The Email Marketing for Nonprofits Guide: How to Create Successful Email Marketing Campaigns for Nonprofits

by Karen Vela  |   |  Strategy  |  0 comments

10 min to read ✭ In this post, you'll learn tips, strategies, and examples on how to set up email marketing for nonprofits, so your organization can get more funding and support!

With so many different channels to communicate with supporters, why should nonprofits use email marketing? Email marketing has been proven to be one of the most important tools a nonprofit marketer could use. There is no better way to effectively reach prospective donors and other key audiences on a limited budget, and in a highly personalized manner than to do it via email.

In this post, we’ll be covering why email marketing is so important, how to grow your email subscriber list, how to segment your email list, and how to make the most out of every email you send. 


What Is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is a powerful tool that allows nonprofits to engage with their audience of donors, volunteers, and supporters with tailored and specific messaging.

Why Email Marketing Is Such A Great Tool For Nonprofits

Email makes it easy to communicate with your audience about upcoming events and fundraising efforts. It can also be used to demonstrate impact, show gratitude, offer volunteer opportunities, and spread general awareness about your cause. It takes minimal effort to put an email together and ultimately will help your organization develop a loyal donor base, expand your reach, and drive more donations.


1. Email Marketing For Nonprofits Is Relatively Inexpensive

We get it, budget concerns are real. Luckily, email marketing software is affordable and known for delivering the highest return on investment.  According to the M+R Benchmarks, for every 1,000 fundraising emails sent, you’ll raise an average of $45. Additionally, some email marketing software providers will offer free or discounted services to nonprofits.


2. Email Marketing Allows Nonprofits To Reach Donors And Volunteers Directly

If you just held an event, and you want to say thank you to attendees, you can send a personalized email straight to their inbox as a thank you. Even with a growing supporter base, email allows you to communicate with more people without losing that personal touch. This makes email much more personal than other channels, like social media.


3. Email Marketing Helps Nonprofits Share Their Stories

You’ve established a direct line of communication with people that are willingly expressing interest in your cause, which means they would love to hear your stories of impact! Sharing your stories via email helps you stay top-of-mind so when it’s time to ask for a donation, your list is excited to offer a gift.


4. Email Marketing Saves Time

Here’s the secret beauty of email marketing: you can automate email campaigns while still exhibiting an authentic connection with your audience. Forget the days of chain mail. The classic mass email has now been upgraded all thanks to email features like merge-tagging fields and sequences that can be created. You can save time without compromising quality.


5. Nonprofits Can Generate One-Click Conversions With Email Marketing

With a proper email marketing campaign, the calls to action incorporated within your email send will actually get people to click and convert from within your email. While this goes back to providing value, a benefit of email marketing is certainly how easy it is for your recipient to receive, read, and take action.


The Dos And Dont’s Of Email Lists

Asking for donations and support can be tricky via email due to the fact that it’s not quite as personal as face-to-face interactions. If the email copy doesn’t resonate with your audience, the email could be completely ignored or moved to the trash.  Luckily, we here at Community Boost have assembled a handy little list of key Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to dealing with this sticky subject. Check it out!


dos and donts of donation emails


How To Start Growing Your Email List

It’s important to have strategies in place that will continually grow your email list. Once they are in place, it will take little work to maintain them. One thing to keep in mind is that growing your email list just for the sake of having more subscribers isn’t always best. It’s better to have an email list of people that are actually interested in supporting your cause. Think quality over quantity, otherwise your email engagement will be low, and mail will often end up in the trash.


1. Reach Out To Past Donors Or Volunteers

If someone has donated or volunteered with your organization in the past, chances are they would be a great fit for joining your email list. Reach out to these people with a gentle ask to subscribe to your mailing list, and let them know what kind of emails they can expect to receive. 


2. Add A Subscription Box On Your Website

Oftentimes, if someone is viewing your website and they’re interested in supporting your cause they will be willing to subscribe to your mailing list. Make this as easy as possible by having a sign-up form on your homepage or even create a pop-up for when a user has been on your website for a few minutes.


3. Post About It On Your Social Media Posts

Encourage your followers to subscribe to your emailing list by posting on social media. For example, share a story of impact and include a call to action in your caption to read or see more by subscribing to your mailing list. 


4. Allow Supporters To Sign Up When Completing A Donation

If someone has made a commitment to your organization, it’s safe to say they are interested in your cause! Capitalize on this low-hanging fruit by adding an email list opt-in when they provide their contact information while registering for an event, signing a petition, or donating.


