Six Steps to Align Marketing With Nonprofit Development & Fundraising

Created by Camille Winer

iStock-1257575529If your organization has a good marketing strategy in place, then you’re probably collecting data that shows how your marketing is performing. You may be tracking website traffic, contacts, email opens and clicks, social media engagement, ad impressions and clicks, and more.

Your organization is also tracking how many donations, memberships, training and event sign-ups, and other “sales” there are, and what the dollar value of each of these is.

However, it’s rare that organizations can use data to connect the dots between marketing activities and sales. These different sets of data are often siloed within the organization.

This is understandable given that many nonprofits are just trying to get a marketing plan off the ground.

But when a nonprofit marketing plan has had some time to get established, the following questions tend to come up in planning, reporting, and progress meetings:

  • Do we have a good understanding of what marketing efforts drove the most revenue? 
  • Do we know the specific touchpoints that inspire our prospects to take action, or that influence action? 
  • Do we know how long our "buyer’s journey" is? 
  • Do we know the first touchpoint of our most common donation level, new membership, training registration, etc.?

Ultimately, to have the best understanding of the return on investment in marketing activities, we need to understand—and track—the entire life cycle of a “customer”—donor, trainee, member, or supporter.

NOTE: For consistency throughout this blog, I’ll use “prospects” to refer to interested stakeholders and “customers” to refer to people who make a donation or purchase membership, training, or anything else. Also, though “sales” is a term often avoided in the nonprofit world, I use it here to refer to the organization’s resources focused directly on generating revenue, including development and fundraising as well as sales of membership, training, or anything else.

Six Steps to Align Marketing & Sales

Achieving marketing and sales alignment starts with good planning combined with the right technology to marry the results of marketing and sales efforts in a holistic way that demonstrates the return on marketing investment. But how do we break down the silos between marketing efforts, the sales process, and ultimately, revenue? 

Here are six steps to get started.  

1. Track the sales process.

To be able to analyze the entire life cycle of a customer, you’ll need to understand the buyer’s journey from engaged contacts into customers. Once you know the journey that your buyers go through, you can design a sales process to help them navigate that journey. You probably have some sense of this already, but formalizing it can take some work. 

Think about everything that has to happen for a prospect to become a customer. Write the critical touchpoints in chronological order that show each action the buyer takes to reach a completion cycle. 

Next, write the critical points your team takes in relation to the actions the buyer takes.  

When you're done, you should have every possible step that both the buyer and your team will ever have to take, including all the applicable nitty-gritty, like trying to find a time to meet, for example.

2. Standardize the process.

Once you have tracked each step that your prospects take to become buyers and aligned them with the steps your team takes to help them on that journey, you have a draft of your process. 

Take a look at this process as a team. Is this currently, as far as the team knows, the best process for closing purchases? Discuss improvements that could be made. It’s important to cross-reference input from all internal stakeholders involved in the sales process. 

Once you do this, you’ll have an outline for your standard sales process.  

3. Document and share the process.

The key to a successful sales process is alignment across your organization. Make sure that all stakeholders involved in the sales aspect of the buyer’s journey buy into the process and follow it—while allowing for the human element where applicable, of course. In other words, if there is human contact with prospects in the sales process, it doesn’t have to be robotic just because you have a standard sales process!

4. Identify the actions that you can track data for.

Whether your conversions to customers have a more human touch toward the end or are automatic through online donations or membership sign-ups, you will want a way to track when this happens. 

Using your standardized sales process, you can put tools in place to track those aspects of the process that are buyer-centric and factual (based on actions buyers take) and inspectable (you have a record to prove the action has been taken).

5. Use a CRM to track the sales process stages.

Once you identify the steps in your sales process that are (1) buyer-centric, (2) factual, and (3) inspectable, these are the ones you’ll want to set up in your CRM as trackable stages toward the closing of each sale (membership, donation, etc.). 

6. Analyze & optimize.

Once you have set up the process and supporting systems, you will be able to track the activities and actions in every part of the buyer’s journey to discover what drives the most success for your organization.  

From there, you’ll have concrete data to demonstrate the effectiveness of your marketing efforts to various stakeholders, and you can make better-informed decisions about where to put the organization’s valuable resources toward meeting the overall goals.