marketing organization that specializes in nonprofits.

5. Test and optimize: Continue to test your workflows and content, and optimize based on the results. Use analytics and reporting tools to measure the effectiveness of your marketing automation efforts and make adjustments as needed.


Marketing automation can be a game-changer for nonprofits, helping them save time and resources while increasing engagement and driving revenue. By understanding the benefits and capabilities of marketing automation platforms and following these steps, nonprofit organizations can get started with these powerful tools and achieve their goals more effectively. 

So why wait? Start exploring marketing automation today and take your nonprofit’s impact to the next level!