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Nonprofit Marketing Funnels 101: How to Use Every Stage Like a Pro!

Author: Marlena Moore
November 20, 2023
🕑 8 min read

The journey from turning prospects into long-term donors doesn’t happen on its own. Capturing supporters’ attention and building trust in your organization is an intentional practice.

The best way to rock the process? Understanding nonprofit marketing funnels!

What are Nonprofit Marketing Funnels?

Nonprofit marketing funnels are strategic frameworks that illustrate each stage of the donor journey. From first learning about your cause to becoming one of its proudest ambassadors, each tier of the journey is an essential step in the conversion process.

Marketing funnels look a little different for nonprofits and for-profit organizations. Where for-profits prioritize hitting the sale, nonprofit marketing funnels have a deeper focus on cultivating long term donor stewardship.

Each tier comes with its own marketing tactics that are most likely to reach specific prospects. By taking a full funnel marketing approach, where your nonprofit marketing plan includes support for every step of the journey, you can reach prospects at every stage!

There are a couple of other marketing funnels for nonprofits to use, which we’ll detail a little further down.

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The Benefits of Using Marketing Funnels for Nonprofits

With all the different marketing strategies out there, why should you put so much attention on the nonprofit marketing funnel? There are a few reasons!

Working with conversion funnel marketing helps:

  • Build sustainable donor relationships. Think of this process like dating: moving too fast or too slow can be enough to turn prospective donors off. Understanding donor needs and interests, and successfully pacing your communications, makes for stronger connections.
  • Set tangible goals. Nonprofit marketing funnels give you data aplenty! Having clear expectations about donor behavior helps you set goals that will help you see greater ROI from your marketing campaigns.
  • Keep your messaging relevant. Imagine you’re feeling close to donating, but you keep receiving emails in your inbox that suggest you’ve never heard of the cause. Or imagine the opposite—a call to donate for a cause you barely understand! Keeping your messaging relevant is how it’ll end up being heard. 

How to Use the Nonprofit Marketing Funnel From Top to Bottom

Ready to break down each step of the nonprofit marketing funnel?

In this section, we’ll explore each funnel stage’s:

  • Target audience
  • Goals to move them to the next stage
  • Ideal messaging and marketing actions

Let’s dive in!


The awareness stage is the very top of upper funnel marketing, and is designed to connect with your Prospects. These are people who have never heard of your organization—and might not even be aware of your cause!

During this stage of the nonprofit marketing funnel, your primary goals are to:

  • Make them aware of your mission
  • Introduce them to your organization
  • Get them to check out your website

Once this initial introduction has been made, you’ll be able to move on to nurturing their interest.

A few action steps you can take at this stage are:

  • Develop donor personas
  • Create targeted ads for these personas
  • Write guest posts for similar organizations’s websites
  • Collaborate on an event with a local business


Once your prospects are aware of your cause and feeling intrigued, they become Engaged Leads. With their attention captured, this is your chance to make sure that the impression you make lasts, and that your messaging makes a real impact!

During this stage of the nonprofit marketing funnel, your primary goals are to:

  • Educate your leads about your cause
  • Emphasize the importance and urgency
  • Demonstrate how your organization can help

With a confident understanding of your nonprofit, your leads are more likely to start searching for ways to take action.

A few action steps you can take at this stage are:

  • Using content marketing strategies (hello blog posts!)
  • Creating and promoting educational videos
  • Connecting with influencers with similar values
  • Offer key statistics to sway leads

75% of donors give because they’re passionate about a specific cause. This is your chance to show leads that your organization is the one to support!


Welcome to the action stage, where your leads are inspired to take action as Supporters. Believe it or not, this doesn’t actually mean that they immediately donate! Support can be as simple as joining an email list, volunteering to help, sharing on social media.This the action stage

During this stage of the nonprofit marketing funnel, your primary goal is to encourage supporters to get involved in ways like:

  • Joining your email list
  • Sharing your posts on social media
  • Volunteering for an event
  • Signing a petition

If your campaign is strong enough, many people will jump right into simply donating. But don’t underestimate the value of other types of involvement!

A few action steps you can take at the Involvement stage are:

  • Calls to sign petitions
  • Invitations to email lists
  • Creating dedicated hashtags to share
  • Introducing them to points of contact for questions they might have


The time has come! At the Investment stage of the marketing funnel, your supporters finally transform into first-time Donors.

