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The Strategies & Tools Guide To Email Marketing for Nonprofits

Effective email marketing for nonprofits encompasses solid frameworks, data-driven strategies, and well-designed applications for building healthy and lasting relationships with prospects and clients.

Nonprofit managers handle many arduous activities, so they usually ignore time-consuming tasks that may require contact and client management. However, adopting a seamless system for communicating with audiences across multiple channels is essential. So, your communication doesn’t have to start or stop when it’s time to raise funds or gather volunteers.

This article explains how nonprofit organizations can use successful email marketing strategies to grow their institutions, build a solid client base, and foster productive relationships with donors. Specifically, we cover the following areas in this piece:

  • How NPOs can streamline client communications
  • How to launch a successful nonprofit email campaign
  • Effective email marketing strategies for nonprofits
  • Recommended email marketing tools for nonprofits


How NPOs can streamline client communications with email marketing

From fundraising to financial planning, human resource management, community development, etc., nonprofit organizations carry out several demanding operations even with limited personnel and unstable income. Usually, most operations involve constant communication with either donors or beneficiaries.

But when more pressing needs arise, organizations tend to suspend marketing activities unless they’re promoting an event, calling for support, or asking for donations. This is because email marketing requires repetitive and mundane activities like data entry, performance management, lead generation, etc. So, prioritizing these operations over other more critical activities can be detrimental to your overall organizational growth.

Fortunately, multiple email marketing systems now support streamlined processes, automated workflows, and simplified functionalities that enhance your processes, giving you more time to focus on other crucial activities.

Reports show that 91% of all US consumers still use email daily. So, email remains an effective channel for reaching a more diverse audience. Moreover, TruConversion reveals that email marketing campaigns can generate a return of $40 for every $1 spent, implying that a well-planned, targeted campaign can increase your visibility and boost your revenue.

 Essentially, nonprofits can benefit from email marketing in the following ways:

  1. It is easier to build and nurture relationships with donors, clients, and supporters
  2. There is increased visibility and awareness
  3. You can raise funds and donations faster with targeted campaigns
  4. It is easier to track performance and measure results
  5. Your processes for client communication are enhanced and streamlined

The rest of this article reveals how you can run successful campaigns and utilize proven strategies for steady growth.

How To Launch a Successful Nonprofit Email Campaign

Some basic principles and frameworks ensure a productive email campaign, regardless of the size of your subscriber base. As an NPO, the following steps will help you launch your email marketing operations.

1. Define your goals and objectives

Unlike other business structures, NPOs generally do not focus on promoting products or services to increase sales. The common objective of an average nonprofit organization is to increase awareness, serve members of several communities, raise funds, and build social capital.

These goals influence their decisions and the strategies they employ. For example, while soliciting funds, you can send appeal emails or share a success to encourage donors to give. But when raising awareness, you can share invitations or send newsletters to educate your audience or beneficiaries.

So, these emails apply to different segments for different occasions. When your values and structures are clearly defined, you can easily map out a robust framework for reaching your goals.

2. Build your email list

Your goals can also influence the individuals you attract to your subscriber base. Finding the right people to promote your cause is essential in building a solid and functioning email list. With a comprehensive contact base, you can share updates and communicate regularly with individuals who are passionate about supporting your mission.

Incentivizing your audience to join your mailing list through giveaways or helpful resources sets you apart from the clutter and encourages them to sign up or subscribe. These could be toolkits, infographics, checklists, free webinars, etc.

It is also important to clearly state the mission and vision of your institution to help visitors understand if it’s something they’re willing to commit to. This is because you will spend more resources maintaining a list of random individuals who know nothing about your organization.

3. Ensure proper list segment and personalization

Generally, your subscriber base contains individuals with varying preferences and interests, so a one-size-fits-all email strategy may not work for everyone. There are new visitors, loyal supporters, repeat donors, one-time beneficiaries, team members, corporate sponsors, passive followers, etc.

Essentially, you need a well-structured approach to tailor the right emails to these segments; otherwise, your recipients will receive messages they don’t need, thus increasing the risk of getting your emails into the junk folder.

