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The Donor Journey is Your Nonprofit Email Marketing Road Map

Nonprofit Email Marketing
Man hitchhiking on the side of a road

The importance of the donor journey in nonprofit email marketing cannot be understated.

In fact, if done right, the donor journey is your nonprofit email marketing roadmap.

I’ll explain what I mean in greater detail below, but first let’s quickly define what I mean by mapping your donor journey.

What is the Donor Journey and Why Should You Map it out?

In short, the donor journey describes the process most donors to your organization go through before and after making the decision to give their first donation.

Quick note: For this example we’ll stick with the donor journey, but you could also map out your volunteer journey, or your member journey, or even the journey to becoming a lifelong raving fan.

A generic example would look like this:

[click to enlarge]

This generic example lays out seven potential steps of a donor’s journey.

It starts with the potential donor identifying their NEED to support a good cause.

Once they recognize this need, they start to research what options are available to them.

Then they explore a few of the options they are most interested in.

Then, based on what they learn they decide to support that organization.

After they give support, they check to see if that support fulfilled their need.

In other words, did they benefit from the support they provided?

If they did feel the benefit then they will continue to maintain the relationship with your organization.

If your organization turns your supporters into raving fans, then they share the good work of your organization with others.

Mapping out this process is important because it can give you insights into key points of intervention that you may currently be missing.

For example, after you receive a donation from a new donor, what steps are you taking to ENSURE they feel the benefit of that donation?

It is important that you take the time to map out this process for your organization.

The donor journey can be quite different depending on the organization, how people learn about you, and ways in which they can interact with your organization before making a donation.

Mapping this out for yourself is guaranteed to bring new insights into actions your organization can take to improve marketing and fundraising.

The importance of the donor journey in nonprofit email marketing

Now that you understand the donor journey and why it is important, let’s look at how you can use your donor journey to improve your email marketing efforts.

Because you now have a comprehensive map of your donor journey you have identified all of the key points of intervention for your organization.

Now you can employ your email marketing to help guide your readers through their donor journey.

Think of your emails as offering a hand to your potential donor as you walk them through every step of the process.

You are not going to skip steps in the process.

It is important that you acknowledge where they are on their journey and take the time to guide them through their current stage and onto the next stage.

Let me provide a concrete example.

Say Ms. Jane Givesalot has decided to look for a new nonprofit organization to support.

In her research she stumbles upon your website and decides to subscribe to your email list to learn more about your organization.

By subscribing, your email marketing automation system will then immediately start her on the introductory email series.

Let’s say this is a series of 5 emails.

The sole purpose of these emails is to introduce her to your organization by telling great stories of the beneficiaries of your organization.

Because she is not yet ready to make a donation, you are NOT going to ask her for money during these emails.

You will respect where she is in the process and you will guide her through it to the next step.

After she receives these emails she is very interested in supporting your organization but she is not quite sure how to do so.

Since she completed your introductory emails and did not unsubscribe, she is now automatically moved to the “How you can help” email marketing sequence.

This is a series of eight emails telling stories of how other people have gotten involved in your organization and what they gained from that involvement.

At the end of this series is an email that asks them which way they would most like to be involved.

You give three options, volunteer, make a donation, or share on social media.

You tell them they can choose as many as they want.

Based on their response, they are immediately segmented to automated emails that continue to guide them along the way.

If they say they want to volunteer, then you put them on an automated email sequence that describes how they can get started.

If they say the want to spread the word on social media then you start them on a series of emails that gives them the necessary links and ideas on what to share.

Do you see the potential here?

It’s powerful stuff.

And will do much more for your organization than a monthly e-newsletter ever could.

The better you have mapped out the donor journey, the more effective your automated email marketing system will be.

I hope this example helps you understand the importance of your donor journey in nonprofit email marketing.


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  1. Your donor journey is important to understand because it reveals key points of intervention for your organization.
  2. You should then align your email marketing with the donor journey.
  3. Guide your readers through each step of the process respecting the information they need at each stage.

Keep doing good work,
Jeremy Signature


Mapping your email marketing to the donor journey is incredibly powerful and will help you turn interested prospects into lifelong, raving fans of your organization.

If you want to learn more about how to develop this system, sign up for my introductory email training below.

I’ll show you step-by-step how to create this system for your own organization.

It is completely FREE and you can unsubscribe at any time if you do not find the emails helpful.

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