Do you sometimes wonder where all of your communications work is headed? What’s the point? Creating a growth funnel might just be the answer you are seeking. Today’s guest blogger Jen Newmeyer — who’s also written a great new book called The Insider’s Guide to Online Fundraising: Finding Success When Surrounded by Skeptics — shows you how. ~Kivi

Guest Post by Jen Newmeyer

“I’m sorry,” I sputtered, “Could you repeat what you just said?”

Jen Newmeyer

In my moment of disbelief, I was aware of sounding like an idiot, but I could not fully absorb what I was hearing. As a representative of an online donation processing platform, did this guy just tell me that they had no email acknowledgment to thank a donor for their gift? And not only that they didn’t have one, but they couldn’t understand why an organization would want to customize the messaging or branding of such an email? I nearly fainted.

Unfortunately, such scenarios frequently occur in the nonprofit world. Stewardship can be overlooked. Conversions are forgotten. A campaign is quickly launched without considering the potential for greater impact.

Enter the growth funnel. These steps help organizations focus on the journey of a prospect or donor to cultivate a closer relationship with them. Working along a growth funnel helps answer questions such as:

  • What happens following an email signup?
  • What steps do we take to communicate with our event attendees when the curtains close?
  • How do we communicate with our new donors?
  • Or steward our ongoing supporters?

The exercise of outlining levels from prospecting to acquisition to donor to advocate will help clarify campaign efforts and ultimately provide more relevant communications and result in more loyal donors. 

There are three steps to approaching the development and implementation of a growth funnel.

Determine the Levels

When thinking about growth funnel levels, the overarching strategy is to have an acquisition or prospecting level, a cultivation or engagement level that leads to a conversion, and then utilizing stewardship to develop advocates or ambassadors.

An example of this is: Capture, Convert, Nurture, Partner. Another might be: Exposure, Influence, Engagement, Action.

Some organizations will simply “Prepare and Prospect” before the beginning of the donor cycle, commonly known as a “moves management” program. 

In my current organization, we use:  Introduction, Cultivation, Acquisition, Value Exchange, Stewardship, Ambassador 

Map the Activities

Within each of the levels, it’s important to map the activities used to support the levels so that everyone understands their role and contribution to the funnel strategy.

For example, most marketing activities will be firmly established at the beginning of the growth funnel. These might include media outreach, website or blog content, external ads, or social media posts.

Development activities would fall in the latter categories of the growth funnel. These include direct mail, digital campaigns, major gifts, tours, and member events.

Other activities will fall somewhere in-between: emails, volunteer activities, member publications, corporate proposals, public events, promotional materials and gifts, and matching or vehicle donations. 

Put the Funnel in Action

Now that the levels and activities are established, it’s time to craft the campaign. Let’s say you want to create a year-end fundraising campaign and you intend to send emails asking for contributions. Your email list likely includes donors as well as non-donors. Consider segmenting the list and the message. For non-donors, you’ll want to introduce your organization. For donors, you may decide to ask for an additional gift for the campaign or ask them to simply share your message with their network. 

Taking a step backward, what funnel activities can you include that would cultivate new audiences for this campaign? Think: acquisition activities!

Can you create a poll, offer a giveaway, or create a few trivia questions that encourage online participation? Perhaps the creation of a compelling video targeted to lookalike audiences is a possibility. Consider blog posts about the programs that the campaign will support or launching an event. How can you capture more emails and mailing addresses that fulfill the objectives at the start of the funnel? 

Now, move toward the end of the funnel and consider the levels of stewardship and additional participation. In email thank you messages, what additional activities can you suggest that would further the donor involvement? Perhaps a special volunteer opportunity or a member event could be offered. Consider a “tell us more about you” form in which the donor could get a small token of appreciation such as a bumper sticker or window cling.

Are there membership levels that the organization offers? Can these new participants, volunteers or donors join an ambassador program or view a special thank you video? Your major gifts team might segment the donors by gift level or age and offer a personal phone call, coffee meeting, or materials about planned giving. 

You Can Do This!

Having a growth funnel approach toward campaign development will help improve performance and impact. Donors will stay with your organization longer and give more. Their excitement for your activities will help ripple through their networks and attract more donors. It provides a donor-centric approach that provides clarity to your internal teams and leadership. It will also help you make great decisions when evaluating the services of vendors!

Learn more during Jen’s BRAND NEW, BUDGET-FRIENDLY webinar.

Jen Newmeyer, aka CharityJen, is a digital fundraising strategist specializing in integrated campaigns and online engagement. Through her groundbreaking work and creative approaches during her 15+ year tenure, she’s raised over $10 million in online revenue while managing multimillion-dollar development budgets. She has a passion for helping nonprofit organizations reach their full potential and provides support through community board service and local and national conference presentations. She is also the author of “The Insider’s Guide to Online Fundraising: Finding Success When Surrounded by Skeptics.” Learn more at