Email marketing is an extremely powerful tool for building awareness about your mission, whether your purpose is fighting for social justice or providing under-privileged communities with clean water. You can obtain amazing results through email marketing by planning your campaign carefully and following the best email practices.
Best Practices for Email Marketing for Nonprofits
Our tips on email marketing are grouped in 5 main steps:
- Setting a purpose
- Planning your email campaign
- Building subscriber lists
- Sending emails
- Optimizing your campaign
1. Setting a Purpose
Never start implementing a new marketing technique without having a clear idea of what you want to achieve; otherwise you’ll end up with inconsistent, chaotic messages.
The first aspects you need to consider are your audience, the type of message you want to communicate, and the frequency or time of your emails.
In terms of campaign purpose, the reasons behind your email marketing efforts can be attracting awareness about your cause, finding volunteers, collecting funds, or improving your website traffic.
Based on your purposes and subscriber categories, you may need to run multiple campaigns at the same time, on condition that you have the necessary resources.
2. Planning Your Email Campaign
After setting up an account with an email service provider of your choice, it’s time you created your first email campaign.
Most marketing automation tools require you to add a new list first and provide you with wizard instructions in order to help you properly set up everything.
What about the actual list building? One of the most efficient ways to get email addresses from your supporters is including a web form on your website. Some email providers offer their customers form creation tools – after crafting your form, you just need to copy the code and paste it onto your website.
It’s important to have your subscribers redirected to a personalized “Thank You” page as soon as they complete the web form. This page may also include a request for subscribers to confirm their opt-in.
The confirmed opt-in prevents users or computer scripts from subscribing an email address incorrectly or by mistake. If your emails don’t reach the right recipients, you may get into trouble because of too many people clicking the “Report spam button” – in the end, your messages will not be delivered anymore. A confirmation option will allow you to add to your email contacts database only those users who are genuinely interested in your organization and its activity.
The message on your confirmation page will also offer you the opportunity to share valuable information with your new subscribers, such as the next time you’ll be sending a message to them, how you can be found on social networks, and what kind of messages you’ll be sharing with them.
Welcome messages play a vital role in your email marketing strategy because people’s interest is at its highest point right after joining your subscriber list. Email them immediately, before they forget about you and lose interest. Here is what a welcome message should include:
- Thanking your subscribers again for their interest
- Information about the kind of messages you’ll be sending
- An invitation encouraging readers to respond to your emails
- Your identity elements (logo, template, images, etc.)
3. Building Your Subscriber List
Getting email addresses from people who already are involved with your nonprofit organization is easy, but attracting people who are not involved with your cause yet is harder.
First of all, you’ll need a web form that should be displayed on every page of your website, on your social network accounts, and on your business blog.
Don’t rely just on online tools to attract subscribers – take advantage of other opportunities as well:
- Take part in fairs and events and ask people if they want to sign up for your emails. Provide supporters with a sign up sheet including a description of what they are signing up for.
- Use QR codes on print materials – people scanning these codes will be redirected to your sign up page.
- Offer thank you notes to donors making a contribution during your fundraisers and include an invitation to sign up for your email updates.
Note: always let your supporters know what they’re signing up for. Don’t trick people or send them updates without their consent – you won’t get any benefit by emailing people who are not interested in your organization and its mission.
4. Sending Your Emails
Even if each email has a different purpose, there are some common elements you should always include:
- A subject line – it should reflect the email body and not mislead recipients
- Your nonprofit name and its identity elements
- Complete contact information – provide different ways subscribers can contact you
- Pictures – they can communicate a lot more than words and besides, who doesn’t love looking at pictures?
- A strong call-to-action – sending an email doesn’t make any sense if subscribers don’t take action after receiving it. You should encourage them to respond by visiting your website, checking your social media sites, or making a donation.
There are four types of emails you can send to your subscribers:
- Follow up emails which are aimed at engaging new readers
- Regular updates
- Occasional messages making time-sensitive announcements
- Blog broadcasts
1. Follow up emails
When new people join your list, you can’t send them the same messages you would normally send to your older subscribers – a newbie needs to be informed on your organization and its activity through a follow up series.
Follow up series are sequences of messages that are automatically sent to new contacts. Here is the kind of information you can include:
- Presenting your programs – beneficiaries, objectives, how supporters can get involved
- Introducing your staff and supporters, who will provide pictures of themselves and quotes explaining why they support your cause
- Accomplishments – stories of people you have helped, outcomes, organizations you have collaborated with
2. Regular updates
Sending a regular newsletter enables you to keep your supporters up to date with your goals and accomplishments. Unlike follow-up emails, which are sent in a sequence at predetermined intervals, newsletters are sent just once, to the entire list or to a group of subscribers, at a date and time of your choice.
Frequency is another important aspect – set a frequency that you have time and content to keep up with. A higher frequency requires shorter messages, while if you prefer sending monthly emails work you will need to craft longer, belabored messages.
3. One-time announcements
These announcements can be made whenever you have something new to share with your subscribers or when you prefer to send occasional messages instead of trying to keep up with a regular schedule.
One-time announcement examples:
- The beginning of a new project
- Event location or time changes
- Celebrating the completion of a fundraising goal
- Having an urgent need and asking your subscribers for help
- Asking for feedback on your events by encouraging subscribers to complete an online survey
4. What Are Blog Broadcasts?
Blog broadcasts can help you attract more traffic because your readers won’t have to remember to come back on their own. Each time a new blog post is published, it gets converted into an email and sent to your subscribers. You can choose who will receive these updates and how often.
Scheduling your emails
If you choose to send regular updates, you’ll need to predict those periods when you’ll be short of time, like holidays, and create your emails in advance. Just take advantage of any moment when inspiration strikes, and when you are finished, schedule your emails. You can always come back and edit them if you have new ideas or changes occur.
Reaching the right audience
Not all your subscribers are the same, and some people may feel annoyed if they receive emails too often. Consider providing your subscribers with different options they can choose from – standard, monthly updates, blog broadcasts and so on. This is one of the most effective ways of dividing your list into segments.
5. Optimizing your campaign
In time, you may need to make adjustments to your email campaigns. Furthermore, even if things work out very well, it’s never a bad idea doing some split tests and seeing what version of email template, color, call-to-action or subject line works better – there is always room for improvement.
Split tests should also include your web form, because this is the first and most important aspect you can update in order to attract more subscribers. Some of the web form elements you can adjust are the fields subscribers need to complete, colors, calls-to-action, attached testimonials, and opt-in confirmation messages. Many email providers, including AWeber, offer tools for split testing your web forms.
What if you are not satisfied with results, despite your optimization efforts?
You can take a look at inactive subscribers and either engage them again or give up on these contacts. Reactivation campaigns enable you to attract back again subscribers not producing any type of response – people who don’t open, click, or even delete your messages. The strategy behind these campaigns consists of sending your most interesting content and using compelling subject lines. If they have no reaction, ask if they’d like to stop receiving these messages. If you still get no answer, the best option is eliminating them from your database.
Are you ready to raise more funds and engage with your supporters through email marketing?