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How to optimize your digital donor acquisition

A big topic of focus in the nonprofit industry is the need for digital transformation in order to prepare for the future of fundraising. A key piece of this transformation is acquiring donors through digital channels.

The traditional approach would be to focus all efforts on immediate donations and emphasize a few digital media channels: display, paid social, paid search. Many organizations stop there.

Not us. RKD takes an enhanced approach to digital acquisition by leveraging these and other channels in a connected, dynamic way that we call a full funnel.

The full funnel is the optimized way to use digital media to fuel donor acquisition.

Acquisition-Funnel FULL

However, a hurdle for many organizations is breaking down silos between departments and between channels to create a consistent donor experience. Another huge key in digital donor acquisition is personalization.

According to our research, donors want their content to be relevant to them, motivate them and inspire them to take action. To do this, we need to target our marketing efforts accordingly.

That's why creating a funnel needs to start with audience targeting—not channels. Segment your donors. Target each group in different ways depending on their desired channel, demographic, interests, etc.

After you segment, consider your layers.  We see four:

Prospecting. Engagement. Conversion. Retargeting (aka Retention).


Acquisition-Funnel Prospecting

Audience Tactics
Geographic Display
Demographic Video
Interests Google Ad Grant
Behavioral Digital Radio
  Connected TV

The prospecting phase reaches out to audiences who may not already be aware of your organization and don’t yet know the goals your nonprofit holds. This is the time to educate them. In this stage, you can make an effective impression that is both attention-grabbing and strongly expressing the mission of your organization.

At this point, donors are researching—but not just about your organization. They’re looking at others as well. They’re comparing and contrasting to decide which is more worth their dedication and donation.

The beginning stage of your relationship with a donor is starting to form here, so it’s crucial to prove your loyalty and expertise in the sector and prove that your organization is truly a thought leader in the sector. This can be done through different digital advertising tactics like display ads, digital radio, social media, paid search, social influencers and more. This stage is about getting your name out there for people to first notice and soon remember.

Lead generation is put into action in the prospecting stage. When visitors of your ads or website start to notice you and want to learn more, access content or request info, you can gain info from them in return through forms and sign ups. These potential donors are now effectively inching their way down the funnel.



Audience Tactics
Lookalike Display
Retargeting Facebook
  Google Ad Grant
  Paid Search

Your audience is now starting to consider giving to your organization and has expressed interest. Now’s the time to make sure this interest won’t be lost.

Your content can now be directed more specifically toward the individual. Leads have been generated, their interest has been piqued, and they’re ready for a stronger relationship to be built.

Through your targeted content, you want to convince your audience that there is a problem, that your organization’s cause is the only way to fix it, and that they’re the perfect ones to help. Some of your audience in this stage may share similarities with previous people you’ve targeted, so you can take some of this info to build lookalike audiences or create retargeting campaigns.

With the above engagement you have developed a warm prospect who is ready to donate.



Audience Tactics
Custom Display
Facebook Fans Facebook
Specific Google Ad Grant
Retargeting Paid Search

You now have the donors’ attention. They’re engaged, interested and know their preferences for the organization they want to give to. They’ve expressed their values and needs as a donor, and you’ve proven how you can meet them.

This is when you want to convince your donor to give to your organization, and then continue giving. You may have piqued their interest in the beginning, but this stage is all about turning that interest into action. This is where we emphasize our call to action to donate to our audiences who have been the most engaged.

Give them a reason to give. You can’t be afraid to prove what kind of impact they’re making on your organization. They need to know their gift is making a difference and will continue doing that, or else their motivation to continue giving will sink.



Your donors have now given to your organization and are ready to be cultivated and nurtured in the donor retention journey. Be sure to keep building a relationship with these donors and continue to encourage them to give as you start to build your monthly giving program.


When you combine these layers, you’ll see that you connect your targeting to messaging and channels to move audiences along. Application of the full funnel will add maturity to your digital media program—and your results.

So acquired, so retained. New digital donors brought in through media should continue to be cultivated through media, in addition to being added to email and direct mail streams.

Jarred Schremmer

Jarred Schremmer has worked in multichannel fundraising, communication and direct marketing for a distinguished list of health, international relief, faith-based, arts and culture, and collegiate athletic clients since 2005. His experience across multiple nonprofit communication channels adds even more depth to his strategic leadership.

As Senior Vice President, Client Partnership, at RKD Group, Jarred currently leads dynamic teams who serve an international base of nonprofit organizations. His teams have a remarkable record of success helping organizations increase media reach, multiply fundraising and marketing revenue, and grow digital and multichannel donors. Jarred, who is committed to making data-driven strategic decisions, employs sophisticated donor attribution models to increase response and strengthen donor relationships for his clients.

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