VerticalResponse Blog

Email is an essential tool for nonprofit organizations, and for good reason: In 2018, nonprofit email marketing earned $45 for every 1,000 emails sent (M+R Benchmarks). Want to get more out of your email marketing? Start with these tips for effective nonprofit email campaigns.

1. Educate subscribers about your mission

Email is the perfect opportunity to promote your mission and goals. Even better, it gives you a chance to show subscribers how their contributions make a positive impact on the things they care about most.

For example, you can tell subscribers where their donations go. They might be used to feed the hungry, clean polluted lakes or educate children. You can illustrate how your organization’s staff and volunteers have directly affected those in need. And you can demonstrate strong leadership and financial responsibility by detailing what percentage of funds are used to execute your mission.

Use email to foster belief in your mission and trust in your organization, so new subscribers feel good about contributing to your cause.

This Charity:Water welcome email clearly communicates its mission and gives subscribers opportunities to learn more about how donations are used.

charity water email

2. Excite and inspire subscribers with personalized stories

One of the most powerful fundraising strategies is to excite and inspire subscribers with personalized stories that tug the heartstrings and prove your nonprofit’s impact. You could send an email that lists past accomplishments, details a success story or describes the plight of those in need.

Humanize the story by detailing who your nonprofit helped  or who needs your help  and add an image for strong visual impact. Then, use a call to action (CTA) that invites subscribers to learn more, watch a video or meet the people you’ve mentioned.

Your CTA button can link to a landing page that features a video along with a donation request. The goal is to get subscribers excited about contributing to your cause, then give them an opportunity to make an immediate impact.

This World Vision email shows subscribers the impact the nonprofit has made with specific, personalized stories that inspire action.

world vision email

3. Raise money with creative fundraising emails for nonprofits

Fundraising is at the core of nonprofit email marketing. The best fundraising emails for nonprofits stress the importance of your cause, personalize your request and create excitement about giving. Here are some ideas:

  • Tell a success story, then ask for a donation so you can help others in a similar way
  • Show subscribers exactly what their money goes toward at different contribution levels; for example, $25 might feed a child for a week while $100 might pay for their education for a month
  • Fundraise for the holidays (or a specific project) and set a campaign goal; send regular progress updates to excite subscribers and motivate donations
  • Sell promotional items such as shirts, hats and water bottles with your logo; have a portion of the proceeds go to your cause — or let subscribers buy items as gifts for friends and family
  • Send emails that allow subscribers to donate in others’ names: friends, family members, organizations or in the memory of loved ones

You can make your nonprofit fundraising emails more effective with colorful CTAs that stand out. “Donate now” is a common CTA, but you can try others such as:

  • Learn more
  • Give now
  • Give a meal
  • Help a child
  • Save a whale
  • Watch the video
  • Get involved
  • Join us
  • Be a hero

Once subscribers click, take them to a landing page that features your donation form plus additional information and media: videos, images and an overview of your current campaign. A good nonprofit landing page helps reduce abandonment because it works to foster excitement and makes it easy to contribute.

Personalize your emails as much as possible. For example, use an email marketing tool that inserts each subscriber’s first name in the salutation (and even the subject line). If you’re asking for donations, add your director’s name and signature near the bottom.

You can also take advantage of email automation to boost your fundraising efforts. Create a series of emails that are automatically sent to subscribers at scheduled intervals. For example, your campaign might include:

  • A welcome email that introduces subscribers to your organization’s mission
  • An update email that tells subscribers what you’ve been doing to make the world a better place
  • A fundraising email that creates excitement around your current campaign and makes a direct ask for donations

Here, you can divide subscribers into two segments: donors and non-donors. Donors can receive a thank-you email with updates on campaign fundraising, the impact of their contributions and future requests for donations. Non-donors can receive more emails that build the case for your cause before you make another donation request.

This email from Unicef tells the story of a young girl who lost her home due to climate change, then tells subscribers how to help millions of other children just like her. Note the three different calls to action.

unicef email

4. Keep subscribers updated with email newsletters

Send regular newsletters to keep subscribers updated on your organization’s challenges and successes. Your supporters want to know how you’re working to achieve your mission and how they can help.

Good nonprofit newsletter ideas include:

  • Tips that align with your cause — for example, a nonprofit that protects animal rights might list ways to keep pets cool and comfortable during hot summer months
  • Case studies “from the field” — for example, you could detail how your last campaign saved a wildlife habitat for an endangered species ( and then send them to a fundraising landing page to learn more)
  • Financial reports to let subscribers know how you’re spending donations and the positive impact of their contributions
  • Donor and volunteer spotlights show how individuals can make important contributions to inspire other subscribers to do the same
  • Related news articles and commentary from your director or communications officer
  • Featured photos that illustrate the impact of your organization
  • Upcoming events, such as conferences, trade shows, webinars and more
  • A CTA to show subscribers how they can help — right now

This UNHCR email is a perfect example of a good nonprofit newsletter. It features a video link, personalized news stories and a strong CTA.

unhcr email

5. Help subscribers take a stand

Nonprofit email marketing isn’t just about fundraising. It can also be used to promote activism. In particular, political activism that demands change.

If you’re fighting legislative policy, going head-to-head against a huge corporation or trying to sway public opinion, send an email that asks subscribers to sign a petition. You can then send them to a landing page that collects signatures.

Send your signed petition to legislators, corporate heads, newspapers, blogs and other publications to make your stand. Follow up with subscribers to let them know about responses you’ve received and the impact their petition had.

This is another opportunity to use email automation to raise funds. You can automatically add petition signers to a new email list and send thank-you emails plus donation request follow-ups.

This WDC email uses disturbing images to motivate petition signatures.

wdc email

6. Learn more about your supporters

Email, when coupled with surveys, becomes even more powerful. Create a survey designed to learn more about your supporters, their demographics and what they expect from your organization. Then, use that information to improve results.

For example, your survey can be used to identify supporter demographics. You can use that information to target your donation requests to people who are likely to contribute. You can also discover what motivates your supporters and what they expect from your organization — use this information to position your message and inspire action, such as donations, volunteerism and advocacy.

Nonprofit email marketing is perhaps the most powerful communication tool at your disposal. Best of all, it’s easy and affordable. Use these tips to craft effective nonprofit email campaigns that increase support and boost your fundraising efforts so you can continue to make a positive impact on the world.

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© 2019, Brian Morris. All rights reserved.

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