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Top 6 NonProfit Email Marketing Best Practices

We’re sharing our top email marketing best practices for nonprofits. Why?

  1. Marketing is the most important function of a nonprofit: it brings in donations and engages volunteers to further the cause.
  2. Nonprofit organizations often face an uphill marketing battle due to financial and personnel resource constraints.
     

Email marketing is an essential nonprofit marketing channel because it’s inexpensive to set-up and maintain. And it’s incredibly efficient for reaching audiences of any size. But just like playing beautiful music, email marketing isn’t about going through the motions – it has to be done right in order to be effective!

Follow these best practices to use email marketing successfully for your nonprofit:

1. Planning for Success

Like the old adage says “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Before creating and launching an email campaign, always invest the time to create a strategic plan. Start by building your email list and then use an Email Service Provider (ESP) to set up, send and track your campaigns.

- Get Permission – Getting a supporter to provide their email address for updates from your nonprofit is often easier than obtaining a phone number or monetary donation right off the bat, which means that many nonprofits are able to generate giant email marketing lists. Rememberyour email list should only contain people who agreed (“opted in“) to receive communications from your organization. Buying email lists or importing contacts from other organizations that you’re affiliated with is a big no-no! Sending emails to someone who isn’t expecting or doesn’t want to receive them can lead to low engagement and cause your emails to be marked as spam. That’s why email experts strongly advise against it. (In fact, in many locations it is illegal to send unsolicited emails.) Protect your organization’s reputation by only emailing people who have opted in and avoid overwhelming supporters with too many emails.

- Find a Great ESP – Once you are confident that your email list is up-to-date and only includes people that have opted in, you can segment your list and start creating your campaigns. This is where an Email Service Provider (ESP) comes in handy! Using an ESP has a lot of benefits, including the ability to: set up and schedule various campaigns, manage your list over time, and ensure compliance (just to name a few). Having a reliable ESP in your corner allows you to create branded email templates to keep your nonprofit’s communications consistent and track your campaign performance to fine tune your efforts.

Want to try SendinBlue? Use this email marketing promo code: NPSIB – nonprofits can save 20% on monthly plans over $10!


2. Professional Presentation

You know that your emails should always look professional, but what does that mean exactly?

  • Mobile-Friendly:  Using a mobile-friendly (a.k.a. responsive) layout structure is crucial to conveying a professional appearance. Skipping this step will likely causing images and text to look broken, sloppy, or just plain odd when viewed on different devices. Ensure your ESP offers mobile-tested email templates and responsive email design tools.
  • On-Brand: Consistency is key to building a successful email program. Consider the different types of emails included in your strategy (newsletter updates, donation requests, volunteering calendars, etc.) and create designs that reinforce your branding and build familiarity with each send.
  • Formatted Images: Some recipients may use an email provider that blocks images or requires a manual download. Always specify alt-text for your images, so that these recipients will understand what should be in your email. This keeps your message from appearing unfinished or unprofessional for users that can’t view images.


3. Using Personalization

When people sign up for your emails, ask them to provide some personal information and use it to customize emails by addressing them to each individual recipient, sending out special emails on their birthday, etc. Requesting a full name, company name, title, and birthdate are common, but consider other key details that will allow you to connect with subscribers in unique and relevant ways.

However, it is important to find a balance and not ask for too much information upfront – don’t scare people away before they have completed your sign up! You can always ask for more information later.

Another effective way to personalize emails is to send them from a human being rather than just a company. People often prefer to connect with a person rather than a business, so sending an email from Susan@YourNonProfit.com may result in more opens and higher engagement than sending from Donate@YourNonProfit.com. Test different email senders to determine what’s best received by your audience and then tailor your marketing approach accordingly!


4. Designing Easy to Read Emails

Have you ever heard marketers say that no one reads these days? “Why bother spending time writing great email content? No one reads it anyways!”

I would argue that people still read, they’ve just gotten better at navigating and absorbing content quickly through techniques like skimming and reading while multi-tasking. Use headlines, bullet points, and lists to make your emails more “skimmable” and help recipients quickly find meaning in what you’re saying.

Keep things brief by focusing on one theme and using a single call-to-action (CTA) message in each email. This prevents reader confusion and keeps your agenda from getting diluted. (Bonus: testing your emails will be easier too – you’ll see clearly which content resonates best with subscribers!)

Mobile-friendly design plays a vital role here as well. Most people use their smartphones to check their email while doing everything from watching TV to grocery shopping to sitting at a child’s sporting event. Before you hit send, make sure that your emails will render properly on their mobile devices or risk losing key opportunities to reach supporters, donors, and other stakeholders!

5. Creating Compelling Content

Never underestimate the powerful effect of visual aids! Compelling images and professional graphics can elicit emotion, generate sympathy, communicate the importance of your work, and motivate action. Bring in qualified traffic by always linking images back to your site – especially those that include a CTA to donate or get involved.

And understanding that people actually do pay attention to your email content, writing compelling text is vital to retaining supporters and bringing in those all-important donations! The best advice I can give for creating engaging and compelling content is to tell your story with passion and altruism. Focus on your mission, your results, and how subscribers can help in your efforts. Create a sense of urgency to get supporters to act – whether that action is donating, sharing your message on social media, or volunteering.

6. Tracking Vital Metrics

Track the results for every campaign that you send. Metrics like your open and click through will paint a clear picture of what resonates most with your audience. You can even go a step deeper to identify the specific elements of your email that perform best (the CTA buttons, images, embedded in-text links, etc.). Looking at the best and worst performers can provide direction for structuring future efforts.

Engagement rate metrics are shiny and exciting, but they’re not the only type of data that you should evaluate, though! Technical metrics, such as your delivery rate, are also essential because they can indicate potential issues. Similarly, your unsubscribe rate can raise a red flag for campaigns where there’s a content-audience mismatch or other strategic marketing issue.

Don’t ignore this data or take it personally. Be objective and take the time to analyze the situation so you can address it in your ongoing strategy!

Happy Sending!

Now you have the tools to to spread awareness about your cause and expand your donor base. But it’s up to you to execute these nonprofit email marketing tactics effectively. If you use these tips, we’d love to hear how they benefitted your nonprofit organization. Contact us and share your story – your nonprofit may even be featured in an upcoming post!

Ready to launch an email marketing strategy that will resonate with your customers? Check out how SendinBlue can help you get started!