Workflows: Supercharging Donor Cultivation with Automation

Ellen Bristol

Donor cultivation is the long game — lots of follow-up, lots of “touches,” lots and lots of details that need doing by the typical development officer. When they’re managing relationships with 30, 40, 100 or more individuals at once, it takes a lot of time. And there are tons of tasks that are so easy to put off until tomorrow. You know, the boring ones. Like thank you’s, acknowledgements, reminders, and follow-up calls.

There’s no way your hard-working development staff can handle all those thousands of touches without working intolerable hours. Workflows can automate many of these tasks, which saves time and ensures none of your supporters get left out.


53% of donors cite poor communications as the reason they no longer support a nonprofit.

Source: Adrian Sargent, 2000

Unfortunately, too many nonprofit organizations appear to ignore the need to handle all those little touches, to the point that they may lose cherished major donor relationships. If you were giving big gifts, and you never heard from your charitable recipient, would you be inclined to continue giving? I don’t think I would.

When NeonCRM announced their Workflows feature, I was really excited — for several reasons. First, Workflows have a direct, positive impact on fundraising productivity, because they help raises major gift officer productivity by automating all those important stewardship tasks. And second, they also automate the huge amount of marketing and outreach touches needed to acquire major donors in the first place.

Why You Should Care About Automation

Development officers have demanding jobs. They’re up late and early, they eat too much rubber chicken, they work weekends, and they hear “no” an awful lot. If we asked them to work harder, they would probably throw a stapler at our heads. Nonetheless, even the hardest-working professionals may falter, and:

  • Things may fall between the cracks
  • Acknowledgements and thank-you’s don’t always go out on time
  • It’s easy to forget to update the CRM
  • You’re not always sure what takes priority right now

Tasks like these are so important. But they’re also tedious, time-consuming, repetitive, and seem like low priority. They are just begging to be automated.

As important as they are, we think of them as “$10/hour” jobs, tasks that could (conceivably) be handled by entry-level workers. It can be troubling to have your major gift officers handle them, especially when their time is so scarce and valuable — 86% of nonprofit staff say they do “extra work” outside of their actual job description. On the other hand, how many nonprofits can afford the extra staff it would take to push out all those thank-you’s and reminders?

Save Time with Workflows

NeonCRM’s new Workflows feature is a great way to manage all those many touches, without exhausting your development shop. This a real contributor to fundraising productivity — our favorite subject at Bristol Strategy Group!


74% of users of automation software cite the time saved as the biggest benefit of adopting that software.

Source: Adestra

Fundraising productivity, or fundraising effectiveness if you prefer, means getting the most and the best work of fundraising done with the least possible effort and cost. We designed our approach, Fundraising the SMART Way™, specifically to improve development-shop productivity.

When NeonCRM released Workflows, we realized it was a game changer for fundraising with a direct, tangible impact on productivity. You and your team now get to work LESS and raise MORE. Pretty nice.

NeonCRM's Workflows feature helps you save time by automating repetitive data entry and communications tasks

Workflows are based on a simple two-part concept:

  1. Identify a sequence of things that need to happen, to support relationships with donors.
  2. Then automate the sequence.

Workflows handle the high-urgency, low-cost tasks brilliantly. These are typically the things that get overlooked, don’t get done at all, or get dropped in the middle.

Major gift officers may be brilliant, but they’re also human. The gift officer might forget to follow up, but the Workflow can’t — the follow-up was designed right into it. Workflows typically are used for things like:

  • Sending thank-you letters and acknowledgements
  • Scheduling a series of communications, with built-in if/then logic and customized options for those who respond this way and those who respond that way
  • Prompting a series of internal tasks or reminders, so things don’t fall through the cracks
  • Tracking historical data, so you can figure out what’s working and what’s not

Get ahead of the donor cultivation curve


42.21% of nonprofit professionals cite marketing automation as a higher priority for their organization.

Source: 2018 NTEN Digital Outlook Report

With Workflows, your major gift officers can now manage all those high-urgency, low-priority tasks predictably, consistently, and on time. Workflows can help acquire and engage major donor prospects by enhancing your marketing and outreach, just as easily as they can handle the “after” stuff (acknowledgements, thanks, follow-ups). They can maintain good communications with donors. They can make sure your donors, and even other members of your team, are always up to date on these evolving relationships.

So what does this do for you? Donor relations become stronger. And when donors feel engaged and acknowledged they are more likely to give again, at higher levels.

Contact us to learn more about setting up Workflows and get our free download Productivity Tips for Cultivating Major Gifts.

Need help optimizing your donor cultivation with Workflows? Get a private consult with Bristol Strategy Group!

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