4 Excellent Email Marketing Ideas for Nonprofits
Published April 2016, updated July 2019
When you think of your nonprofit organization, the first
question that comes to mind probably isn’t this: “How am I
going to raise awareness through effective email marketing
But maybe it should be.
While this question may not feel like the most pressing
initially, there are some important reasons why it is.
Through the , you will be able to reach more individuals, get
more press, raise extra funds for your cause, attract talented
board members, find volunteers that will help you grow, and,
ultimately, accomplish your goals.
In this post, we’ll share must-know tips to help your
nonprofit use email marketing for success.
Why email marketing is important for nonprofits
Before we talk about strategies for improving your email
marketing efforts, it’s important to understand why email
marketing is such a good investment.
It’s safe to say that setting up a solid is the single most
important thing you can do in terms of marketing as a nonprofit
organization. Why? Because email marketing has the single best ROI
of any marketing tactic at $38
for every dollar spent.
When you’re working on a tight budget, no other marketing
channel can get you the bang for your buck that email marketing
Email marketing also provides you the opportunity to build
relationships with people that have expressed direct interest in
your cause by signing up for your email list.
The people on your email list are asking for more information
from your organization, which means, these are the people that will
most likely be supporting your cause with time, money, or both.
Additionally, not only will your subscribers be your donors, but
they will also be your loyal followers and your volunteers. Email
marketing is your chance to draw people in, capture their
attention, and keep them coming back to help you advocate your
Now let’s discuss the tips for nonprofit email success:
1. Grow your list
You want to make sure you have a strategy in place to collect
email addresses and continually grow
your email list.
The Fundraising Authority, an excellent resource for nonprofits,
is a great example of how to effectively gain permissions.
This nonprofit touts the importance of correctly branding your
website and landing pages in order to urge interested visitors to
subscribe to further communications.
In fact, The Fundraising Authority calls attention to their own
website as a good example for other nonprofits to follow. They ask
for permissions everywhere on their website and landing pages.
For example, they have newsletter sign ups in their navigation
bar, on the top right sidebar of every page, on all of their blog
posts, and more.
The Fundraising Authority focuses on email list signups in order
to build a solid and ongoing relationship with subscribers.
The American Red Cross does the same as you can see in this
example of the email signup form on their website:
When you optimize your website and landing pages for email
subscriptions, you will see your email list sign-ups increase,
which can help you grow your community.
2. Tell your story
It’s not a stretch to say that the main reason people
subscribe to your email list is because they’re interested in
Your subscribers want to know what motivated you to start a
nonprofit organization, how your organization will help make the
world better, and how their donation of money or time will make a
difference. In short, they want to know your story.
So, tell them.
Consider the example from UNICEF. The email copy is personal,
introduces readers to a real person (13-year-old Fatima),
immediately engages readers, and also tugs at the heartstrings. By
telling the story, UNICEF is able to show exactly how subscribers
can take small steps to make a large difference.
If you really want to draw your readers in, do the same. Tell
3. Send a variety of emails
Here are some other ideas for the types
of emails you should be sending your subscribers.
What is a nonprofit if not a community of like-minded
individuals doing good? A welcome
email goes a long way in letting your subscribers know
you’re important to the success of the organization. You can
use to trigger a welcome email each time a new subscriber joins
Your subscribers may need more information about how their
donation is put to work before making a contribution to your cause.
A great way to inform your potential donors is to send them a
series of emails that explains how the organization works and how
the funds are used.
Do you have an event your nonprofit is sponsoring? If so, let
your subscribers know with an email event
invitation. They will often be more than happy to show up and
throw their support behind your cause.
If they don’t have time to come to the event, offer them an
alternative way to donate by providing a call to action and an
online option to donate.
Donors do so much to keep nonprofits running and to make a
difference. When they donate, say thank you in a timely fashion.
You can trigger a thank you email to be sent each time someone
makes a donation using email automation.
UNICEF has an excellent thank you email:
People love numbers that tell them how much progress your
organization has made. After you finish a campaign, send an email
and share the results. Knowing that they’ve made a difference is
a powerful motivator for future support.
4. Include strong calls to action
The purpose of your email marketing campaigns is to get your
subscribers to take action, so remember to tell your subscribers
what you need from them with a strong
call to action.
Here are some great ideas for nonprofit calls to action:
Join together in the cause
Make a difference today
Support the organization today
Help someone in need now
Send your love and support by…
Offer your help today
Get involved now
Also, see this list
of 80+ words you can use in your emails to help make them more
Using metrics to plan future campaigns
Email marketing ideas for nonprofits aren’t based on design
tips alone. While it helps to know how to write the copy and make
the graphics for email for nonprofits, you also need to consider
the strategy and execution. These are two of the core components in
all of content marketing, no matter what you’re creating.
As far as an for nonprofits, you should always start with the
data. Once you’ve been in the email game for a bit, you’ve
likely figured out the type of feedback you get from your audience.
And we’re not just talking about replies.
The information you get back includes metrics about open rates,
response rates, and much more. When you use these metrics, you can
plan future campaigns more effectively.
Target the engagement that matters
When you’re writing your copy, the goal is . The fact that
you’re a nonprofit doesn’t change that. This debunks the notion
that the term “engagement” always focuses on sales. Email
marketing ideas for nonprofits can focus on getting a variety of
interaction and input.
In some cases, engagement for these subscribers is even more
important. Without the support of your audience, your efforts
won’t succeed. Consider these types of engagement, and look for
which emails receive the most.
Donations: You may not be selling a product, at least not as
your primary offering, but your organization has bills and
expenses. Asking for donations is always a tricky topic, even for
seasoned email marketers. Track the approaches that get the most
traction and bring them back whenever it’s time to ask for
contributions. The best approach? Try showing how previous
donations have gone to good use.
RSVPs: Setting up events isn’t something you’ll be doing
all the time. Yet, when the need does arise, you need the type of
emails that bring responses quickly. If a certain format or style
tends to get responses quicker, save it and use it as a template
whenever a new event is coming up. Our advice? Make the CTA easy to
follow. Also open up with precise details about the venue, date,
time, and purpose of the event.
Shares: This one is last on our list, but it’s not last in
terms of importance. You can ask for shares on the content you
publish or on either example above. If you want to spread the word
that an event is coming up or that a worthwhile cause is seeking
help, let your audience take part as well. How can you do this?
Offer an incentive for sharing the content, or do the same with
donation emails by talking about how sharing the content makes a
These aren’t the only types of engagement you’ll be looking
for, but mastering these will provide you with plenty of metrics to
go off of in the future. As you learn what works best for each,
planning campaigns gets easier over time.
Don’t underestimate the value of counting how many emails get
opens and responses for each type of engagement. If you have a
knack for one over the others, you know where the bulk of your
efforts should focus to help you improve.
These email marketing tips should help your nonprofit grow its
email list and build relationships with potential donors and
volunteers. Campaign Monitor offers special pricing for
nonprofits, and our tools are intuitive, proven, and
Read more: campaignmonitor.com