Inbox 101: Basic Principles of Nonprofit Email Marketing

By: Gloria Kopp, marketing strategist and a blog writer at Essayroo

In terms of digital communications, email is one of the oldest platforms for nonprofit marketing -- but it’s just as important as ever. In fact, email marketing brought in 26 percent of all online revenue in the U.S. nonprofit sector last year.

You’re probably sending out emails already, but are they as effective as they can be? Follow these guidelines to maximize the impact of your email communications. 

DO use pictures of people

Captivate your readers with engaging pictures throughout your emails. Messages are never as interesting when they are just text, so add real photos of people you are helping, volunteers and more. Steer clear of stock images that do nothing to enhance the message.

If you're building a community playground or other structure, include pictures of the progress or design drawings, so donors can feel included in the process. It's much easier to show someone a picture of what is being done, rather than just describe it. When your audience members can see the real people and things their money is affecting, they get encouraged to continue donating.

Putting a face and name to the donations is highly effective in connecting donors, which is why organizations like World Vision will send a photo and information about a specific child to their contributors.

If you want an all-in-one design and email service, platforms like Mad Mimi or Mailchimp (Mailchimp offers 15% discount for charities) provide pre-made templates that allow you to easily insert and display photos.

DO divide your list

When it comes time to send out your messages, you'll want to have it organized into targeted segments, so that you can direct specific messages to each group. Don't overload your donors with messages that aren't relevant to them and their interests, so keep messages limited by only sending those that are most relevant to each donor.

You can quickly overstay your welcome in someone's inbox if you're constantly bombarding them with messages. Even if they were enthusiastic about the cause from the start, they can grow frustrated with constant requests for more money or messages that are irrelevant or repetitive. If your donors are supporting a local food bank, sending them information and requests for other projects may be unwelcome and seem like you're asking too much from them.

Targeting your messages means each message you send out will have a greater impact with your donors and their willingness to participate. Reach Mail is a great email marketing service that can help you segment and target your email database in order to send relevant messages.

DO use empowering language

When speaking with donors and potential donors, it's important to use language that makes them feel as though they are taking control and doing what's right in that moment. The language should be positive, empowering and actionable. It should reinforce all of the great things their money has already done and will continue to do, using specific examples that demonstrate concrete things that are easily visible.

If donations were able to buy a lifesaving machine at a hospital, let donors know about that machine, how many lives it can save, and any other information that lets them know the positive effects their contributions have had.

Always make sure you're sending out properly written, error-free messages -- if need be, get guidance from services such as Paperfellows or Big Assignments. If you aren't taking the time to send out well-written messages, you can't expect your recipients to respond with enthusiasm.

DO get to know your donors before asking for money

A relationship needs to be established before you begin asking your donors to contribute financially to your cause. Sending out a welcome email to your newly added donors is the perfect way to introduce yourself and your nonprofit, give a little insight into what you do and welcome them to the organization.

Starting out with a request for money can seem quite upfront and off-putting for most people.

They want to know that you recognize their interest first, and most will want to learn a little more about the organization and what they do before they open their wallets.

Once they've decided to donate to a specific cause, you can be more forward about asking for continued contributions.

If you don’t have the capacity to craft compelling email content in-house, consider hiring a copywriter. There are plenty of agencies and freelance writers who specialize in nonprofit communications. In your search for support, be wary of agencies that charge suspiciously low rates -- you’ll likely end up with spammy content that will do nothing to establish relationships with your readers. Instead, look for someone who understands your tone, voice, and mission, and never hesitate to pay fair wages.

DON'T give them information they aren't interested

Make sure you're including your donors in any relevant information you have, but leave out things that they have no interest in. They should feel as though they are part of something special, and that they've made the right decision to donate.

If you're raising funds to open a new community space, invite them as special guests to the ground-breaking ceremony. Not everyone wants to be publicly acknowledged for their charitable contributions, but the majority of donors want to know that they are a part of something that is making a positive difference in some way.

By using a service like Mail Jet, you can set your messages up to be sent to the relevant groups who will be happy to receive them. Avoid long-winded messages that are more likely to go unread, with the help of Easy Word Count to keep your text within limits.

DON'T be pushy

Use your email marketing campaign as a fundraising tool to subscribers and donors, but don't be overly pushy or aggressive in your messaging. It won't be well received and could turn many donors off of giving to you at all. Send positive messages about the great work donations are helping to achieve without being pushy about asking for money. If they've already donated, lead off your message by thanking them and telling them specifics about what has happened since they last donated.

However, there are times when a more direct approach is appropriate and necessary. For example, when sending out emails around fundraising campaigns, be specific about your targets and timelines and how much you hope the person you’re emailing will donate.

As you can see, there are a lot of elements of email marketing campaigns to remember that can ensure your strategies are a success. Use your emails creatively as a tool for establishing relationships between all the stakeholders of your organization and you’ll be able to drive up your click-through rate while generating more engagement from your subscribers.


About the Author

Gloria Kopp is a marketing strategist and a blog writer at Essayroo. She is a regular contributor at Microsoft and Academized blogs. Besides, Gloria is an author of Studydemic educational project for students and educators.

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