Pardot For Nonprofits: Build an Automated Stewardship Program with Engagement Studio

As a Pardot implementation partner, Candoris understands the important role communication plays in donor cultivation and stewardship. Marketing, donor relations, and fundraising teams working side-by-side not only enhances a donor’s experience, but it also inspires confidence in your organization and ensures that the way you communicate with your constituency is consistent with their philanthropic goals. However, we also understand how busy our nonprofit partners are. Often tasked to wear many hats, typical challenges faced by nonprofit professionals include burdensome manual processes, siloed systems, and time.

Engagement Studio for the Win! 

In my previous blog post, I outlined five simple ways that nonprofits could utilize Pardot to increase donor engagement, generate prospects, and build powerful CTAs. In this article, I’ll be focusing in on the Pardot marketing automation tool, Engagement Studio. Engagement Studio is Pardot’s drag-and-drop marketing automation tool. Used primarily by marketing and communications teams to design intelligent, multi-step drip programs, Engagement Studio is often thought of as “just an email automation tool.” However, with 13 actions – including “send email” ;– Engagement Studio is a perfect tool to marry donor stewardship and cultivation efforts together with internal processes like capacity screening, portfolio assignment, and outreach.

Read on to learn how to leverage this powerful Pardot feature to build a customized first-time donor stewardship program.

Leverage Engagement Studio to Build a Customized First-Time Donor Stewardship Program 

Step 1: Define Your Audience 

Prior to building any engagement program, it is best practice to define your audience. For example, how does your organization define a first-time donor? Do you plan to vary your email content by donation type (e.g., major gift, annual fund, in-kind), donor status (e.g., major, mid-level, recurring), or both? Should any donors be excluded from the program (e.g., donors in a particular major gift officer’s portfolio or employees)? Answering these questions early is important – it will minimize future program revisions and ensure each audience you define receives content tailored specifically to them.

Example Audience Definition: 

  • first-time donor is any individual who has made a gift this year but has not made a gift in the past two years (i.e., a first-time donor can be a lapsed donor or a new donor) 
  • Donor stewardship plans and email content will vary by a donor’s lifetime giving, which is broken down into three categories: major gift, mid-level giving, and annual fund 
    • Major gift is a lifetime giving of over $5,000 
    • Mid-level giving is a lifetime giving between $500 and $4,999 
    • Annual fund is a lifetime giving between $5 and $499 
  • We need the ability to manually add or remove donors from the engagement program, so our program must be fed by a static list that is CRM visible. 

Step 2: Assemble the Ingredients 

Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack – known as NPSP – comes installed with several fields used to surface relevant donor statistics like first gift date, lifetime giving, and average gift amount (learn more about customizable rollups here). Pardot considers these NPSP fields custom, so you do have to deliberately sync them to a prospect record to use them in automation and segmentation. For our program, we chose to use four NPSP fields: Total Gifts This Year, Total Gifts, Number of Gifts Two Years Ago, and Number of Gifts Last Year.

To sync the NPSP fields to Pardot, go to Pardot Settings> Object and Field Configuration > Prospect Fields > Add Custom Field:

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Repeat this step for each custom field you need to sync with Pardot.

Next, we must create a recipient list. For this example, we chose a static, CRM visible recipient list. By using a static, CRM visible list, we can give our colleagues on the fundraising team the ability to add donors into the program manually or remove donors from the program who might require a more customized stewardship approach.

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We finish up segmentation by creating three dynamic lists, one for each of the donor segments (annual fund, mid-level giving, and major gift). We chose to make these lists dynamic so that they could be repurposed across multiple programs and list emails. As donors increase their philanthropic giving, they will be automatically removed from one list and placed on another without any manual intervention from staff. In this example program, we use these dynamic lists within a list rule to control which of the three stewardship experiences the donor receives.

Mid-Level Giving Donors dynamic list criteria:

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Annual Fund Donors dynamic list used to branch engagement program logic:

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Next, we create and activate an automation rule to automatically add new donors into our static recipient list. Automation rules are retroactive and continuous, so we recommend you test thoroughly before you activate (learn more about automation rules here).

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Finally, we can create a custom tag to associate with all donors who have successfully completed the first-time donor program. Adding the “stewarded” tag to the Pardot prospect record is the final step in our program (on the fence about using tags? Read about popular use cases here.)

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Step 3: Build the Engagement Program 

How you build your program depends on how you intend to steward your audience segments. For instance, in this example we determined all donors in our program should receive the same welcome email prior to being sent into distinct stewardship processes. After the welcome email, all annual fund donors continued into an impact-rich email series while our mid-level and major-gift donors receive a few personalized touchpoints prior to receiving a slightly modified version of the impact series. Each touchpoint is assigned to a gift officer or donor relations team member using the assign task action.

We can also use Engagement Studio to do some behind-the-scenes work like scheduling a task for a colleague to determine donor capacity for our major and mid-level givers.

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Below is just one example of how you might use Pardot’s Engagement Studio to automate donor stewardship, streamline internal tasking, and deliver relevant, impactful messaging. The possibilities, though, are truly endless with ample room for creativity.

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How Can We Help? 

Like what you see, but need a little help to get started? Candoris is a Salesforce Premium Partner with Nonprofit Cloud Master Competency, and we are privileged to have been chosen as a Pardot implementation partner by over 45 nonprofit organizations. As a complement to our implementation specialists, our software development team builds bespoke Pardot integrations using the Pardot API to accommodate complex business use-cases. Partnering with Candoris means partnering with a team that will confidently customize solutions for today’s needs and tomorrow’s dreams.


About the author

Implementation Specialist

Janice is an Implementation Specialist on the Software Development team at Candoris where she helps organizations customize Salesforce and explore its endless possibilities. She graduated from the University of North Texas with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a minor in music, and began her career working in advancement, donor engagement, and marketing within some of Pittsburgh’s top arts and education organizations. She quickly uncovered a deep appreciation for process automation, analytics, and UX design, and holds several Salesforce certifications. Janice is humbled by the opportunity to use her passions at Candoris to help nonprofits leverage technology to do work that makes our communities stronger.