5. Ask In Person

Ask for signups while at in-person networking or volunteering events. This old-school method definitely works, so come prepared with a sign-up sheet or a tablet for people to fill in their information.


How Segmenting Your Email List Leads To More Donations

Segmenting is an incredibly useful strategy, as it allows you to pinpoint exactly what you want to say to an exact audience, so it allows the audience to feel tailored to! People are more likely to engage with content that is relevant to them, which is why tailoring your messaging is so important. You also do not want to overwhelm your audience with emails so segmenting can ensure they only receive the ones that apply to them.


Segmenting Your Email List For Maximum Success

Let’s talk about segmenting your email list. Organizing your organization’s email list will help you better target each audience, as you can adjust your message to be as relevant as possible when you are sending emails to a group of people with similar qualities. Think about what attributes occur that spark people to give. When you dig deeper, you will pull out trends of segmentation that might help you to better organize your lists. 

Here are some different categories you can segment your email list by:

1. Renewed Donors

One way to think about your segmentation is to look at renewed donors. Since these donors have made a gift in the past and renewed their gift in the current year, your email strategy should typically be around upgrading their gift or potentially moving into a recurring donor program.


2. Current Donors

Your organization’s current donors are the people who have made a gift last year but haven’t given one this year yet. If you segment that list, you will want to send them emails making a request that they donate about 50% higher than their previous donation. You can also send them emails to join a recurring giving program, which can be high in value if they decide to do so. Since they have donated in the past, they might be more open to joining a recurring donation program with your nonprofit.


3. Event Donors

The event donors are people who have attended an event or even donated for the event but who haven’t really given to your organization outside of an event. These types of donors don’t really give online, so making an ask for a flat amount like $25 or $40, or however much that you think makes sense, is a good strategy to follow.


4. Peer-To-Peer Donors

If your organization is running a lot of peer-to-peer fundraising, then that means that your peer-to-peer donors have not necessarily given to your organization. Maybe they have donated to a specific person that your nonprofit is supporting, but not to you directly. With that, you can merge tag your list and acknowledge the original gift.

From there, you could be sending donors an email about what their money has gone to. People like to know the direct impact they are making. Once you have warmed up your peer-to-peer donors, you can follow up by making another request. This time around, your request can be geared more towards your organization as a whole instead of one person.


5. Large Gift or Major Donors

Whatever the threshold is for your organization when it comes to your major donors, you want to treat them differently. The language surrounding your communication with your large gift donors is certainly going to be different than your other donors, right? 

If your major donors are getting emails about smaller gifts, then you are leaving a lot of money on the table, as well as not acknowledging people who are giving a lot to your organization. Approaching your major donors differently makes a lot of sense, so for this reason, it’s really important to be segmenting your donor email lists.


6. Non-Donors

Finally, the last type of donor to segment your lists around is going to be the non-donors. Your email marketing strategy surrounding your non-donors should be heavily focused on going after the first gift. Acknowledge what their first gift can do and what it would mean to your organization. Hopefully, you can convert some of those people on your general email list to donors.


12 Ways To Get The Most From Your Email Marketing

By now, you know that email marketing is an incredible tool that nonprofits can use to engage with their supporters and to continuously stay top of mind. We have proven with data that email marketing is successful at increasing donations and overall site traffic. Here are twelve tips and strategy ideas to keep in mind when leveraging email marketing.

12 ways to get the most from your email marketing

Examples Of Good (And Not So Good) Email Design

The layout, format, and copy of your email can make or break how the viewer engages with it. You should strive to create emails that are easy to read, are not too long, have high-quality images, and are very simple to understand after a 10-second glance.


A Great Email

example of good nonprofit marketing email


This is an example of a thank you email that was sent by charity:water to someone who donated to them. As you can see, the email contains compelling imagery of the person who is receiving the gift, it goes into detail about how the gift will be helping this person and clearly demonstrates the direct impact the gift has. It does all these things while still being concise, and utilizes easy-to-understand visuals. 

Donors who receive this email will likely feel like they’ve made a difference, like they are now a part of something bigger than themselves, and they may even be more inclined to donate again when asked because they’ve seen where their money is going.


An Email To Learn From

bad example of nonprofit email marketing


This is an example of a newsletter-style email campaign. While it does include relevant information, and titles are outlined in bold, there are some things that could be done better. For newsletters with lots of different information, try using a table of contents with quick links to help the user find the content they’re most interested in. Another suggestion would be to break up this content and be more specific to tailor it to a certain list. Lastly, try keeping the visual layout concise and not too busy.


