When your nonprofit started using email to reach your donors and other contacts, your team most likely signed up for one of the many basic email marketing tools out there like Constant Contact or Mailchimp (among many, many others). And while I am sure there have been a few hiccups along the way, this system has mostly served you well.

But now your organization is growing and your donor base is getting bigger (yay!) and you find yourself in a technology dilemma — is it time to upgrade my email marketing tool?

There are many benefits to using basic email marketing tools like Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor. Things like easy set up and access, design templates, and general ease of list management.

There is also generally less of a learning curve to use these products so more people are able to manage it on their own without the help of a specialist.

Marketing automation platforms like Salesforce Pardot, ClickDimensions or Active Campaign are typically the next step up from these basic tools. These platforms come with direct connections with your CRM which allows for flexible, powerful, and fully-automated lists and processes.

Another key feature of these platforms is data. Marketing and fundraising data can be analyzed together in the same system. This means fundraising staff have more insight into what their donors have received and opened, and gives them tools how to move forward with their campaigns.

So when should you upgrade your marketing platform?

The biggest indicator that you need to upgrade is when your email marketing strategy and analysis needs become more nuanced and sophisticated than the platform (and your staff!) can handle. Do you need more automation? What about list size? How well is your email tool working with your CRM?

Moving to one of these marketing automation platforms is a substantial undertaking for both the organization and the implementer, so of course this change doesn’t come lightly. There are list rules and other automations to configure. There are also templates to design and set. However once all this is complete, the data and lists can manage themselves—even with highly complex, multi-branch timed or action-dependent email flows.

There is also a cost involved in this upgrade. For many organizations, this is definitely a huge factor to consider and can be a decision breaker. However, many times the benefits of upgrading can actually provide a decent return on investment by growing your online donations and outreach efforts.

If you are still on the fence about whether or not your nonprofit is ready to make this big switch, our team at Tackle would be happy to share our insights. We have worked with a lot of marketing automation systems, especially using these specifically for nonprofits, and would be more than willing to help guide you to this next phase.

  • With over 15 years working in the nonprofit and technology sector, Shannon has seen a little bit of everything regarding marketing to and from nonprofits. Some good, some bad, but regardless she hopes her insights help strengthen your organization.

  • In over 15 years as nonprofit technology professional, Jeff developed a passion for helping organizations of all sizes achieve their technology goals. He has worked on both the client side and as a consultant. Fundraising technology can provide unique challenges to nonprofits, and Jeff lives for finding uniquely creative solutions.

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