The Essential Guide To Nonprofit Email Marketing

Nonprofit organizations are often overwhelmed trying to maintain a large stack of tasks on top of fundraising efforts and thanking donors.

Written by
Monique Lorette
June 13, 2023

Nonprofit organizations are often overwhelmed trying to maintain a large stack of tasks on top of fundraising efforts and thanking donors. Email marketing is an opportunity for nonprofits to expand their reach and develop loyal supporters while saving time, resources, and money. 

Learn how your nonprofit can make the most out of every email with this guide, which includes the benefits of email marketing and best practices for creating effective campaigns. Below you'll find tips and tricks to help your organization use this channel to its full potential with an email strategy designed to grow your supporter base, spread your mission, and drive donations. 

3 Reasons Why Email Marketing is Important for Nonprofits

  1. It's affordable

Budget concerns are real, and efficiency is key, especially for nonprofits. Luckily, email marketing is a communication channel known to be affordable and proven to deliver a high return on investment. In fact, it doesn't even have to cost a penny, with various free or discounted services for nonprofits. Email marketing is a cost-effective way for nonprofits to get results. 

  1. It reaches more people and stays relevant

While nothing beats a one-on-one conversation, email marketing is a more personal way to reach your supporters than channels such as social media. As your supporter base grows, it becomes more and more challenging to communicate individually. However, email allows you to reach a larger number of people, and thanks to segmentation, you don't have to sacrifice that personal touch.

  1. It boosts engagement with one-click conversions

Email is a direct line of communication with people interested in your mission, allowing brands to engage supporters and grow relationships. Rather than searching for the next steps, the calls to action incorporated within emails will take supporters directly to where they need to be going. This one-click conversion ensures a seamless donor experience that boosts results. 

9 Best Practices for Your Nonprofit Email Marketing Strategy

  1. Make it easy to sign up

Current and potential supporters should never have trouble signing up for your nonprofit's email subscription. Whether they are browsing your website or have recently made a donation, make it easy for them to sign up for updates and newsletters. Not only does the sign-up form need to be in an obvious location, but it also needs to be short and simple to complete. You can increase email newsletter subscribers…

  • On your website (include an embedded form in the footer, on heavily trafficked pages, or as a popup/banner)
  • On your social media (include forms on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., and visa versa, feature social media icons in your emails so consumers can go full circle)
  • At events (set up an iPad with a sign-up form at a registration table or other types of kiosks)

It takes little management to position your email newsletter sign-up form for success. These set and forget methods can increase your subscriber list without much effort and are an excellent way for people to get more information from your organization. 

  1. Build and maintain a solid contact list

Your contact list is the foundation of a successful nonprofit email marketing campaign. Although you want to make it easy for potential supporters to sign up, quality is more important than quantity regarding your email list. A smaller list of genuine supporters is more effective than an extensive list of people who are unaware of your cause or uninterested in engaging. One way to ensure a quality contact list is to use a double opt-in on the email sign-up form. This extra step directs people to confirm their email subscription to ensure each visitor wants to subscribe, thus generating higher-quality leads for email campaigns. 

In addition to building a solid contact list, you must maintain that contact list by checking on it and cleaning it occasionally. It is crucial to either attempt to re-engage unengaged subscribers or delete them from your list. While there are many reasons for subscribers to stop opening emails (going to spam, no longer using email, not interested, etc.), it decreases the deliverability of your email campaigns. Low deliverability rates increase the chances of emails becoming spam for even the most loyal supporters. Periodically optimizing your contact list will help reduce bounce rates and ensure your campaigns reach quality supporters.

  1. Segment your email list

Segmenting your email list based on qualities, criteria, or interests ensures you deliver the right message to the right people. It is best to avoid bombarding subscribers with mass campaigns, and crucial to provide relevant information to those likely to engage. Some examples of segmentation lists include 

  • Current donors
  • Event donors
  • Major donors
  • Non-donors 
  • Issues of interest 
  • Last donation date
  • What kind of content they click
  • Last activity date

Language and approach to communication vary greatly with subscriber segments. For example, someone who recently made a generous donation does not want to receive an email tailored to convince people to make their first contribution. 

After establishing categorized contact lists, email automation can ensure your messages reach the correct audience. These campaigns are triggered when a contact takes a specific action or meets the set criteria and can alleviate workloads while providing personalized emails. 

  1. Relevant and personal

Once you have segmented your contact list, it will be easier to tailor messages that resonate with your target audience. Whether the people on your contact list are loyal donors or recent supporters, they are there because your cause means something to them personally. Your email messages need to be just as personal. Rather than sending everyone the same generalized email, curate relevant and specific emails to the audiences' passions. 

