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Why your nonprofit needs a sales funnel

Sometimes called “donor funnels” or “cultivation funnels,” nonprofits have learned how to build sales funnels just like business entities. 

Some nonprofit leaders have gone as far as acquiring certified business coaches to help them understand how to merge their mission with growing overheads.  

A good number of nonprofits today have picked a leaf from business enterprises. They too have embraced best practices in branding, marketing, service delivery models, money management, and leadership.

However, there are still some nonprofit leaders that are a bit hesitant to learn from the business community. There are a number of similarities they can learn from each other. 

In this article, we cover;

  • Why you should learn from the business community 
  • What’s there to learn from them
  • How you can use that knowledge to build a sales funnel

Why should you learn from the business community?

Just like in the business sector, there is competition 

You’re competing for donations with thousands of other nonprofits. That’s why as a nonprofit, you have to develop approaches and skills that businesses use to improve your competitive position and long- term health. If say, your nonprofit belongs to the 45,000 nonprofits dedicated to women & girls in the United States, how are you supposed to stand out?  

Nonprofits have bills to pay 

Nonprofits have bills to pay which may not always be fully covered by donations especially for startups.

That’s why in 2020, during the Covid’19 pandemic, a number of nonprofits realised the need to develop sustainable business models to grow their overheads and generate more steady income flows.  

What’s there to learn from the business community?


Invest in your employees, operations and your projects.

Business leaders always invest in having a high-quality company culture, benefits, and decent salaries for employees to ensure high value output. 

By investing in great branding & marketing for your organisation, your employees and your organization as a whole, you can multiply your funds and ultimately do more good.

Diverse income streams 

There isn’t a successful business today operating with one main income source. In business, they apply the BCG Model that identifies which product /service brings in money daily, which one brings in the highest return on investment, which one has the highest potential to grow in the market and which needs to be abandoned. 

THE BCG Matrix

Nonprofits have to develop healthy diverse income streams. From sales, sponsorships, partnerships, and philanthropy. This includes contributions from individuals, foundations, government, and corporations. 


To be successful in creating multiple streams of income, nonprofits have to imitate business marketing strategies and tailor them with messages that align with their missions. The psychology of marketing in the nonprofit world is different and has to be applied strategically. There are a couple of strategies to adopt all the same like content marketing, storytelling and cold emailing. 

Building a donation funnel 

Sales & Marketing Funnels are all the rage. Sadly, we don’t see them as often in the nonprofit space yet digital fundraising continues to grow. 

Funnels are really a fancy way of saying that you want to take your customer (or donor) on a journey.  

Just like in business, the marketing team doesn’t bombard a customer. The team uses AIDA model to create an effective sales funnel.

People often don’t donate right away. Take your donor on a first date to get to know you. Invite them for a couple of more dates and get them to know you better to invest in you. 

AIDA Model for nonprofits

Examples of strategies to use in your donation funnel 

Lead Generating PDF or Resource 

Many times, a donor might feel the urge to donate although not immediately. 

Provide a free download about your donor processes highlighting projects and previous donors. It will help you build trust and desire for new potential donors.

Providing free downloads is one way to optimise your email acquisition landing page  as opposed to simply asking them to subscribe to your newsletter. 

Landing Page Asking for a Donation

In the PDF download, after you’ve convinced and built trust around your donor processes, you can now add a link to a landing page to get them to donate. Make sure your donation page is clear and concise integrated with simple forms and a 3 step process. 

I found this guide to donor cultivation quite useful. You can get it here.  


Emotive storytelling is crucial to nonprofits. It’s how you sell your brand and your work. With every newsletter, brand campaign including your website, make sure you’re telling success stories, impact stories and beneficiary stories. 

No one wants to read lengthy write ups on your mission and your work. Show it through storytelling videos, don’t just tell. 

Marketing is not some hard concept as many have made it seem. Effective online courses on marketing  have been made simple and fun to learn with personal coaches that can help you learn all about building a donation funnel and more from  BMS University.  

Here’s something I’ve learned as a founder of a nonprofit and a digital marketing agency. There are many best practices in the business community, which sadly are not being leveraged by nonprofit leaders. I think the Marketing Made Simple Course from Business Made Simple University is a great place to start to learn the basics of building a donation funnel.” Ryan Crozier, Business Made Simple Coach

era92 is more than a design agency. Profits from our work help us train youth in Uganda with digital skills.

Tess Hazel

Tess Hazel is the copywriter at era92 Creative. She loves to read novels and runs a personal blog about poetry and creative nonfiction short stories.

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+1(213) 674-9869

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USA Office

9385 12th Ave Sw seattle, wa 98106
+1(213) 674-9869

UK Office

12 Mill Square Portstewart BT55 7TB Northern Ireland
+44 7956 989809‬

Uganda Office

Lungujja, Kampala along Kalema Road
+256 784 239 786‬


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