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7 Email Marketing Best Practices for Non-profits

7 Email Marketing Best Practices for Non-profits

Digital Marketing

Email marketing – sending an email message to promote your product and/or service as part of your digital marketing strategy – is a particularly valuable tool for non-profits. Effective email marketing helps you stay connected to your donors and reach a larger audience to develop relationships with new and potential contributors.

A chief benefit of email marketing for non-profits is that it’s an inexpensive and efficient way to reach out to a vast audience. When developing an email marketing strategy, your time and effort need to be directed strategically for maximum success. Here are seven ways to help keep you on that path:

Choose the right email service provider for your organization
Using an email service provider (ESP) can be an enormous help in setting up and tracking email marketing campaigns, managing email lists, creating individually branded templates and much more. Selecting an ESP can be a little tricky, especially for a non-profit – since this is an added expense, you have to be sure the ESP you’ve chosen is worth the investment.

Contact ESP companies directly. Talk to someone there. Do they understand your non-profit’s mission? Are there specific people at the ESP who will be available to offer support as you develop your email marketing services?

Most importantly, find an ESP with a tool that will be easy for your staff to use. Whether it’s a few people or an entire team, it’s essential for your non-profit to be able to smoothly navigate its way through the email marketing process. A tool that’s complicated to figure out wastes time that could be better used elsewhere. 

Grow your email list organically
Always get permission before adding someone to your email list. This “opt-in” approach ensures that recipients are already interested in your non-profit and its purpose. Buying random email lists or accessing other groups’ contacts can result in low engagement or, even worse, lands your emails in a spam file.

Whenever your non-profit has an event, be sure to have a sign-up opportunity available at registration, merchandise tables and other spots. Online, make it easy for people to find your sign-up form by including it notably in your website’s footer, on the About Us page and on your non-profit’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Always keep the sign-up process short and simple. 

Determine the type of emails you’ll be sending and define their purpose
Everyone’s inboxes are flooded with too many emails, so make sure the purpose and message in your emails are both clear and to the point. You can reach out to your email marketing list in a number of ways, including:

Invitations, Announcements and Newsletters – When your non-profit is having an event, send invitations to those who’ve come to earlier events and also include new contacts. If something notable has happened, letting people know about it can inspire additional donations. Schedule newsletters regularly to keep people informed on the group’s latest happenings and accomplishments.

Appeals for Donations – When asking for money, target people who have already shown interest or responded in the past to these requests.

Thank You Messages – always acknowledge each donation, and use individual donor information to make these messages as personal as possible. Remember to follow up and let donors know the positive impact their specific donation has made. This kind of outreach can do your work for you and keep your contacts involved with your non-profit. 

Create clear and compelling content
Each email you send out should be brief and to the point, letting your email marketing list know what your non-profit is currently doing and how donor contributions from supporters like them are making an impact.

According to statistics, most readers will spend only 15 seconds reading your email, so make that time count! Headlines and bullet points are guaranteed to get readers’ attention for key information. Other effective tools are subheadings and concise lists of points that focus on your non-profit’s mission and the urgent need for support.

Something else to keep in mind: an email should have just one call-to-action (CTA). This keeps readers focused on your message – and ready to act on it right away. Place your “donate” link close to your CTA to make it easy for readers to respond on the spot. 

Design your content for maximum interest and impact
Design your emails with an emphasis on imagery and layout. Striking photos and other images capture readers’ attention, engage them emotionally and motivate them to read further – and respond as well.

Each kind of email you’re sending – event announcement, donation outreach, newsletter, etc. – should have a reader-friendly design with images that draw readers in and link back to your site.

Also, keep in mind that most people check their email on smartphones – often while doing something else – so make sure your ESP provides mobile-friendly templates. 

Track key metrics
After your carefully crafted emails are sent out, you need to find out whether your efforts have been successful. Your ESP should offer metrics that can track your efforts. For example:

Open rates keep track of how many supporters opened the email you sent. Generally speaking, about 16 percent of people on a mailing list open emails from a non-profit, even if they are already supporters. Examining this metric can give you a good sense of how effective subject lines and content prove to be.

Click-through rates track how many email recipients actually click on a link or CTA that’s included in an email. This lets you know if your content is connecting with supporters in a way that motivates them to further action.

Email conversion measures actual follow-through actions, such as how many supporters who clicked on your CTA made a donation. This is a key metric in determining how well your email marketing campaign is working, especially when tracked alongside the click-through rate.

An unsubscribe rate tracks the percentage of subscribers who opt out of receiving future emails. Fortunately, statistics indicate that the unsubscribe rate for most non-profits is low. If yours is higher than 3 percent, it might be time to reassess your email marketing content and campaign. 

Be authentic
Email marketing for non-profits has a particularly human component. You’re reaching out to individuals, asking for their financial and emotional support. Always keep your audience and mission at the forefront of your efforts when developing email strategies.

Readers can see through insincere pitches, so it’s important to be authentic in your writing and design. Your supporters will respond more positively – and generously! – to a genuine email marketing campaign. 

These seven steps are a good place to begin planning your email marketing. Use them to guide your email strategy and your results will demonstrate their power in improving your non-profit’s performance.