For those who have donated, email messages could show and tell how their contribution has directly made an impact on your mission. For those who have not donated, email messages could help build trust for the organization. Supporters want to feel like they are valued and spoken to individually. Therefore, it is essential to highlight your mission and how each audience segment is affected by the work done. 

  1. Have a clear goal and CTA 

Every email should have an established goal and a clear path to achieve that goal. Because readers don't always scroll to the bottom, the purpose of the email should be evident to readers early and often. Subscribers should be able to quickly understand your focus and know exactly where to click to engage further. The call to action (CTA) button must highlight the goal and provide concise instruction, so subscribers understand their next steps. A defined goal and CTA make it easy for supporters to receive, read, and react to the email.

  1. Digestible and compelling content

As previously mentioned, you want to make it easy for recipients to receive, read, and react to your email campaign. Therefore, every aspect of your email (design, images, layout, copy, style, etc.) should be reader-friendly and reflect your organization's feelings, values, and voice. The subject line must be compelling enough to draw the reader's attention, but the organization of the content must be easily digestible to keep their attention. 

Use subheadings, sections, and other design elements to divide information and create a clear path to achieve the ultimate goal. Browsing other nonprofits and even signing up for their newsletters can help your organization determine the elements you want to use in your email strategy. 

  1. Mobile-friendly

While you may design your nonprofit emails on a computer, many of your recipients open the emails on a mobile device. No matter how great an email's contents are, recipients are likely to delete or even unsubscribe if it displays poorly on smartphones and tablets. Therefore, nonprofits must optimize emails to be mobile-friendly to ensure digital communications are accessible to everyone. 

Most modern design trends are compatible with mobile and desktop, and most email marketing services provide responsive email templates. However, it is important to double-check with a test email or email preview to ensure all views are optimized. The following are two additional tips for making emails mobile-friendly.

  • Avoid using complex language and long sentences that can be hard to follow on specific devices. 
  • Experiment with the frequency of your emails. Are you sending too many? Are you not sending enough? 
  1. Analyze and optimize 

Like many other campaigns, keeping an eye on email performance is essential. To ensure you constantly improve engagement, monitor email metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, conversions, and unsubscribe rates. These metrics give you insight into what works for your audience, what makes them click, and how to refine your strategy accordingly. The following are some metrics to track and why you should track them.

  • Open Rate: Measure the number of recipients that opened your email. While the average open rate for nonprofit organizations varies, it stays around 22%. This metric reveals the quality of subject lines, if subscribers are interested in the content, or if you are sending too many emails. 
  • Click-Through-Rate: Measure the number of recipients that opened your email and engaged with it by clicking on a call-to-action or link. While the average click-through-rate for nonprofit organizations varies, it stays around 3%. This metric shows how many supporters engage with your content and reveals whether you deliver compelling imagery and messages. 
  • Conversions: Measure the number of recipients who clicked on the call to action and completed the request. For example, it can count the number of people registered to volunteer for an event you promoted in an email. This metric reveals whether your messaging and direction are clear on your email and landing page. Something made them change their mind and not follow through with the action.
  • Unsubscribe Rate: Measures the number of recipients that left your email lists. Nonprofits should aim to keep this number as low as possible. High unsubscribe rates ensure your content is relevant and reaches the people who want it.
  1. Experiment and test

Monitoring your email metrics is crucial, but it does no good if you aren't taking proper action to improve your performance. Subject lines are a vital element of email marketing, often making or breaking the campaign based on its impact on open rates. If your open rates are low or you are unsure what campaign strategy to use, consider doing an A/B test of your email campaigns. 

If you aren't familiar, A/B tests allow you to try two different versions (hence test A and test B) of the same email to see what works best. You can A/B test with anything: ads, ad copy, headlines, creative, and emails. For example, you send the same email with different subject lines to test higher open rates or send the same email with different CTAs to test higher conversion rates. There is always room for variation and improvement, and A/B testing gives nonprofits more insight into what motivates their supporters to take action.

Whether your nonprofit wants to promote an upcoming event, seek donations, or provide an update on community projects, email marketing helps spread the word and engage your supporters. With an appropriate strategy, engaging content, and accessible design, any nonprofit can see results from email marketing– you just have to make the time to do it! Don’t have the time to prepare an effective email marketing campaign? Delicious Digital Marketing offers email strategy, creation, management, and tracking so that your nonprofit will be at the top of your audience’s inbox and the top of their minds. Learn more about how we can help your organization’s email marketing campaign.