Pardot for Nonprofits: 5 Simple Ways to Increase Donor Engagement, Generate Prospects, & Build Powerful CTAs

Pardot is a powerful donor acquisition and engagement tool, perfect for small to mid-sized nonprofit communications teams, membership organizations, and higher education institutions

Pardot is marketing automation software from Salesforce that enables communicators to design dynamic marketing collateral, create custom multi-step email campaigns, and build triggers without code. Often categorized as a B2B marketing tool, Pardot is also a powerful donor acquisition and engagement tool perfect for small to mid-sized nonprofit communications teams, membership organizations, and higher education institutions. In this article, we’ll explore a few of our favorite tips and tricks for nonprofits seeking to take their Pardot usage to the next level.

Don’t Use Salesforce Leads? Reverse Your Sync 

If your organization is syncing Pardot with Salesforce, when a new prospect is created in Pardot and there is no matching contact or lead, Pardot will create a new lead by default. For many organizations, this setting is sufficient. It allows marketing and engagement teams time to learn more about the prospect before converting them into a contact and household where other departments, like annual fundraising and planned giving, might operate.

However, in our experience implementing Pardot, many nonprofit organizations choose not to utilize Salesforce leads. If this is the case for your organization, you will want to contact Pardot Support and ask them to reverse the sync. With this setting enabled, Pardot will create a new contact if it is not able to find a matching contact or lead in Salesforce to sync with.

Review this knowledge article to learn more about reversing the sync.  

Use Automation Rules to Notify an Assigned Major Gift Officer When a High-Capacity Prospect Has RSVP’d

While it is possible to utilize completion actions to notify a user whenever a prospect completes a Pardot form or form handler, it is not currently possible to conditionalize when these completion actions fire (vote for the Idea here!). Completion actions are all or nothing. If a prospect successfully completes the action, the task (e.g., notify a Salesforce user) will be triggered. But what if you need to trigger a task only when a particular prospect completes an action? We recommend leveraging automation rules to achieve a similar result.

Imagine that you would like to notify a major gifts officer when a prospect in their portfolio whose total giving exceeds $10,000 has RSVP’d to an upcoming event. Simply navigate to the Automation tab in Pardot and create a new automation rule using the following criteria:

Prospect Form :: <Select the name of your Form> :: was completed successfully


Prospect Custom Field :: <Select a custom field that measures total giving> :: is greater than :: 10,000

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Questions to ask yourself before implementing: 

  • Is your form hosted on a Pardot landing page? If it is, you must utilize the “prospect landing page was completed successfully” criteria instead of “prospect form was completed successfully,” as it is the landing page, not the form, that will trigger the automation.
  • Do you need to send the notification if the prospect completes the form a second or third time? If so, choose to allow the rule to match prospects more than once. 
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Leverage Grades and Profiles to Identify Capacity Early and Send Content that Resonates

An under-utilized Pardot feature, grades, allow you to determine at-a-glance how well a prospect fits an ideal profile. Different from Pardot scores which reveal how interested a prospect is in your organization, grades reveal how interested your organization should be in the prospect.

In fundraising, we talk a lot about capacity, which is an attempt to measure how likely a constituent is to donate financially to an organization based on property, affiliations, etc. When leveraged properly, capacity enables organizations to build better major gifts portfolios and connect potential donors with programs or fundraising areas with the greatest need.

How do you configure grades to measure donor capacity? 

Work with your development department to determine which qualities they use to identify capacity. Then, ask your Salesforce admin to build custom fields to capture these qualities quantitatively. In Pardot, modify the default profile to focus on capacity and utilize automation rules to adjust a prospect’s grade up or down depending on how well their qualities match the new profile. A grade of A or A+ would indicate high capacity while a grade D or lower would indicate that the prospect has either not been graded or has low capacity.

Once grades have been implemented, you can use them to segment lists, develop dynamic content, or build complex rule logic in engagement programs.

Learn more about configuring grades and profiles here

Turn Repeating Engagement Programs into Powerful Membership Renewal Campaigns

Prior to the Winter ’19 Release, if a prospect had reached the end step of an engagement program, they would no longer be eligible to re-enter the program, even if you made additions to the program or changed the recipient list. By selecting the setting “allow prospects to enter program more than once,” you may permit a prospect to cycle through your program from the beginning as many times as you would like. This has powerful applications for membership renewal campaigns, volunteer onboarding, and donor recapture campaigns.  

Imagine you want to send membership renewal emails 90, 60, and 30 days prior to a membership expiration date. By leveraging repeating programs, you can continue to utilize the same sequence year-over-year. Simply pause the program and swap out new email templates as necessary to keep the design collateral fresh.

We will explore in-depth how to build repeating engagement programs in an upcoming post.  

Ready to experiment on your own? Keep the following in mind before enabling your first repeating program: 

  • All Pardot editions may have up to 10 scheduled, active repeating programs at one time
  • After you have enabled a program to repeat, you cannot disable this setting; however, you may edit the number of times a prospect is eligible to re-enter. 
  • Prospects will receive the same email template more than once. If you want your prospects to receive different content each time they cycle through the program, use rules to ensure a prospect will not travel down the same path.  

Review a full list of repeating program considerations here

Pardot Plus Edition and Higher: Use Scoring Categories to Determine Interest 

How can you tell if a prospect is more interested in supporting your organization philanthropically or through acts of service? Available in Pardot Plus editions or higher, custom scoring categories enable you to evaluate a prospect’s engagement with different types of marketing assets.

Imagine we have two custom scoring categories: fundraising score and volunteer score. If a prospect opens every email with service-related CTAs, but immediately discards all annual fund emails, their volunteer score will increase while their fundraising score will decrease. Since high scores indicate strong interest, we can utilize a prospect’s score to send content curated specifically for their expressed interest.

Before implementing custom scoring categories, please keep the following in mind:

  • Your organization must have a Pardot Plus account or higher 
  • Each scoring category can be related to multiple folders, but one folder can be related to one and only one scoring category 
  • Subfolders inherit the scoring category of their parent folder 
  • Custom scoring categories cannot be used as criteria in dynamic content.

In an upcoming series, we will explore each of these topics in depth! 

Can’t wait to get started, but need a little help? 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.  

Contact us to learn about our Pardot consulting services. 

You Might Also Like: 

Pardot Basics for Nonprofit and Education 

Syncing Preferred Email Addresses in NPSP or EDA with Pardot 

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.