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How to remain personal while leveraging marketing automation

Nonprofits are always on the lookout for new ways to do more for their missions, even with limited (and sometimes less than optimal) resources. Luckily, tools and technology are being constantly developed for this very purpose.

One such solution is marketing automation. Whether your organization is looking to promote its services to community members or keep in touch with donors on a regular basis, marketing automation makes it possible on a larger scale.

However, many groups considering or leveraging automation may worry about the possible negative side effects, particularly when it comes to personal relationships. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

In this guide, we’ll walk through four impactful methods that nonprofits can use to maintain personalization while making the most of automated efforts. Specifically, we’ll share insights on how to:

  1. Make the most of audience data
  2. Utilize segmentation to provide relevant content
  3. Add individualized touches when possible
  4. Take a personal approach for your highest-value conversations

In the end, you’ll have several tips and tricks known to produce substantial results in terms of personalization and automation. In other words, you can expect the best of both worlds.

Let’s begin!

1. Make the most of audience data

Audience data is one of your most essential sources of information. The more you know about the recipients of your messaging, the better you can craft engaging content that will resonate with the readers (or listeners, viewers, etc., depending on how you keep in touch).

In order to use this to your advantage, look for insightful data points, such as:

  • Full name (plus preferred name and/or nickname)
  • Digital contact information (i.e., phone number, email address, social media handles, etc.)
  • Mailing address (and keep an eye out for changing addresses as well!)
  • Birthday (including age and generation information)
  • Prior engagement with your organization (as a donor, volunteer, member, beneficiary)
  • Employment information (company, role, tenure at the business, eligibility for workplace giving programs such as matching gifts and volunteer grants)
  • Wealth status (often determined by estimated salary, real estate holdings, stock ownerships, and previous giving)

How you go about collecting this data is another excellent question, and it can vary from organization to organization and from data point to data point. For example, when it comes to your donors, much of this information can be pulled from the donation process itself⁠—especially when you use your giving experience to ask the right questions of your supporters. Alternatively, third-party sources can be used to provide additional information through data appends services and more.

Once you have as much of this information as possible, you can use your knowledge to both segment and individualize your content⁠—which we’ll touch on in more detail below.

2. Utilize segmentation to provide relevant content

Segmentation in marketing is the act of dividing a broader audience into smaller groups based on shared characteristics. This allows marketers to tweak and adjust messaging as needed, sending only the most relevant content to each segment of the overall network.

For example, you wouldn’t want to send the same marketing materials to those utilizing your services as you would your donors. The former group would benefit from promotions highlighting upcoming opportunities and ways to make the most of the organization’s offerings. Meanwhile, the latter would relate more to information regarding upcoming fundraising campaigns, donation impact, ways to get involved and more.

And that’s all on a very high level of segmentation. You can also break things down into more distinctive categories, such as by:

  • Location
  • Communication method preferences
  • Type of organization programming
  • Type of supporter (donor, volunteer)
  • Donor type (one-time, recurring, lapsed)
  • Donation size
  • Matching gift eligibility (match-eligible, match-ineligible, unknown eligibility)

Luckily, segmentation is still very possible⁠—and even encouraged⁠—when using marketing automation. With the right technology, you can easily ensure your messaging only goes out to the intended audiences, leading to the most optimal engagement opportunities.

3. Add individualized touches when possible

While segmentation uses data behind the scenes to send the most relevant messaging, individualization or personalization uses data to include specific details or “fill in the blanks” in a pre-built template. Both ideas work together and can help provide an optimal donor experience.

For context, a non-individualized message to a supporter might look like this: “Dear donor, thank you for your gift! Your support allows us to do more for our mission and make a bigger impact.”

Meanwhile, an individualized message would include particular elements that are unique to that person. Here’s an example (with the personalized attributes bolded for reference): “Dear Patricia, thank you so much for your recent donation of $200 to our No Child Hungry campaign.”

The personalized aspects of your communications⁠—whether emails, texts, phone calls, letters and more⁠—allow your organization to demonstrate its attention to detail and the effort you put into each individual in your network of support.

4. Take a personal approach for your highest-value conversations

Just because some of your outreach is automated doesn’t mean it all has to be. Instead, we recommend maintaining a direct approach with some of your highest-value conversations.

Let’s take fundraising, for example. You might trigger automated donation appeals to your mass-market donors. But for your highest-level gift asks, say $10,000 or more (or whatever your nonprofit defines to be a major gift), you’ll use in-person solicitation methods whenever possible.

Then, you may send automated follow-up communications, thanking your donors of all sizes for their support of your fundraising efforts. However, you may decide to personally reach out to those who have shown consistent support of your organization or even those who have lapsed over time.

Regardless of the criteria you use to determine which conversations warrant more personal interactions, doing so can be an excellent way to ensure your cause stands out from the crowd.


Maintaining personalization in donor relations allows your team to boost revenue and retain long-term support for your cause. Personalizing relationships with the individuals you serve allows you to better connect with your community in the long run.

At the same time, automating your efforts empowers you to scale your organization's impact to heights you never thought possible. And these concepts can—and should—go hand in hand.

Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of matching gift tools to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. Adam created Double the Donation in order to help nonprofits increase their annual revenue through corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.

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