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The beginner’s guide to email marketing for nonprofits

Learn several easy ways to nail email marketing for nonprofits of every size and bring in more donations than ever before.

Rachel Ayotte
September 4, 2023
July 27, 2021
Nerd Mr Butter

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When starting with any marketing channel, such as email marketing, it's easy for organizations (especially small ones!) to get overwhelmed by doing too much, too soon.

Thankfully, launching an email campaign doesn't require a large marketing department or budget. All you need is the right strategy, a few fresh ideas, and the best tools! But before diving into email marketing for nonprofits, take a moment to ask yourself these questions:

  • Staff 👯 Who on my team can manage the email marketing channel? Will they need additional support (i.e., editing, collecting information, or scheduling)?
  • Time ⏰ How many hours can this person dedicate to email marketing per month?
  • Deliverables 💌 Within that time frame, how many emails can we realistically expect them to complete?

Once you’ve decided how much bandwidth your team can dedicate to email marketing, it's time to start piecing together your nonprofit email marketing strategy. We will provide several ideas to try that can help you raise funds for your cause while being mindful of your team's time and resources.

Email marketing strategy for nonprofits: 4 tactics to try

Here are several ways to engage your supporters—and ultimately land more donations—by leveraging email marketing for nonprofits.

1. Write a nonprofit email newsletter

Send out a nonprofit email newsletter on a regular basis to keep subscribers up-to-date with your organization—whether it's weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly.

💛 Why it works: A nonprofit email newsletter is a great way to inform your audience how donor dollars are being spent, what impact your organization is making in the community, and when important events are happening.

✅ What to include: 

  • Events 🎫 Invite your audience to upcoming fundraising events or webinars, and include a brief summary of past events.
  • Fundraising goals 🎯 Keep your supporters updated on your fundraising progress and other benchmarks throughout the year. Don’t forget to explicitly explain how those funds will be used!
  • Recent reading 📚 If you wrote a blog post, published a white paper, or were featured in an op-ed in your town newspaper, include it! 
  • Spotlights⚡ Have a particular beneficiary testimonial or staff accomplishment you want to highlight? Include powerful images and all the compelling details to pull on readers’ heartstrings.

2. Create a welcome series

An email welcome series is a great way to educate new subscribers on the mission and values of your organization. Typically, a welcome email is sent to a subscriber after they sign up for your email list. This email can then be expanded into a series of emails. 

Through an email welcome series, you can provide valuable educational content—such as your most shared blog posts, viral videos, or podcast episodes—that can be easily shared with others. This content will likely include information that the recipient may have missed in the past.

💛 Why it works: A welcome email—when done right—can deepen a supporter’s relationship with your organization by making it easy for them to learn more about your mission, values, and founder story.

✅ What to include:

  • Welcome gift (send immediately) 👋 In your first email, introduce your organization, explain your mission and values, and tell people where they can find you on social media. Offer free downloadable content that’s related to what your organization is all about. This will get your subscribers excited and help build trust.
  • Partnership (send 5-7 days after first email) 🤝 In the second email, share some exclusive information about your organization to continue building the relationship. This could be your organization's founding story, examples of successful projects, testimonials, or results.
  • Ask (send 5-7 days after second email) 🎁 The third email is the conversion email. Include one clear call-to-action (CTA) that guides individuals to take action. For example, they could donate to your cause, volunteer at an event, set up monthly giving, sign a petition, or take some other action.

💡 Pro tip: To make the most of your conversion email, create a strong donation landing page that makes it easy for subscribers to contribute to your cause.

3. Develop marketing campaigns for upcoming events

Use email marketing to promote upcoming fundraising events and increase attendance. We suggest sending a "Save the date!" email two months before the event, followed by automated reminders as the event date gets closer.

💛 Why it works: Automated event reminders are an effective way to ensure attendance and keep important event details and expectations at the top of supporters' minds.

✅ How to do it:

  • Send personalized emails 👯 Segment your contact list and use dynamic merge fields to send targeted messaging. And make sure you only send automated reminders to those who haven't RSVP'd yet to avoid unsubscribes.
  • Create an event landing page 💻 Streamline event sign-ups by having a clear CTA that leads people to a branded event landing page with an easy way to purchase tickets.
  • Try A/B testing subject lines 📭 Test out different subject lines and monitor open rates to see which messaging resonates most with subscribers and helps you get more event registrations.

4. Automate your donation receipts 

An easy, tried-and-true strategy for email marketing for nonprofits is automated receipts and thank-you messages. Ideally, each supporter should be thanked as soon as the donation is made. 

💛 Why it works: Expressing gratitude is one of the best ways to increase donor retention—who doesn’t love a thank you note?

✅ How to do it:

  • Create an autoresponder 🔀 Choose email marketing software like Givebutter that integrates with your fundraising platform, so you can automate thank-you notes. 
  • Customize your thank-you messages ✍ Use dynamic merge fields to personalize each thank-you note with the individual's name and specific donation amount.
  • Integrate with a CRM 📊 Use marketing and engagement software with a built-in nonprofit CRM so you can keep track of all of your donor communication in one place.

Even more nonprofit email marketing best practices

No matter what your nonprofit email marketing strategy is, it’s crucial to keep a few key best practices in mind:

  • Keep things fresh 🍀 Nonprofit newsletter best practices—or best practices for any nonprofit email, for that matter—are all about not letting design and content grow stale. To avoid boring your supporters, pay attention to content that’s been used one too many times.
  • Give it personality 💃 Your emails should sound like your organization, right down to the branded fonts, colors, and tone of voice. Be sure to design emails that stand out and remind supporters of who you are and what your organization stands for!
  • Dive into analytics 📊 Research your average open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates to increase engagement and understand your audience.
  • Treat emails like a conversation 👋 A great email marketing strategy always approaches messaging like a conversation, adding a level of humanity back into the content.
  • Make it easy for supporters to subscribe 🙌 Put subscription links on all your social media profiles and embed signup forms on directly your website to collect contacts and build connections effortlessly.

Use top-rated tools for email marketing for nonprofits

According to some estimates, email messaging accounts for 26% of all online fundraising. Your organization may be missing out on crucial funds for your cause if you’re not making the most of your nonprofit email marketing strategy.

Fortunately, Givebutter offers powerful nonprofit email marketing tools to help you succeed. These tools include automatic receipts and thank-you notes, unlimited contacts and outbound email blasts, custom-branded email templates, and conversion tracking metrics so you can monitor the progress of your email marketing efforts. The best part? All of Givebutter’s nonprofit marketing and engagement features are completely free to use.

Raise more with free nonprofit email marketing tools

Set up your free account today to see how Givebutter's email tools can help drive donor engagement and raise more for your mission.

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