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We all love supporting good causes, but when there’s only so much in the budget for giving, how do we choose the nonprofits or charities to donate to? Many times, our support can be fueled by a passion for a particular cause or our donations can be made in memory of a loved one. But it can also very well be the case that the nonprofits who receive the most gifts do the best job of, well, asking for them.

In the age of social media, digital marketing, paid advertising, and an endless list of channels to tune into, nonprofits have to work twice as hard on their communications and branding—without an increased budget.

Enter email marketing: every nonprofit marketer’s best friend. When used correctly, email marketing can be an efficient means of communicating with volunteers and donors. Email can also create new touchpoints for relationships and fundraising.

While we see a lot of nonprofits using email marketing well, here are a few of our favorites to use for inspiration:

1. Kkumi Project

From the creative logo to eye-catching photos, there’s a lot to love about the Kkumi Project’s branding. Notice how one photo is the above-the-fold “hero” of this email, drawing your eyes to the focal point of both this message and their overall mission.

Another win for the Kkumi Project is the clear CTAs (Give Now!) and the way they provide information needed for the CTA—the donation cost per month—with clarity and relevance.

The amount of text here is just right: enough to convey a story without taking away from the visuals. And that testimonial from Gerald at the bottom? Recipient testimonials are some of the most valuable tools available to nonprofit marketers.

Allow the people most directly involved with your cause to tell the story, and watch what happens.

2. American Red Cross

The American Red Cross has gotten smart about asking for blood donations, and their emails continue to impress. From seasonal callouts to emergency needs, they communicate with purpose and efficiency, and that’s something we see in every aspect of their organization.

This email in particular is great because of the gif. Many designers and marketers think gifs must be reserved for humorous occasions, which is why many nonprofits stray away from them.

However, the gif here is extremely helpful in showing someone how to sign up using their app, gaining much applause from our resident email geeks.

3. Hands On Nashville

There are a lot of great things happening in this email from local nonprofit Hands On Nashville. It begins with an encouraging quote, and then quickly provides clear CTAs for volunteering, staying on the list, or unsubscribing.

This is a good example of a re-engagement email, one that we recommend sending every so often to make sure your subscribers are expressing their communication preferences and you’re sending relevant content to keep them engaged.

When it comes to nonprofits and the variety of relationships they may have with subscribers, from volunteers to donors and everything in-between, it’s important to make sure you’re sending messages that are appropriate for each recipient and their involvement with the cause. You wouldn’t want to miss out on a potential donation just because you send too many irrelevant emails!

4. Patagonia Action Works

The work of most nonprofits can’t be easily summed up in a sentence or two. This email from Patagonia Action Works, an organization that empowers local grassroots movements on a variety of issues, shows how nonprofits can communicate their mission without creating a text-heavy email.

Image Source: Really Good Emails

This email almost functions as a landing page for a variety of readers, including previews of long-form stories, quotes, videos, and other ways to get involved. Yet, the overall layout remains clean and minimalistic, allowing each element to speak for itself without cluttering the other stories.

If your nonprofit communicates news from a variety of areas or departments, this is definitely a great example to use as inspiration.

5. The MS Society

One of the best ways for nonprofits to use email marketing? Newsletters. They’re easy to create using a template, and you’re bound to have recurring themes you can divide into content sections each month.

See how the MS Society takes advantage of a monthly email newsletter:

Image Source: Really Good Emails

This email works because it follows an organized template that evenly spaces content from images, which allows them to work together cohesively. The recurring color palette also adds to the layout of the email, signaling to the reader where they should focus on next.

6. Charity: Water

In this Charity: Water email, we see again that photography can be a make-it-or-break-it for nonprofits, and this example uses photography well. Taking photos of the real-life work and people who are a part of your nonprofit—if you can—connects donors and potential donors to your cause directly and allows them to see the effect of their individual impact.

Image Source: Really Good Emails

Another great thing this Charity: Water email has going for it is the graphics. The map provides context for the nonprofit’s work that their subscribers may not immediately relate to, but providing a visual element catches them up to speed.

The “95% of the way there” also serves as back up for the CTA, making each reader feel like they can tangibly make a difference.

Wrap up

The possibilities for nonprofit emails are endless, and they are a great tool for communicating the impact these organizations have on a local and international level.

Keeping these ideas in mind, think about how to best tell the story of your organization’s work through email marketing in order to drive engagement, increase donations, and connect with an audience that share your group’s mission.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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