Resources Hub » Blog » Automated Emails to Make Your Nonprofit’s Marketing More Personal

This guest post is written by Abby Jarvis from Qgiv.

To get the best results for your nonprofit’s email marketing, it’s important to send the most relevant messages to your donors and volunteers. That means thanking them for every donation and recognizing where they are and their role in your organization.

Since your organization is strapped for time, it’s impossible to give one-to-one attention to each donor. With email automation, you can easily create workflows to send personalized, timely, relevant emails to the right people at the right time.

In order to increase donor retention and increase your nonprofit’s impact, there are a few email journeys that your organization should have in place. We’ll cover those, and provide some insights from our donor communication study to make sure every automation is effective.

Why automation?

Unlike email newsletters and one-off campaigns that you create and send to a whole list of people at once, an automated email campaign is set up once and then automatically sent to a particular individual when that person meets a certain trigger.

For example, when someone signs up for your email list, you can send them a welcome email and provide more content, instructions for getting involved, or any other information you want to provide them. 

Doing this engages your new donors from the start and hopefully keeps them connected with your cause. But obviously sending an individual email every single time someone reaches out to you. That’d be impossible. 

That’s the beauty of automation: You can set up the email once and then the emails will send without you having to lift a finger.

The different types of automated emails for your nonprofit

Automated emails can be used for a variety of messages but, whether you’re setting up journeys for a nonprofit or any other business, the point is to make sure your audience has all the relevant information they need at the exact time they need it.

For a nonprofit, you’ll want to design emails and journeys that address your biggest challenges: donor retention, driving donations, building awareness, and creating excitement around your events. 

Luckily, if there’s a need within your organization, there’s an automated email journey to address it. 

Here are a few examples of automated email journeys your nonprofit can take advantage of today:

Welcome emails

You’ve probably seen welcome emails when you signed up for a company’s email list, so why wouldn’t your nonprofit? 

This is your chance to introduce your cause, important people in your organization, and your current campaigns. You should also consider explaining the various ways your audience can get involved—such as make an immediate donation or sign up to volunteer—and explain how you use donations.

The great news is you can create specific journeys that address the different ways people connect with you. For instance, you can have a welcome series designed specifically for people who engage with your organization by donating, signing up to volunteer, or subscribe to stay in the know. 

With the right tools—like an easy to use drag and drop email builder and the handiest integrations—designing these emails is simple.

Campaigns that address a specific need

In a survey of over 1,000 donors, respondents told us they are most likely to give when faced with a specific, compelling need. 

In order to connect with donors, you should send emails designed around meeting a specific need by a specific deadline. This allows you to explain exactly how far donations will go and see firsthand how every donation, no matter the size, makes a difference.

In order to communicate why a need is compelling, keep these tips in mind:

  • Be specific. Explain exactly what you’ll do with donations and how many you need to meet your campaign goal.
  • Use images and stories to connect with donors. If you can, use real-life images of the people you’ve helped in order to drive home the impact of your organization. In that same study, stories and images proved to be the most compelling.
  • Set a deadline. While we don’t suggest creating an arbitrary deadline or always using this tactic, adding a countdown timer to your email creates urgency and urgency motivates people to act now.

Thank you emails

No nonprofit email marketing strategy is complete without sending thank you emails. Whether you thank people for donating, being involved, or even just helping you spread awareness of your cause, saying thank you is a key ingredient in retaining donors.

People want to know you appreciate their sacrifice and they want to stay in the loop. When you say thank you, be sure to explain just what the recipient’s gift—whether they gave time or money—allowed your organization to do. 

Also take the time to explain how your organization has met needs and continues to move the needle toward your larger goals. If a person gave as a part of a specific campaign, make sure you explain if you met your goals. If they gave a yearly gift as part of a broad-based campaign, explain how many people your organization has helped or how you’re fighting your cause.

Following up means you’re far more likely to earn donors’ trust and recurring donations.

How to get started sending automated emails

The great news is that creating and sending automated emails is simple and straight-forward. Even so, you’ll need to have a few goals in mind before you start sending in order to make the most of automation.

Automation, when done well, can make your email marketing more personal and relevant. However, automation done well won’t yield the kind of results you want.

Here’s how you can make sure your automation does the former:

1. Plan your goals.

Just like with any other email you send, you need to have a firm understanding of what you want readers to do when reading your email. 

Do you want them to donate now? Volunteer? Set up a recurring gift or start their own peer-to-peer fundraising campaign on your behalf?

Once you’re clear on what you want to accomplish, you can map out the emails you’ll need to create, whether it’s one email or multiple. Remember, it’s easier to start with a simple flow and add to it later once you’ve seen how well it performs.

2. Gather your data.

Once you know which emails you want to send, make sure you have the right data in place to support it. This means making sure you have the right tools in place.

For instance, if you want certain actions to trigger an email (like making a donation or signing up to learn more), make sure you have the right data in your list through your email service provider and its integrations. For instance, Campaign Monitor customers can integrate with Qgiv to keep all your relevant data at your fingertips.

3. Design your emails.

Now’s the fun part! It’s time to design your emails. 

Most email service providers offer some level of automated emails, and Campaign Monitor is no exception. You can choose to start with an existing email you have, use one of our pre-designed templates, import your own HTML or go simple with text only.

Make sure you follow email design best practices in order to see stellar results.

4. Measure your success.

After you’ve launched your automated emails, don’t just set it and forget it.

Instead, look at your reporting to determine what works and what could work better. 

Are people doing what you want them to? Do you have the right number of emails in your workflows? Are people clicking your CTAs? 

Your analytics will tell you if people are reading your emails, where they click, and if there’s a drop off in open rate or click-throughs in your series. You can test sending your emails closer together or with more time in between to see how it affects engagement.

Wrap up

In a nonprofit, you have a lot of hats to wear and probably more and more things compete for your limited time and resources.

However, email marketing still remains one of the most impactful avenues for engaging and connecting with donors. Luckily, setting up automated emails can drive donations without making you spend time continuously working on them.

Out of all the options you have to drive donations and connect with donors, sending automated emails is a no-brainer way to see better results while saving you time and resources.

And you can make sure every automated message is exactly what your donor is looking for. See the results from our donor communication study to find out how you can make the most of every email and campaign.


Abby Jarvis is the Nonprofit Education Manager at Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.

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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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