Your email segments are primarily based on demographics, location, user behavior, preferences, and interests. Depending on preset criteria, you can fragment your list to send more personalized messages that appeal to the right segments.

Customer segmentation
Source: Social Industries

4. Write relevant and timely emails

The emails you create depend on your audience segments and the type of campaign you’re running. These emails are sent based on the kind of relationship you have with your recipients. For example, new subscribers, loyal supporters, corporate sponsors, volunteers, etc., will all receive different emails since they serve varying functions.

The success of your emails relies on the relevance, timeliness, and appropriateness of the content you’re promoting. Whether you’re welcoming a new subscriber or thanking a donor, several strategic emails fit these occasions. Some of these email examples include:

a. Welcome emails

The emails are tailored to new subscribers (sponsors, beneficiaries, volunteers, etc.). It provides an overview of your organization’s vision and goals and what they expect from you in the future. You can offer incentives or gifts to encourage you to spread the word and make donations. Read this blog to learn how to write satisfying welcome emails.

b. Thank you emails

These emails are mainly targeted to sponsors, volunteers, and every other individual who played a role in supporting the mission. The emails are written to show the impact and value of their support, encouraging them to keep giving and spreading the word. Check out a few Thank You email templates here.

c. Newsletters

These are usually educational materials that aim to raise awareness or provide updates on how members can stay involved and committed to the cause. It includes useful resources that reveal your achievements and plans. Use this guide to write engaging newsletters.

d. Promotions and invitations

If you’re organizing an event or promoting an initiative, a strategic email campaign will help reach a broader audience to increase attendees. These emails include recordings, a recap of previous events (if available), and specific information encouraging subscribers to register on time. Learn how to craft compelling promotional emails with this comprehensive guide.

e. Celebrate special days and milestones

Whether you’re celebrating national holidays, anniversaries, or specific milestones, there’s a unique email for just about any celebration. Also, if your event falls on any of these days, you can use this email to promote the occasion and honor the special day.

f. Call for support

These emails are usually sent to donors and sponsors when soliciting funds or seeking any form of assistance. It includes, in detail, the purpose of the operation, the type of support needed, and a clear call to action. It is also used to seek help from volunteers for several projects.

g. Success stories

These emails are usually sent with the Thank You or Call for Support emails. They show the previous donations to several communities and their impact on the lives of the beneficiaries. The stories are mainly for benefactors who are willing to share their experiences and showcase the impact of the support.

5. Monitor your performance and adjust your processes

Your email operation is not a one-off marketing strategy. As your organization grows, adjusting and improving existing strategies to match the ever-evolving patterns and industry trends is essential.

Understanding what works in your industry helps you evaluate your performance and adapt approaches to suit your development plan. Generally, different NPOs will have varying structures and frameworks based on their goals and visions. So, it’s essential to find out what works and what doesn’t

Metrics like click-through, open, bounce, and conversion rates reveal how your subscribers interact with your emails and the overall effectiveness of your email campaigns.

Read also: Nonprofits CRM – Using Your CRM for Fundraising and More

Effective Email Marketing Strategies for Nonprofits

The complexities involved in ensuring effective email marketing for nonprofits make it difficult for managers to maintain consistent campaign success while seeking support from donors and members. With a solid and tested framework, you can develop a system that delivers targeted and tailored campaigns on autopilot, eliminating time-consuming processes and simplifying your operations.

Check out these proven strategies for enhancing your email marketing operations:

1. Have a consistent sending schedule

Since NPOs handle multiple tasks with limited resources, it’s easy to set marketing activities aside until it’s time to call for support or attract sponsors. Regular and timely emails put your organization in the minds of your audience, increasing your chances of receiving support whenever you call for one.

When you’re not actively promoting an event or seeking donations, periodic newsletters, and informative emails can help keep our audience in touch. This way, they can get insights into recent developments, the impact of previous donations, how they can be a part of future initiatives, and any other valuable information that keeps them in the loop.

Pro tip: Create a content calendar and include engaging topics, upcoming events, current projects, and success stories that you can send to different segments of your mailing list.

