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Leverage Email Marketing for Deeper Donor Relationships


In 2015, nonprofits sent 2.4 billion emails to 37 million subscribers. Using email marketing, nonprofits can inform supporters and generate donations without taking the focus away from its clients.

But how do you grow your list of recipients the right way? And what emails should they be receiving from you?

On May 17th at 10am PT/1pm ET, join Ros Hodgekiss, Customer Success Programs Manager at Campaign Monitor as she discusses how nonprofits can maximize their email marketing investment. During this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • Why nonprofits need email marketing
  • 4 email tips every non-profit should live by
  • How to track and report on your efforts

Can’t make it during the scheduled time? Register anyway, and we’ll email you the recording afterward!

Welcome to how to leverage email marketing for deeper donor relationships. I’m Rose Hodgekiss, the Customer Success Programs Manager at Campaign Monitor. And a little about us, Campaign Monitor’s an email service provider based in San Francisco and Sydney. And we help over 20,000 nonprofits from all over the globe send impactful emails that deepen donor relationships, maximize contributions, and help reach your organization’s fundraising goals.

Nonprofits rely on the support and generosity of donors and volunteers to thrive in every community. Without their help, nonprofits would struggle to exist. Most nonprofits are strapped for time, resources, and budget. So, how can an organization build a foundation of supporters while offering programs and assistance to those in need? Many nonprofits turn to innovative and affordable marketing solutions, email marketing. In 2015, nonprofits sent 2.4 billion emails to 37 million subscribers. Using email marketing, nonprofits can inform supporters and generate donations without taking the focus away from their clients.

At Campaign Monitor, we understand the challenges that nonprofits face, which is why I’m here to show some of the ways in which email marketing can help your organization communicate with supporters, and generate the revenue needed to thrive. Today, we’re going to cover six vital topics you as a nonprofit can take away to start leveraging email marketing.

And those are: why nonprofits need email marketing, which email service provider is best for your nonprofit, how to grow your email list the right way, the four emails every nonprofit should send, tips to design and write compelling emails, and how to track your results. And we’ll be following this up with a quick Q&A. So, first, why do nonprofits need email marketing? Business savvy nonprofits know that every decision must be justified. So, why rely on email marketing to reach donors and volunteers? There are a lot of reasons, but here are five reasons that email marketing is a must-have for nonprofits.

Number one, it’s cost effective. Email marketing is one of the most affordable marketing tactics out there, which is especially helpful for nonprofits that must be mindful of their budget. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates an average of $38 of revenue.

Secondly, email marketing is a proven and effective way to raise money. Online donations have quickly become a mainstay in the nonprofit arena. Some nonprofits have gone as much as 28% to 41% of their online revenue from email marketing. Nonprofits are quickly turning to email marketing to promote specific fundraising campaigns or solicit monthly donations.

Thirdly, let’s face it, email is easy to use. Email service providers have made email marketing tool so simple and intuitive that nearly anyone can use them without having to know a line of HTML code. Now, anyone in an organization can create professional emails in a snap, thanks to professionally designed templates, easy to use editors, and drag and drop features that allow you to add images, call-to-action, and quickly target your subscribers in a snap.

Number four, it’s quick to deliver results. 80% of nonprofits that use email marketing do so to keep supporters informed. When something new comes up, donors can be notified immediately. The speed in which donors and volunteers can be reached far surpasses anything out there. Email is 40%… 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. And you can apply the same principle to acquiring a donor or volunteer.

And finally, an email list is an ever-growing asset. The more time you take to collect quality email addresses, the wider your reach. Nonprofit list growth is up 11% since 2014. This means more and more nonprofits understand the benefit of a quality email list.

So, which email service provider is best for your nonprofit? Whether you’re selecting your first email service provider, or ready to make a switch from an existing provider, there are some important aspects to consider. By doing a bit of research, you’ll be able to find a provider that best fits the needs of your organization. Here are a few things to consider.

First of all, cost. Every email service provider charges some sort of fee to use its platform. Most of the monthly subscription packages or a pay-as-you-go system that allows you to get familiar with the platform before committing to a monthly plan.

Look for providers that offer discounts to nonprofits. Campaign Monitor, for example, offers 15% off to nonprofits. And don’t let cost be the only deciding factor. You might find cheap monthly rates, but what kind of features do get for it? You need an email service provider that has the features and tools that you need to get the job done correctly and efficiently. Look for these features.

