Developing the Donor Journey: Innovative Design, Personalization and Automation

By Heather Todd and Aaren Ballinger


The donor experience is a totality of cognitive, sensory, and behavioral responses during all stages of the donor lifecycle process including cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship. You may have heard this experience referred to as a “journey” - a life cycle that as it moves through various stages has the potential to follow a variety of paths. Determining that optimum path is crucial to optimizing your outreach.



The donor journey encompasses all the experiences that donors go through when interacting with your organization. Instead of looking at just one part of a transaction or experience, the donor journey considers the full experience. Right from the early moments where a constituent becomes aware of your organization to their post-transactional experience, any loyalty creation efforts you employ, can ultimately lead to brand advocacy. It is important to note that the donor journey of every organization is unique.


Traditionally, organizations have taken a single touch-point approach to the donor journey. This means identifying key points of donor interaction (i.e. mail, call center, web, etc.) and measuring/monitoring the effectiveness of them. Metrics on each are used to identify problem areas and initiate positive change.


Simply put, the donor journey is an agile, dynamic transformation to an organization’s marketing, fundraising, and communications strategy. The donor journey is the combination of data dimensions and touchpoints to develop a story/experience to increase fundraising and retain and upgrade donors. Below are some tips on donor journey strategy:


Determine your organization’s objectives.

What do you want to achieve? Identify some key KPIs to measure your success. Some common metrics include donor retention rate, effort response rates, rates of upgraded annual contributions, and donor loyalty measures.


Develop a donor journey map.

A donor journey map is a visual illustration of the full donor journey with the organization across major and minor touchpoints. Portraying the donor’s experience in different phases and intensities, a donor journey map is a holistic approach to understanding the experience flow a donor has with the organization. Many organizations build out a customization to their CRM that allows them to view individual donors journeys directly in a constituent record.


Did you know: Blackbaud Pacific and BrightVine have a feature pack that allows for more management of the donor Journey? Take your journeys to the next level and allow your fundraisers to see more visual representations of the donor journey. If you'd like to learn more about the supporter journey pack, please contact Brightvine (if you're in North America) or Blackbaud Pacific (outside of North America.)




Create micro-journeys any time you create a new program.

Micro-journeys are specific to a program or effort. Each time you create a new program or fundraising campaign, have a conversation about the donor journey in your planning process. Put real thought around the next steps you will take with a supporter once they give to a campaign. Don’t let the acknowledgement be the end point - make it part of a longer conversation you are having with your donor. Highlight opportunities to engage further.


Most donor journey maps are organization-centric in the sense that they look at touchpoints based on the organization’s perception of where the donors should be, as opposed to where donors are currently in the journey.


Analyze, prioritize and fix roadblocks.

What processes or platforms need to be corrected or built? Is there a need to break everything down and start from scratch? Or are a few simple changes all that’s necessary for a big impact? For instance, if donors frequently complain about how complicated your event registration is or drop-off at step 2 of a 5 step online process, it’s probably time to revamp it and make things easier.



Personalize, personalize, personalize!

Segment and personalize your donor journeys just like you would your fundraising efforts. Leverage advanced analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to enable personalization at scale. Overlay quantitative elements from multiple sources, such as website analytics, CRM, online stores, and other sources.


Update and improve the donor journey over time.

This is not a “set it and forget it” effort. Your donors are changing and evolving. Consider it a living document that will continue to grow and develop. If possible, test, update, and improve your donor journey map every 6 months. In addition, donor journey maps should also be tweaked accordingly whenever you introduce significant changes to your programs, project, and/or services.


Contact us to learn more about how BrightVine Solutions can assist you with strengthening and executing your donor journey strategy.