Published April 2016, updated July 2019
When you think of your nonprofit organization, the first question that comes to mind probably isn’t this: “How am I going to raise awareness through effective email marketing strategies?”
But maybe it should be.
While this question may not feel like the most pressing initially, there are some important reasons why it is.
Through the email marketing efforts of your nonprofit organization, you will be able to reach more individuals, get more press, raise extra funds for your cause, attract talented board members, find volunteers that will help you grow, and, ultimately, accomplish your goals.
In this post, we’ll share must-know tips to help your nonprofit use email marketing for success.
Why email marketing is important for nonprofits
Before we talk about strategies for improving your email marketing efforts, it’s important to understand why email marketing is such a good investment.
It’s safe to say that setting up a solid email strategy is the single most important thing you can do in terms of marketing as a nonprofit organization. Why? Because email marketing has the single best ROI of any marketing tactic at $38 for every dollar spent.
When you’re working on a tight budget, no other marketing channel can get you the bang for your buck that email marketing can.
Email marketing also provides you the opportunity to build relationships with people that have expressed direct interest in your cause by signing up for your email list.
The people on your email list are asking for more information from your organization, which means, these are the people that will most likely be supporting your cause with time, money, or both.
Additionally, not only will your subscribers be your donors, but they will also be your loyal followers and your volunteers. Email marketing is your chance to draw people in, capture their attention, and keep them coming back to help you advocate your cause.
Now let’s discuss the tips for nonprofit email success:
1. Grow your list
You want to make sure you have a strategy in place to collect email addresses and continually grow your email list.
The Fundraising Authority, an excellent resource for nonprofits, is a great example of how to effectively gain permissions.
This nonprofit touts the importance of correctly branding your website and landing pages in order to urge interested visitors to subscribe to further communications.
In fact, The Fundraising Authority calls attention to their own website as a good example for other nonprofits to follow. They ask for permissions everywhere on their website and landing pages.
For example, they have newsletter sign ups in their navigation bar, on the top right sidebar of every page, on all of their blog posts, and more.
The Fundraising Authority focuses on email list signups in order to build a solid and ongoing relationship with subscribers.
The American Red Cross does the same as you can see in this example of the email signup form on their website:
When you optimize your website and landing pages for email subscriptions, you will see your email list sign-ups increase, which can help you grow your community.
2. Tell your story
It’s not a stretch to say that the main reason people subscribe to your email list is because they’re interested in your cause.
Your subscribers want to know what motivated you to start a nonprofit organization, how your organization will help make the world better, and how their donation of money or time will make a difference. In short, they want to know your story.
So, tell them.
Consider the example from UNICEF. The email copy is personal, introduces readers to a real person (13-year-old Fatima), immediately engages readers, and also tugs at the heartstrings. By telling the story, UNICEF is able to show exactly how subscribers can take small steps to make a large difference.
If you really want to draw your readers in, do the same. Tell your story.
3. Send a variety of emails
Here are some other ideas for the types of emails you should be sending your subscribers.
What is a nonprofit if not a community of like-minded individuals doing good? A welcome email goes a long way in letting your subscribers know you’re important to the success of the organization. You can use email automation to trigger a welcome email each time a new subscriber joins your list.
Your subscribers may need more information about how their donation is put to work before making a contribution to your cause. A great way to inform your potential donors is to send them a series of emails that explains how the organization works and how the funds are used.
Do you have an event your nonprofit is sponsoring? If so, let your subscribers know with an email event invitation. They will often be more than happy to show up and throw their support behind your cause.
If they don’t have time to come to the event, offer them an alternative way to donate by providing a call to action and an online option to donate.
Donors do so much to keep nonprofits running and to make a difference. When they donate, say thank you in a timely fashion. You can trigger a thank you email to be sent each time someone makes a donation using email automation.
UNICEF has an excellent thank you email:
People love numbers that tell them how much progress your organization has made. After you finish a campaign, send an email and share the results. Knowing that they’ve made a difference is a powerful motivator for future support.
4. Include strong calls to action
The purpose of your email marketing campaigns is to get your subscribers to take action, so remember to tell your subscribers what you need from them with a strong call to action.
Here are some great ideas for nonprofit calls to action:
- Donate now
- Join together in the cause
- Make a difference today
- Support the organization today
- Help someone in need now
- Send your love and support by…
- Offer your help today
- Get involved now
Also, see this list of 80+ words you can use in your emails to help make them more effective.
Using metrics to plan future campaigns
Email marketing ideas for nonprofits aren’t based on design tips alone. While it helps to know how to write the copy and make the graphics for email for nonprofits, you also need to consider the strategy and execution. These are two of the core components in all of content marketing, no matter what you’re creating.
As far as an email marketing strategy for nonprofits, you should always start with the data. Once you’ve been in the email game for a bit, you’ve likely figured out the type of feedback you get from your audience. And we’re not just talking about replies.
The information you get back includes metrics about open rates, response rates, and much more. When you use these metrics, you can plan future campaigns more effectively.
Target the engagement that matters
When you’re writing your copy, the goal is email engagement. The fact that you’re a nonprofit doesn’t change that. This debunks the notion that the term “engagement” always focuses on sales. Email marketing ideas for nonprofits can focus on getting a variety of interaction and input.
In some cases, engagement for these subscribers is even more important. Without the support of your audience, your efforts won’t succeed. Consider these types of engagement, and look for which emails receive the most.
- Donations: You may not be selling a product, at least not as your primary offering, but your organization has bills and expenses. Asking for donations is always a tricky topic, even for seasoned email marketers. Track the approaches that get the most traction and bring them back whenever it’s time to ask for contributions. The best approach? Try showing how previous donations have gone to good use.
- RSVPs: Setting up events isn’t something you’ll be doing all the time. Yet, when the need does arise, you need the type of emails that bring responses quickly. If a certain format or style tends to get responses quicker, save it and use it as a template whenever a new event is coming up. Our advice? Make the CTA easy to follow. Also open up with precise details about the venue, date, time, and purpose of the event.
- Shares: This one is last on our list, but it’s not last in terms of importance. You can ask for shares on the content you publish or on either example above. If you want to spread the word that an event is coming up or that a worthwhile cause is seeking help, let your audience take part as well. How can you do this? Offer an incentive for sharing the content, or do the same with donation emails by talking about how sharing the content makes a difference.
These aren’t the only types of engagement you’ll be looking for, but mastering these will provide you with plenty of metrics to go off of in the future. As you learn what works best for each, planning campaigns gets easier over time.
Don’t underestimate the value of counting how many emails get opens and responses for each type of engagement. If you have a knack for one over the others, you know where the bulk of your efforts should focus to help you improve.
These email marketing tips should help your nonprofit grow its email list and build relationships with potential donors and volunteers. Campaign Monitor offers special pricing for nonprofits, and our tools are intuitive, proven, and easy-to-use.