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Think of how many different ways a new donor might discover and interact with your nonprofit. It seems there are endless ways to connect with potential supporters: email, snail mail, social media, Google Ads, and about a hundred other ways. And since no one becomes a super supporter after the very first introduction to your nonprofit, each person is probably encountering a whole bunch of different touchpoints before dropping off or diving right in. 

All of these entry points and interactions are connected to one another. But don’t think of each marketing tool as another section of a spider web – hoping to catch a few people over here on social media and a few on the other side with Google Ads and even a few in the corner with print materials. No, each donor and potential supporter is on a journey, and by creating a nonprofit marketing funnel, you can clarify and streamline their path.

With online giving growing steadily for the past many years (with no sign of slowing), we need to take a look at the donor journey and nonprofit marketing funnel.

What is the Nonprofit Marketing Funnel?

Nonprofit donor funnel. Nonprofit marketing funnel. Cultivation funnel. Whatever your organization calls it, they all mean the same thing. The nonprofit marketing funnel is a representation of the steps that an organization follows in order to acquire new donors. It then creates the process that nurtures the new donor into becoming a repeat donor or super supporter. 

It isn’t hard to tell why it is referred to as a “funnel” when you look at the image. The first stage includes the biggest audience. As you journey down the funnel, the pool of people narrows. While the names may vary, the nonprofit funnel is generally broken down into these 5 levels:

This method works because it provides a strategy and a system for your goals. Instead of starting fresh with each potential supporter, the nonprofit funnel gives you a proven set of steps to apply to each donor. By testing and measuring the effectiveness of this funnel, you can continuously maximize the good you do in the world.

How Does it Work?

Now that we’ve talked about it in theory, let’s take a closer look at how it actually works.

Like we already mentioned, the first level of the funnel is the biggest audience, and it narrows as they journey through the process. 

If you get 10,000 website visitors per month → A fraction will sign up for the newsletter → And a fraction of those that sign up for the newsletter will make a donation.

To increase donations, this gives you two options:


Increase the number of people entering the funnel


Or increase the percentage of people who convert from one level to the next

But which is best? Again, math is our friend.

Let’s stick with those same 10,000 people entering the top of your funnel, and say you convert 1% of them into email subscribers. That gives you 100 new email subscribers. 

Would you rather:


Increase the number of visitors:

12,000 visitors x 1% = 120 email subscribers


Or increase the conversation rate:

10,000 visitors x 1.5% = 150 email subscribers

So when it all shakes out, it makes more sense to optimize the funnel rather than try to shove more people into it.

Creating Your Nonprofit Funnel

Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was one tried-and-true nonprofit funnel template everyone could use? That would save you some time, but since each nonprofit has a unique audience and mission and strategy, you have to give it some energy. Thankfully, there are some tried-and-true steps to creating your nonprofit funnel template.

Learn about your audience

Before you can build a funnel for your supporters, you need to understand them.

  • Have you created donor personas?
  • How do new supporters learn about your nonprofit? And what are other ways they could learn about it?
  • How do they learn about opportunities with your nonprofit – like donating, volunteering or events?
  • What journey are they currently taking to complete a goal?
  • What might be preventing them from increasing their involvement with your organization?

If you are struggling to answer these questions, there are several ways you can go about finding the answers without resorting to guessing.

Google Analytics

Seriously, what can’t it answer for you? Learn more.


Send a survey to ask supporters directly.

Social Media

If you have an active following, ask them what they think.

Define each level

There are an infinite number of journeys a person can take as they learn about and get involved with your organization. It wouldn’t make sense to map out thousands of funnels, so instead we use these common categories as a guideline and you can customize within each level.


In this level of the funnel, supporters are just hearing your name. Maybe from social media, search engines, friends, partner organizations, etc. To move on to the next stage of the funnel, they need to take some sort of action that shows their interest in your cause. This could be following you on Instagram or signing up for your newsletter.


Now they know who you are and are interested in what you do. To move them to the next stage, they need to get involved with your nonprofit. This could include signing a petition, attending an event or reaching out to you with questions.


They have actively engaged with your organization. Great! You’re well on your way. Next step is to encourage them to become a donor and/or a volunteer.


They’ve invested time or money into your organization. Or both! While this is worth celebrating, you have not reached the end of the funnel. Now it is time to nurture the relationship to move them to the next level.


This is where a true relationship is built. The supporter becomes an ambassador for your work, and a donor is a recurring donor.

Map out each level

Use the research on your audience and the stages of the funnel to identify key actions that move a supporter from one stage to the next. Focus on the typical path a supporter takes, not every possible action. 

For example:

  • What actions do your donors take within each stage?
  • How can you measure each action?
  • What improvements can you pursue?
  • Which will have the most impactful results?
  • How can you encourage people toward these actions?

Let’s say a website has a CTA called “Download our Food Bank Shelf Life Guide” for those interested in donating goods.

Their journey may look something like this:

  • User enter their email address to download the guide
  • User is signed up for the newsletter
  • User receives the guide
  • Organization sends a follow up email making an initial ask of the user (become a donor, register for an event, volunteer for a project)
  • User becomes one time donor
  • Organization continues to send communications about the cause – impact, success, goals
  • User upgrades to monthly donor
  • User registers for event
  • User feels so good and loves the food bank so much, user volunteers
  • User eventually gets their company to sponsor the organization at the corporate level

Looking at this example, you can see that there are a lot of steps. But each step nurtured the relationship and increased the chance of getting all the way through the funnel to the level of stewardship. The journey your donors take will likely look different, but if you follow this template of stepping stones, you will find the path that works best for your nonprofit.

Put it to Use

Creating a nonprofit funnel isn’t very useful until you start using it. But the benefits will be constant once you start using the insights about your supporters and their journey.

Build Relationships

This isn’t just about donations. The process will improve your organization’s relationship with your supporters as you learn what matters to them and listen to their feedback. When supporters feel like they are part of a community as opposed to just being seen as dollar signs, they are more likely to become long-term donors.

Discover New Marketing Goals

Maybe when you were creating your unique funnel, you came across some key actions that are not as represented in your marketing goals. When an action is important enough to move someone to the next level, it is important enough to track and measure.

Adjust Your Strategy

I don’t think anyone would argue against being strategic with your goals. But using, testing, and updating your marketing funnel ensures that your strategy never gets stale.

Ready to optimize your new nonprofit funnel?

Learn How

Is your website effective in your donor tunnel?

Contact Mittun for a free assessment today.

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