Templates. Look for a provider that offers email templates that are easy to customize. Look for tools like a drag and drop email builder that tells you that the process is simple for anyone to do.

Personalized emails deliver transaction rates that are six times higher than emails without personalization. Adding a donor’s name to the subject line or the body of an email is beneficial. But you can even add more like recent volunteer activity levels or donations. So, make sure that the email service provider you select has this capability.

Testing. Effective email service providers also offer testing abilities, usually referred to as A/B testing or split testing. This allows you to test changes to your email to increase your overall success. For example, you can test two different subject lines to see which one gets the best open rates.

Marketing automation. Overall marketing automation will save you time. With automation, you can schedule emails to deliver automatically based on certain triggers. Send an email on a subscribers birthday after they’ve made a donation or volunteered, or create a series of emails for a fundraising campaign that arrive into supporters inboxes on a set schedule, and many other options. St. Jude’s Hospital tracks when their donors last made a contribution and automatically send a re-engagement email exactly three months after that date. That’s a very effective way to keep donors engaged and automatically solicit donations.

Integrations. Look for an email service provider that’s integrated with a series of other apps. Anytime you can integrate email marketing with apps that you commonly use like WordPress or Salesforce, it makes life easier.

And finally, access to assistance. You want an email service provider that offers award-winning support available 24/7. That support should come in the form of tech assistance where you can get help from a live human being, and in the form of content. Your email service provider should have a blog full of useful tips that you could refer to, and guides that explain how to be an effective email marketer.

How to grow your list the right way. Now that we’ve covered the value of email marketing and a set up with an email service provider, the next step is growing your subscriber list. Every nonprofit wants to grow a high-quality email list that results in a high level of engagement. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to grow your list. Here are some tips to make sure you’re taking the right path.

First of all, get permission. You want to grow your list organically by collecting contacts that give you permission to email them. To do so, you want to set up a single or double opt-in process. Single opt-in means a contact is added to your list as soon as they sign up through a forum. The double opt-in process requires new contacts to confirm their subscription via an email before being added to the list.

Add a signup form and button to your site. To collect email addresses, add a signup form and a Subscribe button to the main page of your website. Both features, which Campaign Monitor users can easily set up, can help you grow your list. Keep your signup form short.

When collecting email addresses through signup forms, make sure it’s a simple process. If a supporter has to fill out six boxes just to join your email list, your form might not be as completed as often as you’d like.

Collect contacts at events with Enlist. Nonprofits using Campaign Monitor can download our Enlist app which turns any iPad into a signup form. Set up the iPad at your event and ask people to join your list as they check in or visit your booth.

Aim for quality over quantity. It’s better to have a small list of genuine supporters than it is to have a large list of people that are vaguely aware of your cause. Whilst it’s easy to focus on the size, it’s list quality that really matters.

Segment your list. Don’t make the mistake of sending every email to every supporter on your list. Segment your list into specific groups, and send targeted messages to each. By doing so, you’ll not only see better results, but you also avoid list fatigue, where subscribers tune out from getting more emails unnecessary.

And now, let’s talk about the four emails that every nonprofit should send. Research indicates that the main objectives of nonprofits using email marketing are: keeping supporters informed, attracting and retaining donors, and driving online donations. So, what kind of emails accomplish these objectives? Here are four emails that nonprofits can send to meet these objectives. And we’ll walk through specific items that make each one successful.

First, the event invitation email, something I’m sure we’re all familiar with here. Events are often the bread and butter of a nonprofit. From charity, auctions, and 5K races to conferences and summits, every nonprofit has its own stale pool of yearly events. It’s not surprising to learn that 81% of nonprofits use email marketing to promote events. Here’s an example of an event email from Amnesty International.

So, what makes the email successful? First of all, it has big, bold, hero imagery. The email captures your attention with the image of the bustling city and engages you with a headline, “To Walk for Change and Fight for Justice.” The three W’s, when, where and why. When, where, and why give subscribers all the details they need to know about the event in a quick, scannable format. And finally, it has a call-to-action that stands out. The yellow call-to-action in the email, “Register Now,” tell subscribers exactly what they want you to do next.

Next stop, the newsletter. You don’t want supporters to feel as if the only time that you email them is when you need something. You want to send a variety of emails, some of which are for the sole purpose of keeping supporters informed. A newsletter is a great way to keep supporters and volunteers in the loop. Regularity is key here. You want supporters to look through your newsletter so set a delivery schedule, maybe once or twice a month. Nothing too often, and stick to it.