2. Design responsive emails

Mobile email statistics highlight that 85% of users use smartphones to access emails. No matter how compelling and attractive your emails are, they’re ineffective if recipients can access or read them. Optimizing your emails for several mobile sizes, web browsers, and apps increases your reach and enables you to connect with your prospects regardless of their devices.

Pro tip: Ensure your content is clickable and scrollable. Avoid using fonts that are too small or too large, and optimize your file sizes for quick loading.

3. Comply with anti-spam laws

Anti-spam regulations protect you and your recipients from data breaches and security threats. So, depending on your region, adhering to these requirements is vital to prevent your emails from being marked as spam or deleted.

Here are some tips to help you optimize your emails, reduce spam complaints, and improve email deliverability:

  • Use non-deceptive subject lines
  • Collect your client data ethically
  • Include your name or organization in your emails
  • Add your mailing address
  • Make it easy for users to unsubscribe
  • Use links instead of embedded forms, etc.

4. Clean email list regularly

Your email list contains addresses of individuals with varying preferences and interests, so over time, some users may no longer wish to continue with your mission. This is normal, so you need a system to help these users opt-out easily; otherwise, you will fill your contact base with old, outdated, or incorrect addresses.

Sending emails to recipients who no longer need your emails can increase your chances of getting to the junk folder. By pruning and updating your list, you ensure contact addresses are correct, and segments are properly refined to include the right recipients.

Pro tip: Create a plan to conduct periodic email list pruning. Discover inactive segments, old or incorrect emails, and unsubscribe rates. Find out why subscribers are leaving and strategize to either re-engage or let them go.

Email list cleaning
Image Source

5. Include a clear CTA in your emails

You cannot assume your recipients understand your email and know what to do afterward. Even when the message sounds plain, it’s important to add a clear call to action that guides them to act.

Some examples include “Register now,” “Refer a friend,” “Give today,” etc. Your CTA varies depending on the intent of the email. Testing different CTAs helps you make necessary updates to increase your conversion rates.

Pro tip: Test different CTA variations using several positions, colors, buttons, fonts, etc., and optimize the landing pages to prevent users from leaving as soon as they land on your page.

6. Adopt a reliable email marketing service provider

As a nonprofit organization, your marketing processes will require several advanced operations that cannot be processed manually. You need a well-built system tailored to your organization that streamlines your workflows and lets you engage your audience with minimal human input.

An emailing system enhances the efficiency of your marketing campaigns and gives you more time to focus on other, more pressing activities. Moreover, your email service provider supports seamless integrations with multiple applications, allowing you to handle different activities from one place.

Pro tip: Adopt a powerful email marketing solution that suits your NPO’s size, goals, and framework. Discover the features they offer and see if they match your strategies.

Read also: Marketing Automation for Nonprofits: How to Scale Impact

Recommended Email Marketing Tools for Nonprofits

Although all email marketing software supports email-sending functionalities, they’re unsuitable for your nonprofit organization. Factors influencing your chosen platform depend on your size, goals, vision, mission, and core values.

Figuring out what your organization wants can help you pick your preferred tool based on cost, scalability, security, and other essential requirements. Some email marketing platforms that are nonprofit-friendly are listed in the table below.

  Starting price Nonprofit discount Free plan Free trial G2 rating Capterra rating
EngageBay $11.95/month N/A Yes 14-day free trial 4.6
(215 reviews)
(617 reviews)
Mailchimp $6.5/month 15% Yes 30-day free trial 4.4
(5,086 reviews)
(16,855 reviews)
Constant Contact $12/month 30% N/A 60-day free trial 4.0
(5,751 reviews)
(2,686 reviews)
GetResponse $15.6/month 50% Yes 30-day free trial 4.2

(677 reviews)


(483 reviews)

Brevo $22/month 15% Yes 30-day free trial 4.5
(689 reviews)
(1,927 reviews)
ActiveCampaign $29/month 20% N/A 14-day free trial 4.5
(10,840 reviews)
(2,355 reviews)
ConvertKit $25/month N/A Yes 14-day free trial 4.4
(193 reviews)
(198 reviews)

1. EngageBay

EngageBay is an affordable email tool with an all-in-one CRM suite with powerful features for strengthening donor relationships, enhancing volunteer efficiency, and boosting fundraising operations.