This is an exciting point where your goals are simple but essential, and include:

  • Celebrating the donations publicly
  • Inspiring others to jump on the donation train
  • Prove to donors that they made the right choice

You can do all of this with actions including:

  • Calls for specific goals on social media (“Only $50 until we hit $2000!”)
  • Sending out thank you emails within 24 hours
  • Shouting out donors on social media
  • Getting donors right into a database included in your donor management software

But the journey doesn’t end here! In order to keep your organization happy and healthy for years to come, you’ll want to invest some marketing energy into…


Donor stewardship! This stage of the nonprofit marketing funnel is executed with a future-looking mindset, and aims to cultivate Ambassadors for your cause. Every voice for your mission makes a difference, and investing in these donors is essential.

During this final stage of the  marketing funnel, your goals are to:

  • Turn one-time donors into recurring donors
  • Encourage larger donations where possible
  • Invite ongoing participation
  • Inspire donors to share their feelings (word-of-mouth marketing is your friend!)

It takes a lot of time and energy to bring in new donors all the time. Your recurring donors provide a reliable stream of income and a consistent community for your organization.

Some actions you can take to foster donor stewardship and create ambassadors are:

  • Set up peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities
  • Create a referral program for your membership base
  • Make long-term volunteer opportunities available
  • Stay in consistent communication with your donors

Right now, 57% of donors are enrolled in a recurring giving program—which is up from 46% the previous year! This is a promising statistic for nonprofits, and goes to show the power of developing donor relationships.

Exploring the Fundraising Funnel for Nonprofits

There are a few different ways to interpret and work with nonprofit marketing funnels. When it comes to dedicated fundraising campaigns, there’s actually a fundraising funnel strategy that you can use!

This funnel is designed to guide your nonprofit’s messaging for different donors throughout the campaign. With a focused approach, you can be sure that you’re saying what your donors need to hear every step of the way.

Awareness of the cause

This is an echo of the Awareness stage in the larger nonprofit marketing funnel we laid out earlier! The first part of your campaign is as simple as making sure prospects understand why it’s happening.

You can build awareness with:

  • Attention-grabbing visuals
  • Clear and concise slogans
  • Unique hashtags

This is the tap-on-the-shoulder of your fundraising campaign. Once your prospects are curious, you can get into the meat of things!

Importance of the cause

In the world we’re living in, there are a lot of worthy causes out there for people to donate to. When you’re running a targeted fundraising campaign, highlighting importance and urgency are what will make your organization stand out.

Emphasize the importance of your cause with:

  • A clear and open telling of its story
  • Graphics that make data simple
  • Testimonials from beneficiaries

Urgency is important, but try to avoid employing guilt tactics. People donate more when positive feelings are inspired.

This doesn’t mean that you should diminish the importance of the problem you’re trying to solve—just that it’s more effective to say “this is the future we could make” rather than “this is the state of ongoing horror”.

The power of YOUR organization

Now it’s time to start building credibility! After all, people want to trust the organizations that they’re giving to.

As you work down the fundraising funnel, be sure to include details on:

  • The impact of your past campaigns
  • Your history in the field
  • Media that has celebrated your work
  • Any notable members of your team

Impact of donations

Your fundraising funnel should include multiple points where you highlight the power of the numbers. Set clear goals with tools like fundraising thermometers so both donors and your team can track the ongoing impact.

Remember: there’s power in the details! Instead of saying “raising this money will help local kids”, saying “every $2000 we raise will provide a month of school lunches for 20 kids in our community!” sets clear objectives.

Celebrating donations

Every single donation should be celebrated loud and proud. From updating the thermometer to sending out a thorough donor welcome package within 24 hours, there’s always room for joy and gratitude in your messaging

Making a point of celebrating will help you:

  • Foster donor appreciation
  • Attract new donors to your cause
  • Keep your team’s energy up throughout the campaign

Nonprofit marketing funnels are ultimately there to build long-term donor relationships. No matter the context, humans are pretty simple creatures: we want to feel appreciated!

Using Membership Management Software in Your Donor Journey

From raising initial awareness through fostering long term donor stewardship, every stage of the nonprofit marketing funnel requires a heap of donor communication. Looking for some ways to simplify the process? Then it’s time to explore membership management software!

At WildApricot, we simplify the logistics of fostering donor relationships with tools including:

  • Member databases to keep track of donor information
  • Secure payment processing to build trust with donors
  • Automated donor receipts (great for end-of-year giving!)
  • A website builder to make the perfect donation website
  • Solutions for your email campaigns
  • And more!

Sign up for our 60-day free trial to learn how we can support you through every stage of the marketing funnel.

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Take a Journey Down The Marketing Funnel

We hope this breakdown of nonprofit marketing funnels has helped you feel more confident in your own marketing framework. With a clear idea of your messaging, you’ll be turning prospects into ambassadors in no time!

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