Let’s look at what stands out in the email newsletter. First of all, there’s an eye-catching design. Again, the big, bold, hero imagery of this newsletter immediately helps engage subscribers and draws them in. Then it’s very easy to quickly scan the key message and identify that this is a newsletter for volunteers. And also engaging content. Instead of just asking for a donation, St. Jude connected supporters to the cause with some information about how the donations are used, and the exact impact donations have, all the way down to the number of families that were helped.

Email is responsible for about one-third of nonprofits are online fundraising revenue. To make sure contribution is rolling throughout the year, you’ll send several emails that ask for donations. That’s why donation campaigns are right up there at number three. Here’s an example from the Red Cross. Some things that make this email successful are a campaign explanation. The example tells supporters that a small donation can make a big difference. This removes obstacles or barriers to supporters thinking they must make a sizable donation to help.

There’s also a clear way to donate, that is, the call-to-action take supporters to a page that easily accepts donations. You have to make sure this process is seamless. If it takes forever for the page to load, or there are a ton of boxes to fill out to provide a donation, you could lose support quickly. And finally in this example, imagery. When you can, include an image of help in action. The imagery in this campaign shows happy volunteers making a difference.

And last, but certainly not least, the “Thank you” email. Considering how important your supporters are, it’s vital to show your appreciation. A simple, “Thank you” email goes a really long way. So, check out this great example from UNICEF. Some things that make this email successful are, they said, “Thanks.” First and foremost, show your gratitude. Craft a sincere message that shows how thankful you offer the support, just as this example does.

And also ongoing communication is key. The welcome email arrives after the first donation is made and is part of a series of automated emails that continue to build the relationship and support.

Okay. So, we’ve seen the four must send emails the nonprofit should be delivering. Now, let’s talk about how to really stand out in the inbox. When it comes to crafting a truly effective email, design and writing skills come into play. But don’t worry, you don’t have to write a line of HTML code, or be the next great novelist to create an effective email. Just follow these tips.

So, first off, we recommend you use templates. You want an email with a sleek, uncluttered layout. Fortunately, most email service providers offer a variety of professionally-designed templates that can take care of that for you. Some only give you access to a handful of options, but small plug. Campaign Monitor users have access to email templates that offer fresh designs fit for every nonprofit. Use a call-to-action button. Make sure every email you send has a call-to-action. We suggest using a button that subscribers can click on.

Buttons not only make call-to-actions stand out, but they’ve also become instantly recognizable to subscribers who know what to do when they see them. Create a headline. You needed an attention-grabbing first line. It could look like a newspaper headline where the text is larger than the rest of the copy, or it can simply be another color. The point is to make the first line really, really stand out.

Make it mobile friendly. So, let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. Who woke up this morning and checked their email on their phone? Research shows 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices, so your design should accommodate that. Fortunately, email service providers like Campaign Monitor offers templates that have a responsive design, which means your email will adapt to look great on every device.

Use subheads or bulleted lists. If you’re sending an email that has a healthy amount of text, you should take steps to make it look as organized as possible. Keep in mind that 79% of readers scan content rather than reading it word for word, so organization is vital. Using subheadings and bulleted list preserves the curb appeal of your email.

And then we have some writing tips for you. Create a captivating subject line. The best way to create a captivating subject line is to write a short, personalized message that describes what’s inside. Keep the length to 40 to 50 characters, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Use preheader text. The preheader is a snippet of texts that follows a subject line. It gives subscribers more information about your email. Some nonprofits skip this part, but if you can give your supporters more information about your email before it’s opened, it’s a good thing.

Nonprofits should really personalize emails. This means adding a supporter’s name to the subject line or adding information about their last donation or volunteer activity. By making personal connections, your organization can generate more support.

Be clear. Did you know that the average adult has an eight-second attention span? It’s crazy, right? That’s why it’s all more important to make sure that your emails get to the point. Don’t use flowery language or draw out the purpose of the email. Be as clear as possible, especially when explaining fundraising efforts.

And finally, use urgent language. Throughout your email and in your subject line, use urgent language. You want to compel supporters to act. Set deadlines and go ahead and send more emails as the deadlines approach. Let supporters know when time is running out, or if the number of seats to an event is almost gone. You can use urgent language and active words and phrases like, “Donate now.” or “Reserve your seat today.”

