How to Build A Donor Journey Map

A donor journey map shepherds new supporters through your stewardship process to help them build meaningful relationships with your nonprofit - learn how.

Donor stewardship isn’t a one-size-fits-all task. However, you can make the process easier by identifying different donor cohorts—mid-level givers, grassroots supporters, and volunteers, for example. For each group, you can then set specific goals and relevant paths of engagement to guide your donor stewardship efforts.

A donor journey map shepherds new supporters through your stewardship process to help them build meaningful relationships with your nonprofit and be motivated to give their first donation. You can also use it to move current donors up the engagement ladder, such as recognizing when a grassroots supporter is ready to become a recurring donor. Below, we’ll cover more on what a donor journey map is, why you need one, and how to get started building yours.

Download: Donor Cultivation & Stewardship Plan Template

What Is a Donor Journey Map?

A donor journey map is a blueprint for donor cultivation and stewardship. It lets your development team visualize the steps donors move through between their first interaction with your nonprofit and becoming lifelong supporters of your cause. 

It can help you quickly gauge the strength of a donor’s relationship with your nonprofit, whether it’s time to adjust your stewardship goals for them, and which engagement touchpoint you want to deploy next.

What Are the Phases in a Donor Journey Map?

There are four phases in a donor journey map. Each is tied to a set of actions nonprofits take to grow relationships with donors. These four phases mirror the four steps of the donor lifecycle:

  1. Prospecting: This stage is about keeping notes on potential new donors and their first interactions with your nonprofit. Identify consistent volunteers, people active on your social media pages, and individuals who have given major gifts to similar causes.

  2. Cultivation: This phase involves reaching out to prospects and providing them with opportunities for further engagement. Respond to their social media comments, invite them to an event, or email them an update on your flagship program.

  3. Requesting: This step is about making your ask. Once you’ve fostered a relationship with a prospective donor, send them your end-of-year appeal, ask on social media for them to join your recurring givers circle, or invite them to launch a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.

  4. Stewardship: The final and ongoing phase in a donor journey map is stewardship. After supporters have made a donation, thank them and continue to offer ways for them to grow their connection to your cause in advance of your next request.

Why Is a Donor Journey Map Important for Nonprofits?

It can be challenging to keep up with the many moving parts of running a successful nonprofit. You don’t want to let any of your donors inadvertently slip through the cracks or receive the wrong type of connection at the wrong time. A donor journey map helps your fundraising team stay aligned on goals for each donor cohort so you can continue to implement timely, effective donor stewardship strategies.

A donor journey map also helps you better learn about your donors so you can improve their involvement with your nonprofit. As you move through the map’s different phases, you’ll take notes on how they respond to your actions. This lets your team tailor their experience and move them to different engagement cohorts as needed. This improved connection can ultimately lead to lifelong support, repeated donations, and greater engagement from your donors.

Finally, donor maps assist with visualizing your nonprofit’s future and tracking your progress toward it. For example, you can see how close you are to increasing your number of monthly recurring donors and how that sustainable revenue will allow you to implement new initiatives.

3 Tips for Building a Donor Journey Map

Building an effective donor journey map requires team buy-in and a consistent process. These three tips can help you implement and refine your donor journey map.

1. Set Personalized Goals for Each Donor Segment

Different donor cohorts will have different stewardship goals. For volunteers, your goal may be to encourage them to give their first monetary donation, whereas for annual donors, your goal might be to shift them to a monthly gift cadence. You may even have specific goals for lapsed donors to inspire them to support your cause again.

Your stewardship touchpoints will look different based on donor levels and related goals. With a volunteer, your engagement strategy may include sending a handwritten thank-you note for their service and then inviting them to launch a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign for their birthday. With an annual donor, you could invite them to a volunteer event to grow their personal connection to your cause before asking them to join your community of monthly donors.

For each donor cohort, map out what the unique stewardship touchpoints will be in your donor journey map to reach your goals.

2. Create a Standard Operating Procedure

To track progress in your donor journey map, you’ll need to collect data on how donors respond to your stewardship actions. You’ll also need to know who on your staff is responsible for which steps in your donor cultivation process.

A standard operating procedure (SOP) helps get your full team on the same page through written policies and procedures concerning your development department’s core functions. This includes data management expectations. 

When developing or reviewing your SOP, think about it in terms of your donor journey map, and ask questions like:

  • What data are important for us to collect, and at what stages in the donor journey?
  • How often will we review progress through our donor journey map for different cohorts?
  • Who is responsible for updating our donor journey maps?

Use your responses to establish step-by-step instructions in your SOP that help your team stay organized, meet fundraising goals, and connect with your donors.

3. Review and Revise Your Process Regularly

Once you’ve built a donor journey map, you need to put it into action. Your donor journey map is a living document that needs to be regularly reviewed and revised to be the most effective.

Plan to check in as a team at least quarterly to review donor relationship metrics. You’ll want to pay particular attention to:

  • Interactions: Are you on track with the frequency of interactions you planned for each donor? Are you consistently reaching out and inviting donors to be involved with your cause?
  • Sentiment: Are donors responding positively to your engagement strategies? Which strategies are receiving the lowest response rate?
  • Referrals: Are donors inviting friends to join your cause? How have your different donor cohorts grown or changed over time?

As you review progress along your donor journey maps, pinpoint what’s working and what needs to change in order to meet your goals.

Leverage a Donor Journey Map to Elevate Your Donor Stewardship Efforts

A donor journey map provides a blueprint for how to initiate and grow lasting relationships with donors. Build one to keep your team on track and motivated to reach your development goals.

Instil makes mapping donor journeys easy. The platform has an option to track donor sentiment, letting your team quickly review which engagement tactics work best to move donors through your map’s different phases. Holistic community profiles and simple data visualizations are also built right into the solution for organized, accessible data analysis. 

Contact the Instil team
for questions, demos, or educational materials any time through our website to learn more about how our software can work for you.

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