Skip to content
We are now Bonterra

10 tips for more effective nonprofit email marketing

March 24, 2022
This nonprofit worker is smiling at her computer while she writes an email to the organization's supporters.

Savvy nonprofit organizations know that email, combined with other communication modes like direct mail, social media, and personal interactions, is an essential channel for building direct relationships and strengthening your brand and purpose.

To improve your nonprofit email marketing strategy, here are 10 tips for more effective email outreach.

1. Keep it simple

When browsing your email, you’re probably more likely to read and engage with an email that’s short and to the point. If your emails are streamlined, concise, and to the point, your supporters will thank you.

In addition to keeping your copy short and simple, make your event invitations, donation requests, and newsletters more inviting by breaking up the text into short paragraphs. With the help of headings and bullet points, you can make your messages easily scannable, allowing people to find the information they're interested in reading. 

2. Have a goal in mind

Have a goal in mind for each email you create. Keep this reason in mind throughout your whole crafting process to focus your emails. Is the goal to watch a video? Make the player front and center. Do you want them to forward it to a friend? Include a call-to-action button to encourage sharing.

When your content is engaging and has a single, specific next action, readers are more likely to respond, share your content, and follow the outlined steps for completing your goal.

Remember to limit each email to one goal. With one clear objective, supporters will stay focused, increasing the chances they’ll complete it. If you want supporters to take another action, you can always send another email later. 

3. Include a donate button

Give donors clear next steps after reading your email. For instance, in all of your donation requests, your emails should lead readers toward making a contribution. By having a donation call-to-action directly in your emails, donors can simply click the button and be taken to your donation form. 

4. Encourage sharing

Get more mileage out of each email you send by encouraging supporters to share them with friends and family. By encouraging readers to forward your newsletter to their networks, you can spread the word about your cause, gain new subscribers, and find new supporters.

Use the following tips to help make sharing your newsletter simple:

  • Include all of your social media links and easy-share buttons so readers can post your content to their newsfeeds.
  • Ask readers directly to forward your newsletter to friends and family members.
  • Offer incentives to those that get peers to sign up for your newsletter, such as free merchandise.  

Of course, the best way to get supporters to share your emails is by ensuring each message has valuable content they want to share. This might be a memorable photo, a compelling fact about your cause, or an emotional story about a constituent. 

5. Provide incentives

Why should someone subscribe to your email list? Share the benefits of signing up and let donors know what types of messages they can typically expect. Make sure to address how often you’ll send emails and what kinds of information will be included. 

When promoting your email list, be sure to include any notable incentives. For example, you might emphasize the sense of community around your newsletter by highlighting volunteer and donor spotlights, or you may make it feel more exclusive by assuring subscribers that they’ll be the first to know about upcoming opportunities at your organization. 

6. Make signing up easy

Growing your email list is an investment in your nonprofit’s future. Individuals who sign up are likely interested in donating or already have donated and are curious about other opportunities to get involved. Each time you email them, your supporters have a chance to act on one of your calls to action, moving them through the donor journey. 

Design your website, landing page, and social media profiles to encourage supporters to subscribe to your email list. Donors should be able to sign up for your newsletter quickly by proving just their name and email address. After all, the less time it takes to complete your sign-up, the more likely donors are going to complete the process. 

7. Consider your timing

Timing is essential for effective email marketing. Depending on what type of email you're sending, there are certain months, days of the week, and times of day when those emails are the most likely to be read. 

When looking at your metrics, pay attention to both open and click-through rates. Open rates let you know how many supporters are showing interest in your email based on the subject line and preview text, while click-through rate demonstrates how successful the message is at getting supporters to take action. 

Analyze these metrics to determine when your emails are most likely to be read. For instance, most donors give during the holiday season and right before the New Year. Sending out your last email appeals of the year during this time allows you to maximize your team's efforts. 

To figure out the best time for your nonprofit, test it! Divide your supporters into separate test groups, send your emails at various times of day, and see what generates the highest open rate.

8. Craft your subject line

Along with the timing, your subject line is one of the most important factors for improving your open rate. Consider both the wording and length of your subject lines. It's recommended to have a subject line of 50 characters maximum. Additionally, a subject line that clearly tells what's inside an email sets a reader's expectation and tends to garner higher open rates. 

Subject lines that grab your donors’ attention should also make them interested in learning more. For instance, you could make your subject line a question or address the recipient. These strategies can pique your donors’ interest and get them to read your emails. 

9. Keep in touch

Decide whether to send emails on a monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly basis, and stick to your schedule. Doing so provides supporters with regular opportunities to get involved and shows them that your nonprofit is an active, dynamic organization. 

10. Thank your supporters

Your subscribers are likely also your current or future donors, volunteers, advocates, and supporters. Be sure to thank them regularly for subscribing and reading your messages.

You can thank your supporters by:

  • Sending a thank-you email during the holidays to all your donors, volunteers, and email list subscribers. 
  • Highlight supporters in your newsletters.
  • Create content that shows your appreciation (such as videos of your team thanking supporters).

Showing your appreciation is a great way to let donors know that you care about their support. By staying in touch and saying thank you, you can increase the chances that donors will continue to open and engage with your emails. 

Improve your email marketing now

A strong email marketing strategy starts with knowing what type of content your supporters want to see. Brainstorm what types of messages to send supporters, then start drafting messages that are easy to read, have a compelling subject line, and make it easy to get involved. 

Ready to Get Started?

    Supporter Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing
  • Fundraising ideas