Today’s digital solutions make it easier to make a difference. In just one click, nonprofits can promote their cause to a large audience of subscribers, generate awareness, share information, and ask for donations.

You can use various channels to connect with your audience. Email is one of the best marketing channels. It is a highly effective channel for nonprofits. Just look at the statistics. Nonprofit emails have a 20.39 percent open rate and a 2.66 percent click-through rate (CTR).

However, The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that up to 12 percent of nonprofit emails are categorized as spam. That can mean thousands of missed opportunities to connect with subscribers. Here are some email marketing tips that will help you avoid the spam folder and engage with subscribers.

1. Build a strong email list.

It doesn’t matter how amazing your email content is if you don’t have a strong email list to send it to. As a nonprofit, you want your emails to reach loyal supporters, volunteers, and, for most campaigns, donors. List quality is important; you need to grow a subscriber list of people interested in receiving your content.

The first step is to make it easy for supporters to sign up for your email list.

You can embed a registration form on your website and collect emails during fundraising events. You may include an email opt-in in your printed advertising materials such as flyers, brochures, business cards, and the like.

Make sure to provide a clear reason why people should join your list. The more specific you are about the benefits, the higher your conversion rate is likely to be. That means clearly defining important issues/pain points that your organization is solving and connecting those things with your audience.

a screenshot of WWF email

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) does a good job of this. They show examples of the types of emails subscribers are likely to receive and explain the benefits of joining the list. However, the form probably has a low conversion rate because of the number of input fields and the Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart (CAPTCHA).

You should update and purge your list regularly for invalid email addresses. That can help you save costs and decrease undelivered emails. 

2. Create content that highlights your impact.

There is a lot of nonprofit email content that you can send to your mailing list. Emails are a powerful tool to welcome new supporters, announce events, send informational materials, and invite donations or volunteers.

Whatever email content you’re sending out, make sure that they give readers value and a better appreciation of your cause.

screenshot from UNICEF email

Source: Campaign Monitor

In this example, UNICEF New Zealand highlights its impact by directly telling recipients how their donation can help children in need. 

It’s not just the text that revolves around the idea. It’s the images, too.

Having a clear understanding of your audience can greatly help you. You want to have access to demographic information and things like the region where they live. The better you understand your audience, the more likely you will produce marketing material people find engaging. That can ultimately help you retain them for future campaigns. 

Don’t forget to begin your email with a compelling subject line. A study by Convince and Convert found that 35 percent of people decide whether or not an email is worth reading based purely on the subject line. Keep your subject line snappy and around 60 characters. 

3. Keep it short and simple.

There are other email marketing tips about email content you should bear in mind. For instance, you need to keep your content short and straightforward to edit. People usually scan things rather than read them as a whole.

A study by the Nielsen Norman Group found that only 16 percent of users read content word-by-word. If users are bound to scan skim through your email anyway, why not make it easier and more enjoyable for them? 

screenshot from charity water email

Source: Classy 

So, captivate readers using a limited number of words. Like the example above, use single-point paragraphs, subheads, timelines, or bullet points to present facts. Avoid using fluff words that take up more space than necessary. Instead, be concise and direct to the point. 

Besides keeping it short and simple, your email should be mobile-friendly, too (more on this later).

4. Use drip sequences.

A drip campaign is a series of automated emails sent out to a newly added email address at specific times and dates. Companies that excel at drip campaigns generate 80 percent more sales at 33 percent lower costs. These emails follow a user’s actions and allow your organization to nurture leads. 

You can start your drip campaign with a welcome email for new supporters. Here, you can give them an overview of your organization and set clear expectations of what they should anticipate in the coming days. 

You may then send them relevant materials like a popular blog post or a study your organization has conducted. Once you’ve sent all the welcome emails, you can start sending them materials about donation drives and upcoming events.

screenshot from asthma foundation
Source: HubSpot

Drip campaigns can also help you re-engage with users who have opted out of your mailing list. 45 percent of recipients who received a re-engagement email read subsequent emails. You may also use these types of campaigns to get previous donors to show their generosity again. 

It’s important to measure the success of your drip emails. Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based (SMART) goals for your campaign. If the email campaign does not hit the required goals, you will need to change things up. That could involve changing the subject line, writing new copy for your campaign, or starting things over from the beginning.

5. Create a calendar, and be consistent.

Here’s one reason this made it to this list of email marketing tips: Continuous engagement with your subscribers is key to a successful email marketing campaign. Creating a calendar can help you with consistency. Having a calendar, after all, can help you create timely email content that highlights critical information about your cause. 

Planning your content days before its launch can also help improve the creation process and give you enough time to edit it. Be careful not to send out too many emails at a time, though. That can trigger spam filters or, worse, scare subscribers away.

Also, crafting several consecutive emails can be a lot of work, so use scheduling software like ZoomShift to map out the tasks needed by staff. 

6. Be mobile-friendly.

Most internet content is viewed on mobile more than any other device. 54 percent of all nonprofit emails are read on mobile devices. Having an unresponsive email design increases the chances of subscribers rejecting your content altogether. A Constant Contact survey found 75 percent of smartphone users interviewed claimed that they were “highly likely” to delete an email if it couldn’t be read from that device. 

If your nonprofit emails aren’t mobile-friendly, then many people won’t read your messages. That means you’re missing out on the promotional potential of the message.

So, avoid using highly detailed images and small texts as they can be less readable on mobile. Mobile screens are also prone to get crowded fast. That can cause some users to click on the wrong link accidentally.

Avoid stacking links, and provide enough space to highlight your email’s call-to-action (CTA). 

screenshot from Help for Heroes

Source: Chamaileon

In this example by Help for Heroes, the email structure naturally progresses. The CTAs are clear. That helps viewers navigate the email on mobile, where the joint motion would be to scroll down. 

Before farming out your email campaigns, test the layout across different devices, too. It also helps to know your target audience’s most used email provider. Some of the most popular mobile email clients are Apple iPhones, Gmail, Apple Mail, Outlook, and Yahoo! Mail. 

In closing 

Maintaining a strong human connection is extremely important for nonprofits. That is especially the case since charity work requires the support of donors to make an impact. Email marketing can help spread the word about your nonprofit and help you engage with those potential sponsors. 

If done right, email marketing is a powerful tool. In this article, I shared critical email marketing tips: Showcase content that highlights your cause and impact. Once that is set in place, build a strong mailing list to send your emails, too. Continually study these emails to make resonating content. 

An email campaign requires constant communication with users, so using automated emails or a drip sequence can help you send relevant materials to new supporters and re-engage former subscribers. It also helps to have a well-planned email calendar of timely content. Make sure the emails you’re sending out are mobile-friendly and contain content that is concise yet captivating.

About the Author(s)

Owen Jones (he/him) Senior Content Marketer, Zoomshift

Subscribe to our blog

When we publish a new blog post, you’ll get notified by email.

Interested in being a guest writer for our blog? Learn how