Donor Stewardship

Putting It All Together: The Responsive Fundraising Framework

Two nonprofit fundraisers holding up puzzle pieces to a chalk board to create an equation that ends with a light bulb (puzzle piece + puzzle piece = light bulb)

You’ve done it! You’ve used responsive fundraising to listen to your donors, connect with them personally, and suggest the best next steps to interact with your cause. Now what? 

It’s time for the fun part: testing and experimenting! 

The only way to know for sure that your efforts are working is to test and experiment. By continuously learning as you go, you’ll be able to become more responsive. 

In this final part of our four-part series on responsive fundraising, you’ll learn how you can use testing and experimentation to provide your supporters—both existing and prospective—with the best experience possible and encourage their generosity. 

Listen, Connect, Suggest, Learn Indefinitely

The compounding value of the responsive fundraising framework evinces itself after you’ve completed the cycle with an individual donor a few times. It might take a few weeks to complete each phase of the cycle, but with each step you gain a deeper understanding of your supporters. This, in turn, helps your organization create more relevant suggestions and increase generosity and donor retention

Remember, as you listen, connect, and suggest, your nonprofit should always be thinking about how to improve the donor experience. The beauty of the responsive fundraising framework is the ability to test new ideas and strategies! 

Four Easy Responsive Fundraising Plays

Now that you understand the responsive fundraising framework, it’s time to start finding ways to execute your new fundraising strategies.

Let me detail four easy responsive fundraising plays that your organization can implement today. 

1. Behavior-Based Emails

Email is a powerful, cost-effective way to communicate with your donors. When done right, personalized automated emails can make the difference between a donor feeling like they’re just another face in the crowd and believing they’re an integral part of your organization. You can be responsive in your email marketing campaigns by: 

  • Adding a newsletter subscription pop-up to your website to capture potential donor names. Make sure your call to action focuses on the value that your donor will receive from these emails. 
  • Writing a welcome email series of 3–4 emails that gives your subscribers and potential donors a brief introduction to the history of your organization, current offerings, and ways they can become advocates. Onboard new subscribers with this series rather than just sending them your newsletter. 
  • Including a suggested best next action in the final email of your series to encourage donors to give after they’ve become more educated about your cause. 
  • Making sure your emails look like they’re coming from a specific person, not your organization at large, and encourage subscribers to respond with their questions and feedback. 

2. Engaged Donors Based on Web Clicks

Although online engagements are often the most cost-effective, they’re not the only way you can build meaningful relationships with your donors. With responsive fundraising strategies, you can use the information you gather online to make your in-person conversations more engaging. 

  • Add tracking pixels on your website to see what content performs best with your supporters. 
  • Use Google Analytics to monitor user behavior including origin, pages visited, time on the page, clicks, and where they exited your site. Focus on the projects and pages on your site that are attracting the most engagement. 
  • Add website behavior details to your donor profiles to reference during donor calls and personalized email outreach. 
  • Use web clicks to drive donor survey questions, segmentation, messaging, or even relevant direct mail pieces. 

3. Geolocation and Social Influence

Having access to a donor’s address can open up a world of opportunities for connecting with them and others in the area. This information can help your organization make strategic decisions about the placement of events, community drives, and more. 

  • Use geolocation to determine the density of donors in a particular area. Allow major donor officers and event coordinators to plan events based on where your supporters live. 
  • Use event attendance data combined with geolocation to determine where your organization has the most influence. Use this data to inform your donor acquisition efforts, future event locations, and peer-to-peer campaigns. 
  • Use social media data to identify your top advocates and target communications for advocacy efforts like posting on behalf of your organization, raising awareness for an event, or hosting a peer-to-peer campaign. 

4. Impact Stories with Multichannel Distribution 

Impact stories are at the heart of every organization. But if they’re not prioritized, or shared with your audience, it’s difficult to show how your organization is making a difference. Here’s how you can begin creating an arsenal of impact stories that can then be shared across email, social media, and more: 

  • Encourage field workers and missionaries to collect impact stories and share them with your communications and marketing teams. 
  • Use multiple channels to bring an impact story to life. No need for fancy equipment; simply use your phone to capture videos, audio files, and photos that can be shared across a variety of channels. 
  • Reframe each story to be relevant to each of your audiences. Make sure to include heartwarming quotes, eye-catching statistics, and powerful imagery to make an impact story resonate with each person. 
  • Add a relevant suggestion to the end of each impact story to move digital donors to a landing page where they can learn more about the story they just heard. Don’t forget to include a form or CTA button to donate! 

The most important thing to remember is that the more you try, the better you’ll be at finding the right way to connect with all of your donors. Fundraising is a fun, experimental way to see what does and doesn’t work with your supporters. Don’t be afraid to try new, interesting, and different strategies that help connect you more closely with your supporters. Those new strategies could be the key that unlocks endless generosity within your new and existing donors. 

Want to learn more about cultivating your supporter’s relationship with your cause? Download the Responsive Fundraising Starter Pack

About the Author

best nonprofit consulting firm amphil profile visual of kelly cristaldi via virtuous crmKelly Cristaldi serves as the Sr. Partner Marketing Manager at Virtuous, a responsive CRM, marketing automation, and donor-centric giving platform. In this role, she works with partners to identify opportunities to help fundraisers increase their supporters' generosity. 

Before joining Virtuous, Kelly worked for five years in the animal welfare sector and specialized in marketing, PR, and fundraising, with a focus on major donors and corporate sponsorship. 

Connect with Kelly on LinkedIn or reach out to her via email at


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