From unaware to brand advocate: 5 stages of the donor funnel

We explain the five stages of the donor funnel for nonprofits, and the free tools you need to push potential supporters toward a conversion.





Nonprofit Strategies
Nonprofit Strategies

From unaware to brand advocate: 5 stages of the donor funnel

We explain the five stages of the donor funnel for nonprofits, and the free tools you need to push potential supporters toward a conversion.





We explain the five stages of the donor funnel for nonprofits, and the free tools you need to push potential supporters toward a conversion.





Kylie Davis
May 27, 2022
June 15, 2022

How do you transform a member of your audience into a passionate, loyal supporter?

Let’s reiterate something you already know: Recurring supporters don’t just sprout up out of thin air.

Instead, they undergo a series of steps—from awareness to actually making a contribution—that pushes them to convert.

In rare instances, sure—someone may stumble upon your organization by chance and make a contribution. In fact, research shows that two-thirds of donors do zero research before giving. Even so, these individuals were introduced to your organization somehow. Perhaps they’re friends with a recurring donor, read an article about your organization, or attended a fundraising gala as a plus-one.

The donor funnel describes the stages a first-time donor goes through prior to making a contribution. Below, we explain the five stages of the donor funnel, and the tools you need to push potential supporters toward a conversion.

The 5 stages of the donor funnel

The donor funnel (sometimes referred to as the nonprofit marketing funnel) describes how an individual goes from being seemingly unaware of your organization to making their first-time contribution. It offers a visual representation of your entire audience, broken out by how close they are to converting into a first-time donor.

1. Awareness 🔎

Givebutter fundraising features

Supporters can’t donate to your cause if they don’t know you exist. During the awareness stage, potential donors are first introduced to your organization. This first encounter could happen in any number of ways—a peer-to-peer campaign, an invitation to a fundraising event, or a social media post shared by a mutual friend.

During this early stage, your engagement strategy shouldn’t be focused on making “the ask.” Instead, focus on educational content so new donors have an opportunity to learn more about your organization. Focus your energy on these tools:

  • Donation page: To build relationships with potential supporters, you need a branded donation page that explains who you are, what you do, and how you support your community. Consider adding videos, campaign updates, and even an FAQ section to help potential supporters learn more.
  • An email sign-up: An active email automation strategy can help move supporters throughout the pipeline. Be sure to add an email sign-up form to your website or donation page, automatically placing potential supporters into a welcome series to learn more about your organization.

2. Consideration 🤔

Donor funnel: Givebutter marketing-related features

Currently, there are 1.6 million tax-exempt nonprofit organizations in the United States. Why should a potential donor give to you instead of other organizations within the nonprofit sector?

For-profit entities use the consideration stage of the sales funnel to convince prospects that their product or service can solve their unique problem. As a nonprofit, the purpose of this stage is to show how your organization makes a real impact within your community—which is easier said than done.

To help move supporters throughout the donor journey, focus on these tools:

  • CRM: Creating a donor database is an excellent way to learn more about potential supporters. With Givebutter’s built-in CRM system, Track, you can learn prospective donors’ likes, dislikes, passions, and volunteer history, helping to build a connection between them and your cause.
  • Social media sharing: Social media marketing is an excellent way to share the real impact of your programs. Use the Canva integration to create bold, colorful graphics sharing statistics or testimonials for those impacted by your organization.
  • Video: Video is one of the most effective tools for communicating with potential donors. Create a reel of impact stories by interviewing your founders, volunteers, or those whose lives have been changed by your organization, explaining your mission, vision, and values.

3. Conversion đź’°

Donor funnel: Givebutter payment options

During the conversion stage, a potential donor is persuaded into making their first-time donation. This could be due to any number of reasons, including partaking in a charity 5k run/walk, signing up to sponsor a local charity golf tournament, signing up for a webinar, buying tickets to your annual gala, or simply Venmo-ing your organization based on a nudge from a friend.

To boost your conversion rates, be sure to leverage the following digital marketing tools:

  • Ticketed events: A ticketed event is an excellent way to attract new donors. Be sure to send out regular reminders to prospective donors leading up to the big day.
  • Peer-to-peer texting: People are more likely to give to organizations their friends support. Therefore, consider launching a peer-to-peer campaign to attract new donors, leveraging SMS to push people over the finish line.
  • Accept everything: One of the best ways to attract more online donations is to make it as easy as possible for supporters to give. Fortunately, Givebutter’s all-in-one online fundraising platform accepts Venmo, Google Pay, Apple Pay, text-to-donate, and other popular payment methods.

4. Loyalty đź’•

Now that a supporter has made their first-time donation, the work is just getting started.

To hit your fundraising goal, you need to ensure that your contribution isn’t a one-time gift. Instead, express your gratitude and appreciation toward supporters to encourage them to give again. After all, research shows that donors who receive a thank-you note within 48 hours of donating are 4X more likely to make a second contribution.

To ensure gratitude holds a centerpiece within your nonprofit fundraising strategy, take advantage these tools:

  • ThankView: Givebutter’s ThankView integration makes it easy to create personalized thank-you videos at scale, delivering heartfelt appreciation to your supporters.
  • Automated receipts: With Givebutter, you never have to worry about forgetting to write a thank-you note. Every supporter who submits an online donation receives an automated receipt in their inbox, which can be customized with a short thank-you message.
  • Automated text blasts: You can easily thank supporters via SMS through personalized, outbound texts from Givebutter. You can even take things a step further and include a GIF or link to a campaign video.

5. Advocacy ✊

The last stage of the funnel is advocacy, where you transform one-time supporters into brand advocates for your organization. Doing so can increase your donor retention rate while attracting a new supporter base to your organization (which, in theory, would start the entire donor cultivation funnel over again).

Brand advocates support and are passionate about your mission, attracting their network to your cause.

To do this, you need to arm your supporters with the tools they need to share your organization with friends and family.

To transform one-time donors into brand advocates, arm your network with the following tools:

  • Join via email, link, or button: Givebutter easily generates call-to-action (CTA) tools like buttons, emails, and links to capture new supporters. Share these with supporters so they can easily attract their network.
  • Personalized pages: Allow supporters to share their passion for your cause through personalized pages. Team members can share their personal story, set their own goal, and create a unique link to encourage friends and family to give.

Use Givebutter to push potential supporters through the donor funnel

The donor funnel creates a visual representation of your potential supporter base, broken out into five stages. These stages—awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy—transform members of your audience into recurring supporters.

To move prospects throughout your donor funnel, you need to implement an effective marketing strategy. Fortunately, Givebutter is the all-in-one fundraising platform with built-in CRM and marketing automation, making it easy to engage your audience. With Givebutter, you can launch a peer-to-peer campaign, create captivating videos and branded fundraising pages, launch an email marketing campaign, and even thank first-time donors for their contribution.

Ready to see how Givebutter can help attract and retain new supporters? Take a tour to get started.


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Kylie Davis

Kylie Davis

Givebutter Content Marketing Specialist

Kylie thrives on supporting others, making everyone’s jobs easier, and cinnamon in her coffee.

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