5 Strategies To Ensure Success Within One Month Of Email Marketing

You read that right- one month! Improving your email marketing can seem like a chore, but if you can find the time to implement these proven successful strategies, you’ll see results in 30 days. Here are our top 5 tips to improve your email marketing.


1. A/B Test Your Current Email Templates

 An A/B test can be extremely beneficial to your email marketing strategy. If you aren’t as familiar with it, A/B tests refer to testing two versions of the same thing, hence, test A and test B. You can A/B test with virtually anything: ads, ad copy, content creative, and even emails and newsletters. To A/B test your email marketing campaign, simply take one email, make two versions of it with slightly different elements, and send it to two different parts of your audience. This way, you can understand what performs better for your nonprofit and its audience. To learn more about how to A/B test your email campaigns, head to our blog post.


2. Segment Your List For Better Targeting

Segment your email lists based on certain tendencies, behaviors, or even traits that they may have. By grouping your list, you can offer a more personalized ask for year-end donations. It’s an important approach to make sure the people who’ve signed up to receive your emails don’t feel like your message does not resonate with them.

Taking the time to carefully organize your lists now will prove to be more effective for your nonprofit’s email marketing strategy down the line. Naturally, we are drawn towards messages that are catered to us. So, send out multiple email variations that resonate with more specific audiences instead of putting out one massive email in hopes of resonating with them all.


3. Automate A Welcome Series For New Subscribers

 A welcome series is your organization’s first impression to new subscribers. It’s the initial correspondence between your nonprofit and the people whose attention you direly need. And they want to hear what you have to say! So, it’s important to warm them up to support you in the future by sending out an automated, but well thought out, welcome series. Greet them with focused, value-driven content that educates them on the purpose of your organization.

Learn more about email marketing automation in this video!


4. Give Variety And Show Value

Approach your relationship with your subscribers the same way you build your relationships with your closest friends. You contribute a lot to your best friend’s life. You are always there for that person, and you probably check in with one another often. So, when you need them for something, they’re happy to do favors and contribute back to you. Friendship is a two-way street where your give and take is distributed evenly. Don’t be that friend who only takes!

Give value back to the people who are contributing to your nonprofit, sharing your cause, and supporting your organization. What stories have you accumulated that would brighten people’s day? How can you make them feel a certain emotion? How can you give your subscribers some kind of utility? These are the questions you need to be asking when you are strategizing your email marketing campaign.


5. Build Strong Email Lists With Engaging Website Design

While these email marketing tactics are valuable, they will be ineffective if you don’t have a relevant, engaged, and active email list. The foundation of a strong email marketing campaign starts from having subscribers who genuinely want to be in the loop. Appeal to engaged subscribers with compelling website design and encouraging, not annoying, onsite email opt-ins. You want the aesthetic of your email opt-in to look welcoming, not boring or flat. That being said, you do not want to build spammy pop-ups either. The important details within conversion design are how you will retain subscribers from your website visitors.

Check out our case study with the Center For Children And Youth to see how conversion design helped them scale their impact!


How Community Boost Helped The Tenement Museum Generate $40,000 Via Email Marketing

The Tenement Museum tells the uniquely American stories of immigrants, migrants, and refugees in the ongoing creation of our nation. They came to Community Boost with the goal of keeping the museum alive- they needed to generate more donations. 


Our strategy was to drive support and connect with their core audience through an email campaign appeal. The campaign highlighted the need to support the Museum at this critical time and included a way for their audience to share why they are supporting the museum to their own network. 


Through this strategy, Tenement Museum saw a drastic increase in donations. In just 24 hours, we had generated $40,000+ from the email appeal which cost us absolutely nothing.


You’re Ready To Send Some Emails!

In conclusion, email marketing is a very powerful, efficient, affordable, and valuable tool for nonprofit organizations. It is one of the best ways to build a loyal donor base, generate donations, build community, and connect with your supporters.

By segmenting your audience into different lists and catering your messaging to resonate with different groups, you can maximize the opportunity to receive support, donations, and volunteers.

Sharing stories of impact, saying thank you, and providing value are all great things to include in your email campaigns, especially if you’ve put the time and effort into building a top-notch list of subscribers.

Karen Vela

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ready to grow your nonprofit?

Our team of purpose-driven digital marketers would love to learn more about your mission and chat about how your nonprofit can drive more online supporters, volunteers, clients & donors.