A guide to marketing automation platforms for charities

Marketing automation is becoming a central tool for charities to communicate with their contacts at scale. John Onion, Managing Director of digital marketing agency upriseUp, compares some of the main platforms for charities.

Chloe Green | 5th Jul 18
Image representing marketing automation for charities

In the era of GDPR, it’s become even more important to keep your supporters feel valued on an individual basis to ensure they don’t reach for the dreaded ‘opt-out’ button. But engaging each contact on a manual basis is time consuming and simply impractical. That is where marketing automation software can come in.

In his article for Charity Digital News, John Onion, Managing Director of digital marketing agency UpriseUP argues that marketing automation is becoming an essential tool for charities to communicate with each supporter and important contact at scale.

Onion explains the key steps in marketing automation for charities in his blog on the UpriseUP site, while Elizabeth Carter, manager of Tech Trust’s tt-mail email marketing service, looks into some examples of charity email automation programmes here.

Choose your weapon

So how do you choose the right marketing automation software for your charity? Like any tech, there are no shortage of options. Onion has picked out four providers that vary according to budget, organisation size and the level of sophistication needed (click here to skip to the PDF).

While traditional email services are great for sending out static emails, they may be limited in how they can take into account the individual interests of your contacts, giving them a tailored experience depending on how they’ve interacted with you.

The free plan from MailChimp, for example, gives small organisations a good start in the bare bones of email marketing. But for marketers wanting to take automation to the next level, there are many better alternatives out there, some of which integrate with your existing email services.

The four providers picked out by Onion are HubSpot, Mautic, Sharpspring and Dotmailer (the platform on which charity-specific email automation platform tt-mail is built.)

“We’ve tried to provide some of the best suppliers available across various levels of commitment,” says Onion.



“There is HubSpot, one of the leaders in this market but also the most expensive; depending on requirements, charities could be looking at £1,000 or more per month.”

“You pay for it, but HubSpot goes to great lengths to ensure good usability and their service is extensive. There are a few quirks that we’ve had issue with such as how comfortably ‘sidekick’ works with or the flexibility of how it creates webpages. However, within the interface they have done a great job at supporting the users, and they offer exceptionally clear training videos that cover the major features.”


“Mautic is a relatively new, open source play on the market. There are still reported issues from a usability perspective, but we hear it is catching up. It won’t hold your hand throughout the setup process like HubSpot, but the marketeer who is experienced and prepared to put in the time can be up and running for free. Further on things are likely to continue to improve as we expect this platform to be picking up plenty of traction over the next couple of years.”


“SharpSpring keeps things simpler than its main competitor, HubSpot, and is a considerably cheaper paid alternative- less support and training but still with a comprehensive offering. Mautic provides a free open source option for the more technically capable.”

“Feedback has been that the onboarding process isn’t as extensive, but we are looking at a more focussed platform here – and the interface is perfectly easy to navigate. The only major usability issues we have heard of concern the mobile app usability.”


“And Dotmailer, our wildcard option, approaches automated marketing from the perspective of an email marketing tool that has expanded its services.”

“Dotmailer has a clean interface and is well designed. It’s automated offering is simplified compared with the competition, but it is built on a strong email platform, essential for automated, and clear usability can be enjoyed throughout.”

Tech Trust’s tt-mail platform, an intergrated automation platform designed specifically for the charity sector, is built on Dotmailer.

Click on the image below to view the PDF ‘A guide to some of the leading marketing automation providers for charities’

Marketing automation for charities