Fuel your donor acquisition with digital media

Application of the full funnel will add maturity
to your digital strategy – and your results

What will you find in this eBook?

Digital fundraising is a rapidly growing tactic for nonprofit organizations. However, many nonprofits are falling short when it comes to their digital donor acquisition programs.

Here’s what we’ll discuss inside:
• How to break down the silos between departments and channels
• Why the standard approach to digital donor acquisition falls short
• Our full funnel approach to optimizing acquisition
• The full funnel in action

Breaking down the silos

The 2019 Wiland Field of Dreams report highlighted a need for digital transformation and maturity in nonprofit marketing and digital donor acquisition. Respondents to the survey outlined that digital marketing, further digital media, is a joint responsibility among departments. Since its launch in the early 2000s, digital marketing has been a shared activity with multiple points of ownership, somehow reinforcing organizations silos as opposed to a formidable, integrated approach. If a group owns a task, then no one really owns the task.


A hurdle for many organizations is breaking down the silos between departments and between channels.

The traditional approach would be to focus all paid media efforts on immediate donations. This approach emphasizes a few digital media channels – display, paid social, paid search – with separate, siloed strategies, not taking the time to connect brand marketing, fundraising and donor engagement among all channels and messaging. We have a much different strategy for digital donor acquisition.

RKD’s full funnel approach

RKD takes an enhanced approach to digital media by leveraging these and other channels in a connected, dynamic way that we call the full funnel. The full funnel is the optimized way to use digital media to fuel donor acquisition.


Step 1: Segment your audience

Creating a funnel starts with targeting – not channels. Segment your donors. Target each group in different ways, depending on their desired channel, demographic, interests, etc.

A huge key in digital donor acquisition is personalization. According to our research, donors want their content to be relevant to them, motivate them and inspire them to take action. To do this, we need to target our marketing efforts accordingly.

How often does a donor interact with your organization? What triggers them to give? How old are they, or do they have a channel preference? Take some time to gather this data, then split your donors into categories.

Step 2: Build your funnel

After you segment and personalize, consider your layers. We see four:

• Prospecting
• Engagement
• Conversion
• Retention (aka Re-targeting)

When you combine these layers with corresponding creative, you’ll see that you connect your targeting to messaging and channels to move audiences along. The result is a donor journey that ends in a long-term commitment to your organization.

Let’s take a deep dive into each of these layers.


This phase reaches out to audiences who may not already be aware of who your organization is and don’t yet know the goals your nonprofit holds. This is the time to educate them. In this stage, you can make an effective impression that is both attention-grabbing and strongly expresses the mission of your organization.

At this point, donors are researching – but not just about your organization. They’re looking at others as well. They’re comparing and contrasting to decide which is more worth their dedication and donation.

The beginning stage of your relationship with a donor is starting to form here, so it’s crucial to prove your loyalty and expertise to your cause and prove that your organization is truly a thought leader. This can be demonstrated through different digital media tactics like display ads, digital radio, social media, paid search, social influencers and more. The biggest goal of the prospecting stage is to combine effective targeting, creative and use of channels to get your name out there for people to notice and remember.

Lead generation is put into action in the prospecting stage. When visitors of your ads or website start to notice you and want to learn more, access content or request info, you can gain info from them in return through forms and sign-ups. These potential donors are now effectively inching their way down the funnel.



Your audience is now starting to consider giving to your organization and had expressed interest by interacting with your digital media efforts. Now’s the time to make sure this interest won’t be lost.

Your content can now be directed more specifically toward the individual. Leads have now been generated, their interest has been piqued, and they’re ready for a stronger relationship to be built.

Through your targeted content, you want to convince your audience that there is a problem, that your organization’s cause is the best way to fix it, and that they’re the perfect ones to help. Some of your audience in this stage may share similarities with previous people you’ve targeted, so you can take their key demographics to build lookalike audiences or create re-targeting campaigns.

With the above engagement, you have developed a warm prospect that is ready to donate.



You now have the donors’ attention. They’re engaged, interested and know their preferences for the organization they want to give to. They’ve expressed their values and needs as a donor, and you’ve proven how you can meet them.

This is when you want to convince your donor to give to your organization, and then continue giving.

You may have piqued their interest in the beginning, but this stage is all about turning that interest into action. This is where we emphasize our call to action to donate to our audiences who have been the most engaged.

Give them a reason to give. You can’t be afraid to prove what kind of impact their involvement will make on your organization. Once they’ve sent in a donation, they need to know their gift is making a difference and will continue doing that, or else their motivation to continue giving will sink.



Your donors have now given to your organization and are ready to be cultivated and nurtured on the donor retention journey.

To retain donors, make sure that your language is centered around the difference the donor is making. Target these donors with messages to turn their gifts into monthly donations.

First-time donors have a retention rate in the 20-25% range. Once they give a second time, that rate jumps to 60%.


The full funnel in action

Developing a Targeting Strategy to Find Quality Donors

In order to grow The Coast Guard Foundation’s house email file, we implemented a full-funnel digital media strategy with using paid social, search and display. That’s a short and simple goal until you peek under the hood of the idea. For this initiative to be a success, the emails acquired need to be high-quality – people who have legitimate affinity for an organization like the Coast Guard Foundation.

RKD developed targeting strategies by aggregating data from existing channels including direct mail, list research, email performance insights and website analytics.

Once we pulled data from these sources, we went to work creating the right messaging and creative. We built a campaign designed toward boating enthusiasts and the niche topics of interest they follow.

Through careful targeting and placing the right offer to the right people, RKD was able to integrate brand goals with the target market.

• 17.29% increase in new donors
• $269 average gift
• 32.05% retention rate

Successful campaigns require deeper planning. It’s about finding the right combination of channels, traffic opportunities and conversion strategies along with the creative concept that makes a campaign effective.


Using a multichannel media campaign to increase acquisition

American Bible Society had lofty plans for expansion. In order to successfully meet this goal, a new strategy for digital donor acquisition and mobile optimization was needed. The full funnel approach was added to
the current annual acquisition plans.

These new goals required a strategy built around targeting the right audience efficiently and consistently. RKD modeled donor acquisition by mirroring the demographics and donor patterns of direct mail lists. Media campaigns used a mix of digital channels to consistently target audiences all year long.

By building the target audience off of the demographics we had from current donors, we were able to grow their donor file. The creative used for each channel expressed American Bible Society’s mission in a clear and effective manner, enabling them to share their story and build relationships with future donors.

This approach resulted in:

• 58% increase in new donors
• $68.72 average gift from new donors
• $41.03 net revenue per donor

ABS Collage-1
ABS Collage 2


Applying the full funnel

When you combine these layers, you’ll see that you connect your targeting to messaging and channels to move audiences along. Application of the full funnel will add maturity to your digital media program – and your results.

So acquired, so retained. New digital donors brought in through media should continue to be cultivated through media, not just turned over to email and direct mail.


More Than 40 Years Inspiring Donors

With RKD, you get a powerful partner poised to help you achieve breakthroughs never thought possible.


Team of Experts

We work tirelessly to help you build deeper relationships with your donors and grow net revenue for expanding your missions.


Devoted to
Your Success

Our work is a calling, not an occupation. We work with you, hand-in-hand, to achieve breakthroughs that increase your donor reach and spark meaningful engagement.

Unlock Your Breakthrough

We've helped hundreds of nonprofits raise funds to fulfill their missions and make a lasting impact on our world. If you're ready to spark meaningful constituent engagement and fuel an omnichannel fundraising program, we're ready too! 

Complete the form below and we'll get the conversation started.

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