So, let’s talk about tracking your results. Now your emails are next level with some pro design and copy skills. Let’s see how they perform once you hit Send. You can see how well your email efforts of working at any time by checking your email metrics. The good news is that most nonprofits monitor the success with 91% of organizations using metrics to set measurable goals.

But, in a time-strapped organization, which metrics should you pay attention to? Here are the top five metrics that every nonprofit should monitor to track success.

Open rates. As you might suspect, an open rate measures the amount of supporters that open your email. The average open rate for nonprofits varies but typically hovers around 16%. Click-through rates. 76% of nonprofits use click-through rates as a benchmark for success. Click-through rates measure how many supporters click on a link or call-to-action within an email. Average click-through rates are 3.3%.

Email visits. Are you curious about the amount of website visitors that land on your site because of emails? The number of email visits tells you just that. Nonprofits can see how much referral traffic comes from specific email campaigns.

Email conversions. These email conversions measure how many supporters click on your call-to-action and follow through with your request. For example, it can measure the number of donations or the amount of seats reserved at an event. Conversions is a very important metric to watch because it shows you how many supporters are committing dollars or support to your organization because of email.

Finally, let’s talk about the unsubscribe rate. The unsubscribe rate measures how many people left your email list. Most nonprofits have a low unsubscribe rate. If your rate is below 2%, then you’re in good shape.

And there you have it. Well, as I’ve said before, but it certainly bears repeating, email marketing is a proven tactic to help your nonprofit grow and thrive. I hope we’ve covered some tips today that you can take back to the office and can hit the ground running. Thankfully, we have some time for questions and answers. And I have three pre-submitted questions here, which I’m happy to answer.

So, the first question I received was, “Do you have any recommendations on the best way to segment your lists?”

Now I can tell you that there are many different ways you can segment your list when it comes to nonprofits. But the most common IC and perhaps the most impactful are based on engagement. That is, when is the last time that your donors or volunteers have engaged either by leaving a donation or participating with your nonprofit? Or by location?

Many nonprofits are hyperlocal. And in these cases, it’s really important to be able to segment effectively by location, say, by city or regional center. Thankfully, Campaign Monitor makes it really simple to segment by geolocation even if you don’t have that information up front.

The second question I got is, “How do you make the most of an integration with CRM?” Now, first of all, I have to say that it is really important off the bat that you have your tools integrated with each other. An email marketing is an exceptional priority in this regard because you want to make sure that you have the most current data, and this goes for creating segments as well that your subscribers and your contacts ultimately have the most recent information on their donations, etc., added to the email. And earlier in this presentation, we just spoke about personalization and its ability to increase response rates. So, overall, it is important to make sure that you are just integrated with your CRM in the first place.

What you want to make sure, ultimately, is that you have regular sync with your CRM. Traditional systems have had things like nightly builds, and it’s important to take into consideration before you send a large campaign. But more modern systems tend to do this thinking either real-time or every few minutes. And really, that is very, very important these days, especially if you want to get time-sensitive messaging out in the wild.

But overall, it is important to simply to have a CRM integrated, so you don’t have to do any manual uploads and make sure that your currency of data is really upheld, that it’s timely, and it’s accurate. So, my advice a lot of the time is make sure that you’re ticking those boxes, but also regularly reach out to refresh your CRM data. There’s no point having a donor list that’s 20 years old that you’re never really updating. Because to be honest, a lot of that information that you’re sending out may no longer be relevant to those people. So, from time to time, I recommend doing a re-engagement email campaign or similar to make sure that people’s information is kept up-to-date.

The third question I have is in regards to journeys or in many places known as drip campaigns. And the question is, “How do I get started with autoresponders?” Now, the best example I have and is really the must-have autoresponder or journey is the welcome email. This email is automatically sent out when somebody signs up to your list. And the reason why this is really so simple is the trigger is just an email signup. With Campaign Monitor, in particular, we have a trigger already set up to go for when somebody gets added to your list, say, from a form.

First of all, the goal of this email is exceptionally simple. It’s simply to welcome the new sign up to your list. But you could also go a lot further than that and introduce them to your mission as a nonprofit, and ways that they can get involved. Ultimately, having a welcome journey or welcome autoresponder is a great way to really whet your appetite for more sophisticated automated marketing. And that’s it for the Q&A. Thank you very much. I hope you enjoyed this today.

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