How to create an effective email marketing strategy for your nonprofit

Creating an effective email marketing strategy requires juggling of many variables. Timing, subject lines, and personalization are just a few of those.

When marketing to a nonprofit, all of those variables take on a completely different flavor, as nonprofits require a unique touch.

Much of what you know about email marketing strategies may carry over, but nonprofits have their quirks—lovingly, so.

In order to get a grasp on those differences, here’s what you need to know about email marketing for nonprofits.  

Be consistent with your constituents.

When constructing an email marketing strategy for a nonprofit, you need to make sure you’re consistent with your emails.

This consistency is applicable to three branches of your email marketing strategy, each of which is just as important as the other.

The message

The first thing you want to nail down is your message. Are you looking for sales, donations, or to increase attendance at events?

Naturally, the specifics of your message will rely on your nonprofit and what you hope to gain from email marketing. Try to connect these two concepts into something evocative that people won’t be able to turn away from.

Once you’ve found your message, stick to it. Changing horses in midstream will only cause you to lose your thematic momentum and could very likely confuse readers.

The template

In addition to the content of your emails, the template and design of your emails should maintain the same consistency.

This is crucial because it creates a feeling of comfort for the reader when they open an email and immediately recognize their surroundings. Consider the warm sense of familiarity when you walk into a building and know every corner by heart. That’s the feeling you want to duplicate with your emails.

A consistent template also allows you to stand out from the rest of your reader’s inbox. And while the framing of your content might not seem as important as the content itself, it can accentuate the content if done right.

In order to find a template that works for you and your message, you’d do well to use an email marketing software. These provide user-friendly tools for template design, such as drag-and-drop options.

The timing

Just as vital as a consistent message and template, developing a consistent flow of content on a regular schedule can truly change the tide of your email marketing campaign.

First and foremost, consistent timing allows for your readers to anticipate your emails and know when to expect them. As a result, they’re more likely to be in a receptive mood to opening an email and engaging with it.

A consistent stream of content ensures that you’re email marketing strategy doesn’t have any holes. As with templates, this is another area where having email marketing software can be a major asset, as they often offer automation services.

With automation, you don’t need to worry about personally hitting the send button at 4 p.m. on the dot every Tuesday. Instead, you can set up a system where a particular email will be sent at different times, whether they’re welcome emails or tied to a certain holiday.

Drip campaigns are some of the best in regard to timing, as they’re designed to divvy out information steadily through multiple emails. This is especially useful when you have a lot of info, but don’t want to release it in a massive email.

As a matter of fact, drip campaigns have been shown to bring in 320% more revenue than non-automated emails.

Write your plan out before you start.

This might sound a little old fashioned, especially with automation by your side, but writing down your email marketing strategy is a great way to stick to it and keep tabs on your output.

This can be done with pen and paper or with a digital calendar, which is something that’s offered with many kinds of email marketing software. By having an image of a calendar, you can visualize the frequency of your output and where your mailing stands next to holidays.

When just using your head, your upcoming schedule may seem intimidating, but putting it all out in front of you on a calendar can help put things in perspective.

Have you ever seen a movie where the generals are moving pieces on a map? That’s how your email marketing calendar should function. It acts as a high-level view of the coming month or months that allow you get the best perspective and moves the pieces around as necessary.

Combine your email campaign with your other channels.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in this notion that your various digital marketing arms are meant to operate separately from one another. However, in the digital age, this doesn’t need to be the case, because it’s both easy and lucrative to combine your channels.

When it comes to email marketing, the natural partnership is social media, partly because it’s incredibly easy to put social media icons in your emails and it’s popular with millennials.

When it comes to email marketing, the natural partnership is social media, partly because it’s incredibly easy to put social media icons in your emails and it’s popular with millennials.

Source: Really Good Emails

If you want to double-down on social media in your emails, you can try starting a contest. For example, if you’re the Salvation Army, you might challenge your readers to post on Twitter about a time somebody helped them when they were down—accompanied by a branded hashtag, of course.

These kinds of human interest angles are perfect for social media, as they inspire people to talk about themselves and get the word out about your nonprofit in the process.

Aside from social media, you might also consider embedding videos from a YouTube account, if you have one. Videos are a great way to boost user engagement in emails.

Testimonials can go a long way.

One thing that nonprofits can leverage in email marketing, more so than other organizations, is the testimonial. Sure, other organizations may offer testimonials from regular customers, but a testimonial for a nonprofit can go a lot deeper than that.

Ideally, your testimonials would include a picture or a video accompanied by a story of a person who was helped by donations. This way, you’re putting a human face to your nonprofit’s mission, as opposed to merely graphs and numbers.

Ideally, your testimonials would include a picture or a video accompanied by a story of a person who was helped by donations.

Source: Really Good Emails

Think of those commercials for pet adoption that show the images of the abandoned animals. All the line graphs in the world couldn’t replicate those pull-on-your-heart-strings commercials.

While these testimonials could be written by the actual people who benefit from the donations, you could also have a writer write the story for them. This way, you make it more of a short story than a cut-and-dry testimonial.

Don’t forget to thank your donor.

People don’t have to give to your nonprofit, so when they do, be sure to recognize it. Plus, everyone loves a pat on the back when they’ve done something good.

By using automation to send out automatic thank you emails, you’ll also boost your chances of having repeat donors.

If you’re wondering what you could possibly put in your thank you emails, consider a little transparency. Let the donor see how his or her donation fits into the nonprofit’s overall mission.

That way, the donator feels like he or she actually made a difference, as opposed to their money going off somewhere and theoretically doing someone good.

In that same vein, you might also think about showing the donator what can be purchased with their donation, whether it’s shoes, clean water, or toys.

Wrap up

Coming up with the perfect email marketing strategy can be an uphill battle, but it’s certainly within reach, especially when you have these techniques:

  • Consistency (message, template, frequency)

  • Write out your plan

  • Multi-channel marketing

  • Testimonials

  • Thank you emails

Even when you’re specifically marketing a nonprofit, many of the traditional email marketing rules still apply, though there are some differences.

Two of the major differences are in accentuating your use of testimonials and thank you emails. Both of these are vitally important for appealing to the better angles of your mailing list.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have to stick to the tried-and-true methods of email marketing, such as consistency, writing out your plan, and multi-channel marketing.

By utilizing all of these simple yet effective methods, your email marketing for nonprofits will reach a height that you never thought possible.

After you’ve learned the best email marketing strategy for your nonprofit, you’ll probably want to zero in on specific elements. Here are some great ideas for thank you emails.


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