Preparing for the Future of Fundraising: A Guide to Process Mapping


Artificial intelligence is already very present in our day-to-day lives, and AI for fundraising is becoming more prevalent. As this technology becomes more advanced, AI for fundraising will become more powerful and more common. 

Today we’re going to look at the first step to prepare for the future of fundraising: process mapping current fundraising practices. 

Process mapping is important for preparing for the future of fundraising because we need to understand our current fundraising practices and why we do them in order to see where fundraising AI can fit in. Then we can define the ideal state of our fundraising processes. When you know what gaps AI and technology can fill, you can begin looking for the right tools to fill those gaps. 

What is Process Mapping

You can’t start looking at ways to improve your fundraising processes with AI for fundraising unless you have a clear picture of what they are – and why you do them. A process map is a chart of your organization’s processes. When you see everything laid out visually, you can spot the areas for improvement and see how your processes fit together. 

If you’ve ever done donor journey mapping for your nonprofit, then process mapping will feel familiar to you, but rather than mapping donor touchpoints, you will map out the processes behind them.

There are multiple chart styles and strategies for process mapping, so you can choose the style and strategy that works best for your nonprofit. Here are some free tools that can help you create your process maps like Lucidchart or

How to Process Map

Process mapping may seem a bit daunting at first, but it’s straightforward once you know the steps involved. You will need to record the details of the process and each step in a document and map the flow of any data, approvals or touchpoints. 

For each step in the process, you need to answer who does it, what they are doing, why they do it, and where it’s taking place. 

Your process map will have a legend of different symbols representing the various steps. That’s why using a tool to help build your process map can be valuable. It will make it easy to choose the correct symbols and colours so you can follow the process flow.

It’s important that you map the processes objectively without any blame or emotion, and don’t leave anything out! You need to map the process in full, including any inefficiencies or flaws; after all, these discoveries are the reason you’re process mapping.

However, it’s not time just yet to start fixing anything; at this stage, you’re simply recording the process. 

Let’s do an example together. In this example, we’ll map the process of a donation arriving at a nonprofit’s office. This donation isn’t in response to a specific appeal and is addressed generally to the organization. 

We’ll start by talking to the person carrying out the first step to gather information about what they do and why. 

  • Who: In our example, the donation is opened by the receptionist.
  • Where: In this case, an employee opens the envelope at the nonprofit’s office. 
    • But you could have a process involving vendors or regional staff, so understanding where a step takes place is important.
  • What: If the donation is a cheque, the receptionist makes a photocopy of the cheque. They submit the actual cheque to the finance department and the copy to revenue development. 
  • Why: The receptionist sends the cheque to finance to deposit the donation in the nonprofit’s bank account. And the copy of the cheque is sent to the revenue development department to record the receipt of the gift, steward the donor, and determine the next steps based on the donor type. 

Talk to the next person in the process, again answering who does it, where they do it, what they are doing, and why they do it.

As you make your way through the process map, you’ll likely find that some steps have multiple branches. You may not need to map every branch of the process, just the ones that are relevant to your goal. 

In our example, the goal is to map fundraising processes. So, when the receptionist tells you they give the cheque to finance, it isn’t relevant for you to go into the steps finance takes to deposit the cheque. Knowing the cheque is deposited by someone in finance is enough.

Many fundraising processes are linked together, so your process maps will need to connect. In our example, once the copy of the cheque reaches revenue development, then there will be two possible process paths:

  1. What happens if the donation is from a new donor? 
  2. What happens if the donation is a renewal gift from a known donor? Is it different if they are an annual donor or a major donor?

Your next step is to continue mapping these next two processes and any processes that branch off using the same method from the example above. 

Mapping Your Fundraising Processes

When you dive deeper into mapping your fundraising processes, like what happens when the donation is from a new donor, you must focus on the flow of data and the why behind each process step. 

If a donation is from a new donor who may be a good major gift or mid-level prospect, the donor information is sent to prospect research. When you speak to the prospect researcher, you need them to answer these questions:

  • What data do they get, and what are they doing with it?
  • What do they do with the prospect information they gather on the donor?
  • Where is that data being saved, is it added to your CRM? Is it stored somewhere else?
  • Why do they collect the data they do? Why do they record that data in that way?

In this case, because the donor could be a major gift prospect, the information that the prospect researcher finds and records will help guide their cultivation plan. Then you can go further and map the process, data flow, and the why for the next steps. 

You should also map the stewardship process for this donation:

  • If the donor is sent a thank you letter
    • Who sends it?
    • When do they send it?
    • What do they send?
    • Why do they send that specific letter?
  • Does the donor receive other stewardship or cultivation based on their giving. What are those processes? 

You will have many fundraising processes and branches to map. Here are some ideas for you to get started: 

  • What happens when someone suggests a new prospect?
  • What happens when the researcher is asked to create a new donor profile?
  • What is the stewardship process? How is it differently based on the gift amount?
  • How do you determine which fundraiser will get which prospect?
  • How do you determine when a prospect should be removed from a portfolio?
  • What do you do with portfolios when a staff member leaves?

Once you have mapped your fundraising processes, you can look for the areas that AI can help you improve. You can also analyze your process maps to see how your fundraising processes are working together and see inefficiencies – keeping in mind, the why behind the process. 

The “why” behind all of your fundraising processes should be a great donor experience because strong donor relationships lead to more revenue to support your mission. That’s why continuously asking “why” is critical to your process mapping strategy. 

Future-Proofing Your Fundraising

Process mapping helps you to future-proof your fundraising. When AI for fundraising is more common in the nonprofit sector, your organization will be prepared to embrace these tools and not be left behind trying to catch up. 

Mapping your processes gives you an idea of what gaps AI can fill and where AI can optimize your process–you will be a step ahead in fundraising AI implementation! This will prevent your organization from losing revenue and time later on as a result of being a late adopter of AI in the industry. 

In the next post, we’ll be discussing where AI fits in your future fundraising strategy and how to see the opportunities to implement AI in your processes. 

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