As a nonprofit, you can't ignore an email marketing strategy. In fact, some estimates say that email messaging accounts for 26% of all online fundraising. In other words, if your organization is ignoring email automation to communicate with supporters, you’re leaving potential donations on the table.
Fortunately, you don't need to have a large marketing department (or a large budget) to launch an email campaign. Sending out a monthly email newsletter, firing off reminders for upcoming events, and sending automated thank you notes via email are simple ways to reach more people and deepen your connection with your supporter base. Below, we offer several easy ways to launch email marketing for nonprofits of every size.
Before you start email marketing for nonprofits...
Before we look at tips and tactics for email automation, we need to make one, glaring disclaimer: When diving into a marketing channel — like email marketing — for the first time, many organizations can get themselves into a tizzy by doing too much, too soon.
Unless you are a global organization, like the Red Cross, chances are you run a very small marketing department (or don't have a marketing department at all!). That's fine! Before reading article after article on email automation, pour yourself a cup of coffee and ask yourself these questions:
- Who on my team can own the email marketing channel? Will they need additional support (i.e. editing, collecting information, or scheduling)?
- How many hours can this person dedicate toward email marketing per month?
- Within that time frame, how many deliverables can we reasonably expect them to complete?
If you run a small, grassroots organization, you may only have one person with three hours to dedicate to writing, proofing, and scheduling a single monthly newsletter — and that's ok! Starting with small, attainable goals and sending consistent collateral to your audience is far better than pushing yourself to write a bi-weekly newsletter, overwhelming your team, getting frustrated, and giving up two months in.
Below, we'll offer several strategies to go easy on the time and resources of your team while helping to raise funds for your cause.
Email marketing for nonprofits: 4 strategies to try at your organization
Once you decide how much bandwidth your team has to dedicate to email marketing, it's time to start piecing together your content strategy. Here are several ways to engage your supporters — and ultimately land more donations — by leveraging email marketing.
1. Write a newsletter
On a regular basis — whether it's monthly, bi-monthly, or weekly — send out a newsletter to email subscribers updating them on your organization. A newsletter lets your audience know how donor dollars are being spent, what impact it’s making in your community, and when upcoming events will be held.
A newsletter helps you stay top-of-mind with potential donors.
Here are a few items you may want to include:
- Events 🎫: Invite your audience to upcoming fundraising events or webinars, or include a two-sentence wrap-up on past events (i.e. how many dollars you raised, how many people attended, etc.).
- Fundraising goals 🎯: Throughout the year, update supporters on your fundraising progress and other benchmarks, and 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. You might also want to include external articles that relate to your cause.
2. Create a welcome series
Autoresponders consist of an email or series of emails that automatically land in a subscriber's inbox after a particular event. If you've never created an autoresponder before, one of the best ways to start is with a welcome series.
A welcome email series is a way to educate your audience about your organization after joining your email list.
Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
- Make an enticing opt-in 🎉: Create a free worksheet, fun quiz, website pop-up, or downloadable PDF that invites people to join your email list. Once they join, they'll automatically receive your welcome series in their inbox.
- Share your most relevant content 📖: Remember, just because content isn't new to you, doesn't mean you can’t send it to new subscribers. Share your most-visited blog posts, social media graphics, or other pieces of collateral as a way to educate your list on your organization.
- Be careful about your cadence ⏰: Remember that your subscribers are human beings. Chances are, they didn't enter their name in a sign-up form wanting to be bombarded with three back-to-back emails. Space out your email series, waiting 2-5 days before firing off the next piece of content.
3. Develop marketing campaigns for upcoming events
If you want to increase event attendance for an upcoming fundraiser, use email as a way to promote it.
Two months leading up to your event, send an announcement email to your list. Continue to send out automated reminders as the event draws near.
To get ready for your next event, try the following:
- Consider list segmentation 👯: It's a bad email practice to bombard Every. Single. Person. on your list with every email you send. This is especially true for event promotion, which can include multiple email reminders on a single topic. Instead, try segmenting your list and only sending to those who would be most interested in attending (otherwise, you may get hit with a host of unsubscribes).
- Create an event landing page 💻: For event sign-ups, you should have a clear call to action. Create a beautiful, branded landing page for your event with an easy way to purchase tickets.
- Try A/B testing subject lines 📭: To maximize attendance at your event, consider playing with subject lines to increase open rates.
4. Automate your thank you process
One way to increase donor retention is to thank each supporter for their contribution. To easily thank each supporter, choose an email marketing platform that can automate the follow-up process.
Ideally, you should thank each supporter as soon as the donation is made. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Create an autoresponder 🔀: Choose email marketing software that integrates with your fundraising platform, so you can automate thank you notes. With Givebutter, you can automatically send customized receipts for each donation, so there's no need to choose a third-party provider.
- Customize your thank yous ✍: Personalized email content can increase the overall engagement of your campaign. Therefore, personalize each thank you note with the individual's name, rather than beginning your message with a generic, "To whom it may concern."
- Integrate your email list with your CRM platform 📊: Integrating your email and CRM platforms can help increase donor retention. Next year, when you resume your annual fundraising campaign, you can look back at last year’s thank you list and invite those supporters to return. Givebutter integrates with Salesforce, HubSpot, and other providers to help you keep tabs on your donors.
Givebutter offers email marketing for nonprofits
To increase donor retention and engagement, email marketing is a tool nonprofit organizations can’t afford to ignore. By leveraging this digital marketing channel, nonprofits can promote events, educate supporters on their organization, and automate the thank you process.
Givebutter offers built-in email marketing tools like automated thank you notes, unlimited sends, branded email templates, CRM integrations, and email metrics to help make your marketing efforts a success.
Using custom branded email headers is an add-on service for Givebutter. Or, you can try the Givebutter free plan and integrate with your existing email provider, such as Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or Gmail.
Ready to see how Givebutter's email tools can help drive donor engagement? Get started with a free account today.
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.