What is engagement marketing and how can it increase donations?

Written by
Rachel MillsWhite arrow icon

What is engagement marketing and how can it increase donations?

These days, it can be difficult to cut through the noise. Digital marketers estimate people see between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day, making it increasingly difficult to educate the public on your cause. 

To break through the numerous messages the public faces each day, marketers turn to an engagement marketing strategy. With engagement marking, you educate your community through content, thereby moving them down the pipeline. By strategically creating meaningful interactions with supporters, your audience is more likely to donate to your cause. Below, we dive into what engagement marketing is, and how to implement it into your fundraising strategy. 

What is engagement marketing, exactly? 

Engagement marketing uses engaging content to increase an individual's connection to a brand. Ideally, this content is tailored to the individual (often referred to as a buyer persona), so the individual thinks, "Wow, this feels like it was written just for me."

Engagement marketing takes place over a variety of channels, including social media, blog posts, and email campaigns.

Each piece of content is meant to move buyers further down the pipeline, starting with brand awareness and finally ending with a purchase.

Marketers hope to spark a two-way conversation with buyers throughout the customer journey — with prospective customers leaving questions or comments on blogs, LinkedIn posts, or other pieces of content.

Marketing agencies and for-profit companies use engagement marketing to increase brand loyalty with their target audience. As a nonprofit, school, sports team, or other organization, you can use similar strategies to increase engagement rates amongst your supporters. Implementing an engagement marketing strategy can educate donors about your cause, helping you reach your fundraising goal. 

How to implement an engagement marketing strategy in 3 steps

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To develop a content marketing strategy, you need the right tools. Take a look at the following tactics to jumpstart your engagement marketing efforts, along with the tools you'll need to do it.

1. Build a donor persona 👭

To increase customer engagement, marketers develop what's known as a "buyer persona," or a fictional character that helps them understand their target audience. A persona includes demographics, traits, likes, dislikes, and other attributes that help marketers develop targeted marketing assets. 

You can use this same strategy to increase donor engagement for your organization. Analyze past marketing campaigns, events, and contributions, taking note of those who attended or donated. Can you recognize common themes? 

Remember, it's normal to have more than one donor persona in your audience. For example, if you're a high school cheerleading squad tackling your annual fundraiser, three different personas may look like this:

  • The soccer parent: A mid-40s parent with a connection to the school. This adult has a child who is enrolled in the school and involved in extracurriculars — even if it isn't cheerleading.
  • The biz owner: A mid-50s to 60s adult with deep ties to the local community (such as owning a local business). Their children previously graduated from the high school, and they stay involved in school functions to attract new customers.
  • The honor roll: A high school teenager who is deeply involved in school functions. While they may not donate, it's important to attract their attention because they bring other parents and students to your annual fundraiser.

Tool you need: CRM system 📊

After you've taken a deep dive into understanding your target audience, it's important to log all contact information, demographic data, activity history, and other metrics into a donor database. A donor database is a CRM system that contains everything there is to know about each existing and prospective donor. 

2. Develop your core marketing messages ✍

Before marketers can develop a marketing campaign, they must develop their core message to attract new customers. To do this, they’ll make a list of every single reason someone might buy a new product, or how they've connected with their most loyal customer base in the past.

You can use this same strategy to begin developing marketing assets for your own fundraising campaign.

Think of every reason why someone might give to or otherwise support your cause, then rank them according to priority.

For example:

  • Primary reason: What is the number one reason people support your cause? This is your core message and should be used in your social media bios, landing page headers, the SEO paragraph of your website, and other prominent places.
  • Secondary reasons: These are reasons that may apply to some — but not all — of your donor personas. These secondary reasons will appear within sub pages and paragraph text on your website, email copy, social media marketing posts, or case studies.

Tool you need: Branded donation page 🖥

Your core messaging should be used in an easily-accessible, easy-to-understand branded fundraising page. Write your core messaging throughout the headers and paragraph text of your fundraising page, then jazz it up with videos, links, and a captivating story about your cause. Lastly, be sure all your social media bios are updated with your core messaging, and use one-click social sharing to draw donors to your respective pages.

3. Map your donor journey 🌎

Once the core messaging is in place, marketers develop a "customer journey," guiding customers to make a purchase. Within a customer journey, prospective customers start at the top of the sales funnel, absorbing broad information about the company. As they travel throughout the customer lifecycle, information gets much more specific, educating the prospect about the brand. Finally, the most engaged customers land at the bottom of the funnel, converting into a sale.

You can follow this same strategy to create a donor journey for your supporters. Start with broad information about your organization, then add detailed, interactive content throughout the pipeline to boost your conversion rate. (In other words, start with the "primary reason" you listed in step #2, then add in your secondary reasons as potential donors travel down the pipeline.) 

As you map your donor journey, keep the following items in mind:

  • Journeys may differ according to persona: Create different journeys for every buyer persona at your organization (created in step #1). This allows you to tailor your messaging and overall brand experience to the individual, thereby boosting your conversion rate.
  • Communicate across every channel: People absorb information in different ways. Therefore, implement touchpoints with new and existing donors across social media, web copy, blogs, and email to boost your bottom line. 

Tools you need: Marketing automation platform 🔄

To execute a customer engagement marketing strategy, marketers use marketing automation (sometimes called email automation) to execute their customer journey. Tools like Mailchimp, Hubspot, and Pardot allow you to seamlessly create a content pipeline, pushing prospects to donate to your organization. To do this, integrate your donation page with your CRM system and email automation software to move supporters down the funnel. 

Engagement marketing educates your supporters to increase your bottom line

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Engagement marketing is a type of digital marketing where new and existing customers get educated about the brand.

Rather than bombard prospects with sporadic, interruptive advertisements, marketers nurture prospects with engaging content, slowly moving them down the sales funnel.

While engagement marketing is commonly used by marketing agencies and for-profit companies, you can mimic the same strategy to increase donations for your organization. By creating donor personas, developing your core message, and ultimately mapping out a donor journey, you can transform prospective donors into brand advocates for your organization. 

Engagement marketing requires a mix of content and technology. With Givebutter, you get 70+ features that help convert prospects and increase donor retention. To see how Givebutter can help implement an effective engagement marketing campaign, sign up for a free account today. 

Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.