Its free version comes with limited features. However, it’s a noble option for smaller organizations trying to find their feet in the world of email marketing. Features like lead management, 360-degree profiles, A/B resting, marketing automation, prebuilt, customizable templates, etc., assist your teams in building productive relationships with subscribers.

The paid plan starts at $11.95/month for up to 500 contacts.

2. Mailchimp

Mailchimp is a popular email marketing tool with advanced features to help nonprofits handle complex marketing operations across multiple channels. Some of its features include task automation, actionable analytics and reporting, donor management and communications, software integration, etc.

Mailchimp also provides a free version, with the basic plan starting at $6.50/month for 500 contacts. Moreover, it offers a 15% discount to verified nonprofit organizations and charities.

3. Constant Contact

Constant Contact is a powerful email marketing platform for nonprofits. It provides email automation features for drip campaigns, list segmentation, and customizable donation landing pages. Moreover, it helps you evaluate your progress and view donor information with engagement reporting.

There are hundreds of customizable templates that let nonprofits promote upcoming events and call for support. But unlike other email marketing services, Constant Contact has no free version. The plan starts at $12/month, offering verified nonprofits a 30% discount for a 12-month prepay.

4. GetResponse

GetResponse is a simple email marketing platform that supports list growth, forms and popups, autoresponders, lead nurturing, and other marketing automation solutions. With these tools, you can reach new audiences and motivate sponsors to support your initiative.

The features are tailored to help you drive membership, increase donations, and raise awareness, and with the free plan, you can access the basic features with a space for up to 500 contacts. The basic plan starts at 15.6/month for 1,000 contacts. Moreover, it offers a 50% discount for nonprofits that are not political organizations.

5. Brevo (formerly Sendinblue)

Brevo is an extensive CRM suite with a marketing platform that offers multi-channel campaigns and marketing automation. It supports targeted marketing operations across emails, SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook. Also, there are several professional templates for creating attractive and engaging emails.

These services enable you to foster strong relationships with your donors and volunteers. The free version supports extensive features with unlimited contacts but 300 emails daily. The basic plan starts at $22/month, and nonprofit organizations get a 15% discount on the Enterprise license fee.

6. ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign is an email tool offering customer experience automation, a tailored solution to help nonprofits fuel their growth with automated 1:1 communication through the entire customer lifecycle.

With welcome series, sign-up forms, donor list management, drip campaigns, and proper segmentation, you can create seamless experiences that drive awareness and donations. There is no free version, and the basic plan starts at $29/month.

As a nonprofit, you get a discount of 20% on all plans.

7. ConvertKit

ConvertKit is a creator-friendly platform with unique features well-suited for bloggers, musicians, authors, YouTubers, coaches, artists, etc. It supports robust audience engagement visual automation features. Moreover, the email designer’s customizable templates simplify email creation, allowing you to craft beautiful, responsive email newsletters that appeal to your audience.

ConvertKit has a free version with a paid plan starting at $25/month.

Read also: Nonprofit Email Marketing: Tips, Tools, and Best Practices

Wrap Up

Unlike other mainly sales-focused and profit-driven industries, nonprofit organizations focus more on building solid relationships with corporate sponsors and donors. So, a data-driven approach will be employed to launch targeted campaigns to the right audience. You don’t have to be a professional email marketer to start your campaign.

As long as you have the right tools and proven best practices, you can build a fail-proof structure for attracting supporters and members across multiple channels.

Whether you’re sending a regular newsletter, running a fundraising campaign, or promoting an upcoming event, a well-suited email tool supports the perfect features for accelerating your email marketing operations.

An all-in-one tool like EngageBay offers the basic solutions for generating leads and running campaigns on autopilot. You can start at $11.95 monthly, but if you’re not ready for financial commitment, you can sign up for the free-forever plan with no credit card required.

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