How to Create a Winning Nonprofit Email Marketing Strategy

How to Create a Winning Nonprofit Email Marketing Strategy

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If you do marketing for a nonprofit, you know it’s important to maintain long-term relationships with donors. You’ll be much more likely to receive frequent donations if you cultivate these relationships over the course of months and years.

That’s why email marketing should be part of your strategy. After all, there’s a reason 82% of companies still use email marketing: it’s effective. Through nonprofit email marketing, you can stay in touch with your followers over a long period of time.

That said, not all email campaigns deliver the same results. You still need to keep certain points in mind to leverage this channel to its full potential. If you’re looking to leverage nonprofit email marketing to get the word out about your nonprofit, these tips will help.

Critical Nonprofit Email Marketing Strategies


1. Boost Email Open Rates

Your emails won’t deliver results if no one reads them. To maximize the return on investment from your nonprofit marketing campaigns, take steps to boost your open rates.

This is easier said than done. For instance, one study indicates simply putting a recipient’s name in the subject line of an email can boost open rates by as much as 50%.

It’s also a good idea to segment your subscriber list as part of any nonprofit marketing strategy. This tactic involves separating your full list into smaller lists to ensure followers receive relevant content. It’s also another effective way to improve open rates.

For example, as a nonprofit marketer, there’s a good chance you regularly promote events for potential donors. Depending on the size of your nonprofit, you may have followers who live too far away from the venue to attend a particular event. An email about it won’t be relevant to their interests, and could cause them to unsubscribe. To avoid this happening with your nonprofit newsletter marketing, segment your list accordingly.

2. Check Emails Before Launching Campaigns

Your nonprofit marketing campaigns won’t be as successful as you wish if you send emails blindly. Before sending any email, it’s important to use an email verifier to check the addresses on your list.

Email addresses “go bad” for many reasons. Perhaps someone originally subscribed to your list with a work email. If they’ve since left that company, their address may no longer be valid.

Sending emails to invalid addresses results in a high bounce rate. This can get you labeled as a spammer, preventing your nonprofit marketing emails from reaching follower inboxes. Avoid this by checking your list and removing invalid addresses before sending content.

3. Add Variety to Your Nonprofit Email Marketing

Your goal as a nonprofit marketer is to maximize donations. Thus, you may assume the best strategy is to consistently send emails asking for them.

This is understandable. However, this tactic fails to leverage the true potential of email marketing for nonprofits.

A nonprofit marketing strategy that leverages emails is effective because it allows you to maintain follower engagement with your mission and values. That’s why it’s also important to send emails about major achievements your nonprofit has made, emails covering general news, event invitations, and donation requests. Even a welcome series to new donors is encouraged.

This is key to sharing your organization’s message. If you ask people for money all the time, they may get irritated and unsubscribe. You need to use email to remind them why your nonprofit’s mission is important.

Successful Nonprofit Email Marketing Examples

Now that you've maximized email deliverability, your next step is to make your message and design as engaging as possible. The examples below are from five nonprofits that are shining examples of different types of email marketing content. Get inspired!

1. Promoting Events — The Society for Financial Awareness

Putting together marketing initiatives for events is a huge aspect of nonprofit marketing. Events are a great way to raise awareness for your cause and inspire active involvement in your organization, and email casts the widest net for promoting upcoming engagements. In the example shown, SOFA does an excellent job at marketing an upcoming event by:

  • Providing necessary information about the event
  • Encouraging recipients to actively participate in the event
  • Providing a highly visible Call-to-Action button which urges readers to take the desired action

Screenshot of a nonprofit email marketing message from the Society for Financial Awarness

2. Offering Content — Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation

As stated above, if you ask people for money all the time, they may get irritated by the constant requests and unsubscribe. Sometimes your nonprofit has to be the one to do the giving. Offering valuable content, such as webinars, web guides, informative videos, and other resources is a great way to vary the type of content you send and keep your donor base engaged with your organization. The MAPI were able to achieve a 12.5 percent click-through-rate with an email that:

  • Offers a relevant webinar free of charge
  • Uses bullet points to quickly distill the purpose of the webinar
  • Displays a clear CTA that isn’t asking anything of the reader

Screenshot of an email marketing example from the nonprofit Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation.

3. Donation Appeals — Australian Red Cross

As great as it can be to give back, the main purpose of a nonprofit is to drive donations for a particular cause. In this example, the Australian Red Cross kept things simple with:

  • Clear, concise text
  • A prominently displayed CTA button
  • A targeted list that only focused on supporters that had donated in the past or shown interest in similar emails

Screenshot of an Australian Red Cross email marketing template.

4. Follow Up Emails — Dare 2 Share

After you receive a donation, it’s important to keep donors engaged to increase the odds that they’ll continue to support your organization and participate in upcoming initiatives. Most importantly, it proves to donors that you care about their involvement and are interested in building a relationship. Dare 2 Share’s email does a good job at this by:

  • Following up with a reader based on a previously filled-out form
  • Incorporates an offer by encouraging readers to download a schedule that also promotes upcoming events

Nonprofit email marketing layout design example from Dare 2 Share.

5. Thank You Email — Charity Water

Nonprofits thrive on the kindness of others. Individuals and larger organizations show their support of nonprofits through sponsorships, volunteers, and of course, donations. Any time anyone signs up for an event, fills out a volunteer form, participates in a donation drive, or donates a monetary gift to your nonprofit, it’s important to have an automated thank you message ready to fire off. In the thank you, be sure to detail how their action will impact your organization. Charity Water’s thank you message has a 18 percent CTR and succeeds because:

  • It tells a compelling story about fundraising efforts
  • Keeps a simple, easy to follow design
  • Provides a reminder of exactly who the nonprofit is helping 

Nonprofit email marketing template from Charity Water.

Of course, it’s also necessary to keep certain essential email best practices in mind. Always check your emails before sending them to make sure they are readable, and use formatting elements to make them more readable on mobile devices. By remembering the basics and applying these tips, your nonprofit email marketing campaign will deliver results.

Read More: 7 Outstanding Newsletter Signup Examples

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