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5 steps to cultivating new nonprofit donors with email marketing

Back in April, Kindful teamed up with Emma at Marketing United to talk email marketing for nonprofits. During our session, we discussed the value of email fundraising for nonprofits and how clean data is essential when it comes to planning and measuring the success of nonprofit email marketing efforts. Now we’re back with five steps to help you cultivate new donors and prospects through strategic email marketing.

Ready to up your email fundraising game? Let’s get started.


Step 1: Clean up your data

A successful donor cultivation email series is a thoroughly planned email series. You can’t just sit down, write something random and see if it sticks. If you want to win big, you’ve got to strategize. And you’ve got to make sure you have the right data to back up your plan.

We may be a bit biased since we’re in the database game, but at Kindful, we think that having clean data and one central hub for all that data is the most important and fundamental step toward successful donor cultivation. How can you send effective emails when you can’t figure out who needs to see them? It’s only when all your data is flowing into one central database that you’ll be able to see a full picture of your constituents and begin to formulate an email marketing strategy that works. So if you have a database, get in there and make sure it’s cleaned up and syncing with all your other fundraising platforms. (And if you don’t have a database, check out Kindful!)


Step 2: Segment your lists & determine your targets

Once you have the full picture in your donor database, you’ll naturally start seeing patterns in your data. That’s when you can begin segmenting those patterns into targeted groups. Donor segmentation allows you to customize communication frequency, style and format to what you think each specific donor group will be most receptive to. Use your database to pull reports on contacts based on specific insights like geographic location, event attendance history or average gift size, then segment those contacts into groups designed specifically for your donor cultivation emails.

After you’ve segmented your donor population, it will be easy to see exactly who you should begin cultivating with targeted emails. We recommend breaking them into three groups with three specific goals:

1. Contacts who are in your database but have not yet donated. Your cultivation goal will be for them to become first-time donors within one month.
2. Contacts who have given just one gift. Your cultivation goal will be for them to become recurring donors within one year.
3. Contacts who have become donors but have the capacity to give more. Your cultivation goal will be for them to become key multi-year donors.


Step 3: Write your series

Now comes the fun part. Sit down and write your entire series at once. Outline it so that each email flows into the next email and each series flows into the next series. Think of those three donor types like three stages: First, you’ll cultivate first-time donors. Then, you’ll work on turning them into recurring donors, and your ultimate goal will be to make them key multi-year donors. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

Speaking of easy, did you know that there’s actually an entire resource – Kindful University – that provides a step-by-step guide to cultivating new donors? It’s got everything you need to create your email series, from planning guides to sample emails to best practices. Click here to download it for free!

Step 4: Send (automatically!)

Sending an entire series to cultivate specific donor groups may seem daunting, but with the automation features Emma provides, it doesn’t have to be. You can write your entire cultivation series and schedule it as an automated workflow.

Plus, did you know that automated emails have a 119% higher click rate than broadcast emails (Epsilon)? Or that marketers who automate see up to 50% conversion rates (eMarketer)? Automation really works, and it's the best way to reach current and potential donors with just the right message at just the right time. 


Step 5: Track your success

Your job doesn’t end after you hit “send!” One of the most important elements of your donor cultivation series is tracking its progress. You probably already know that Emma has some great tools for tracking things like opens, bounces, click-throughs and unsubscribes - but did you know that it all seamlessly syncs with Kindful as well? You can track your email success and watch your donor base grow right inside Kindful’s nonprofit CRM.

Donor cultivation emails can be a powerful driver for growth and development in the life of your nonprofit organization. Hopefully these steps will get you on the road to success and you’ll begin to see your work thrive. And don’t forget to download our Kindful University resource guide to help you get started and nurture new and lifetime donors like a pro!


Kindful is an innovative donor CRM software that combines intuitive donor management, insightful analytics and integrated online fundraising tools to help nonprofits grow. For more information and to sign up for a free demo, visit our website today.