Nonprofit Marketing

What Is a Marketing Funnel and How Should Nonprofits Use It?

The marketing funnel, also known as the purchase funnel or the consumer decision journey, refers to a process that consumers follow as they become aware of a product or service, consider whether or not to buy it, and finally make the purchase. Corporate marketing strategists know that their marketing message needs to reach customers and potential customers at every phase of the funnel in order to gain trust, steer them toward the desired purchase decision, and continue to engage them after the purchase is made. 

Nonprofit organizations, though they don’t have a product or service to sell, can use the funnel model to promote their social cause, create awareness, and generate support for their initiatives. This can be a powerful tool for cause marketing to attract, engage, and retain supporters, volunteers, and donors. 

Marketing Funnels for Social Impact 

Here, we share the different stages of the marketing funnel and show you how your nonprofit can benefit from this model. It is important to note that a marketing funnel with a social impact goal is not a linear process, and “consumers” (your target audience) may move back and forth between stages.


At this stage, the goal is to create awareness of the social issue or mission and make people aware of the problem. It involves identifying the target audience (see the Loyalty section below) and creating content that resonates with them. This can be done through social media, email marketing, public relations, and other forms of communication. Examples of tactics for this stage are:

  • Social media ads that target a specific demographic or interest group.
  • Influencer marketing campaigns that showcase a nonprofit’s to their followers.
  • Content marketing through blog posts, videos, and social media posts.

Once people are aware of the social issue, the next step is to generate interest in the cause. This can be done by highlighting the impact of the issue and showcasing how people can make a difference. During this stage the following tactics are key:

  • Social media posts that provide in-depth information about a nonprofit, their programming, and their mission.
  • Compelling stories or testimonials of people who have benefited from the nonprofit’s work.
  • Lead magnets, such as special content, webinars, or free trials, that provide value to potential volunteers, supporters, and funding sources in exchange for their contact information.
  • Retargeting ads that remind potential supporters of a nonprofit after they've interacted with their website or social media pages.

At this stage, people are considering how they can support the cause or get involved. It's important to provide them with actionable steps they can take to make a difference, such as donating money, volunteering, or signing petitions. This stage can be developed through:

  • Email campaigns: sending personalized email sequences to educate and inform potential supporters about the mission and ways to participate.
  • Case studies that showcase the social impact that an organization has had or is having.

This stage is focused on conversion of potential supporters into actively engaged supporters. Some examples of marketing tactics for this stage are:

  • Social media ads that include a clear Call To Action (CTA) to participate, volunteer, or donate.
  • Retargeting ads that offer a promotion to encourage potential donors to donate (e.g. free swag, being entered into a raffle), highlighting the social impact their actions will have.
  • Email campaigns profiling success stories that show the great things that have happened thanks to the generous donations of supporters.

The goal of this stage is to retain and encourage repeat support from existing supporters, partners, and donors. It is critical for this stage to include:

  • Personalized messaging through targeted email campaigns based on past donations or user behavior (e.g. filling out webforms, clicking on links in emails, making a donation.)
  • Special offline and online events that keep communication top of mind and offers them reasons for ongoing support.

Who Is Your Audience?

While drafting marketing programs for each of these stages, it is important to keep in mind whom you are targeting with your message. Developing buyer personas can help with this. Cause marketing can have a variety of audiences or stakeholders, depending on the nature of the mission and the services the nonprofit provide. Some of the key audiences include:


Beneficiaries, sometimes called constituents, are the individuals or communities that directly benefit from programs and services. For example, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help provide food and shelter for the homeless would consider homeless individuals as its primary beneficiaries. Beneficiaries may or may not follow a funnel-like path as they become aware of the organization and ask for help.


Donors – whether individuals, corporations, or foundations – have a variety of motivations. They want to support a cause that aligns with their personal values or to make a difference in their community. They might want to use their charitable contribution to make themselves look good or to receive tax benefits. When donors are the audience, remember that your messaging should clearly explain “what’s in it for them.” 


Volunteers may be motivated by a desire to give back to their community, to gain new skills or experiences, or to make social connections. 


Individuals and entities that support or fund social initiatives often collaborate with like minded organizations to leverage resources, expand their reach, and achieve common goals. These partners may include nonprofits, government agencies, corporations, or community groups. 


All social causes rely on advocates to promote their work, raise awareness about an issue, and influence public policy. Advocates may be individuals who are passionate about a cause or organizations that have a vested interest in the nonprofit's mission.  

Let’s Talk

Mustard & Moxie has years of experience supporting nonprofit organizations by building marketing initiatives that align with the org’s strategic goals. We work closely with nonprofits at all levels of the organization to provide the strategy and support they need so they can remain laser focuses on their mission.  For more information on how we have successfully helped nonprofits, contact us to schedule a free consultation.