The Nonprofit Guide to Email Marketing

If you work in a nonprofit organization (NPO), you will already be familiar with the unique challenges that nonprofits face in building an effective and sustainable marketing strategy.

With resource scarcity, relatively limited staffing, and low attention to leadership, investing in coherent marketing efforts can often negate more pressing issues.

However, a marketing strategy is crucial to attracting new donors and ensuring your organization is recognized by the right people. And the most effective (and accessible) marketing tactic that NPOs can focus on is email marketing.

Email marketing is far from dead – and this is especially true in the world of NPO marketing, where personalized messaging and relationship building are the keys to success. In addition, creating an email strategy is usually cheaper and more time-consuming than other strategies.

In this post, learn how your nonprofit can stay connected with donors and attract new prospects through email marketing.

Why does email work for nonprofits?

Studies show that email continues to offer the highest ROI of any outreach strategy, making it as close as possible to a safe bet. McKinsey reports that an email marketing campaign can generate a return of $ 40 for every $ 1 spent. This makes email the highest ROI channel that nonprofits can use to reach prospective donors.

With 91% of US consumers still using email on a daily basis, non-profit organizations can use email to reach audiences who might otherwise not be engaged in their social media marketing efforts.

Email Marketing Best Practices for Nonprofits

Commit to regular broadcasts

Nonprofits are often resource-dependent, and it’s easy to put marketing aside for matters that seem more pressing. However, regular email marketing is one of the most effective ways to grow your business. A content plan for your email can keep you updated so that you can keep growing your donor base.

If you are sending emails that are always part of your marketing strategy, it will play a huge role in your success on the channel. “Always on” doesn’t mean that you bombard your email list with constant messages – it does mean that you are committed to how often you send your email.

Sending informative emails on a predictable schedule (rather than just when you are actively running a campaign or fundraising) will help attract your audience to deeper forms of engagement (like donating or attending an event) in the future. Remember: the goal is to build long-term relationships.

Setting the correct cadence for your email is important in keeping the members of your list connected to your organization. If this is your first time starting it will require a careful balancing act as you don’t want to send too few emails, but you also don’t want to get into potential spam territory. More on this in the next section.

Be careful with spam folders

If regular emailing is a new part of your strategy and your target audience is just used to hearing from you less often and once, sending more emails frequently can trigger some users’ email clients to turn you into the Send spam folder.

Email deliverability can be a complex issue. However, there are a few key points to keep in mind as email becomes a more regular marketing tool for your nonprofit:

  • Do not embed forms directly or include attachments in your emails (linking web pages to forms is a better practice).
  • Send your email from a recognizable address. If possible, avoid sending from an address at Use a name that your readers will recognize.
  • Lead with informative subject lines instead of direct calls for donations (you can read our blog post about choosing great email subject lines here).
  • If you’re starting a new email project and sending email to a list that isn’t used to being sent that frequently, let them know what’s going on! Tell your readers that you plan on sending more informative emails, and most importantly, give them a chance to unsubscribe. In the short term this may seem counterintuitive, but removing unchecked people from your email list is important to the long-term health of your email program.
  • For more tips on improving your email deliverability, check out our blog post on the subject here.

Leverage personal connections with your audience

Your nonprofit cause is (hopefully) personal to everyone on your email list. Personalizing your email is a technically simple – but potentially very powerful – step that you can take in order to leverage that personal connection to attract donations and increase commitment to your business.

First of all, make sure you are using an email tool that allows personalization. It might be an upfront investment, but having access to personalization features greatly improves the value your audience gets from your emails.

Afraid of getting scary or not sure where to start? Rachel Leist, Senior Director of Automation at HubSpot, advises newcomers to email marketing personalization to focus on personalizing emails based on actions your email recipients have taken on your website rather than on personal information that you may have collected through your contact management system.

Leist explains: “A good rule of thumb is to personalize the actions someone has taken on their website. Personalization of things like pages visited, the topic of the last conversion, and of course their name and company. When a person receives an email on the Being referenced They are not as nervous about some action they have taken on your website as if you were personalizing certain personal information that you happen to have on them. “

Segment your database

Using a segmented email list can help ensure that the right person gets the right email at the right time. While everyone on your email list believes in your organization, you don’t have to send every email to them. Each person in your database is at a different stage in their journey with your business, and the emails they receive should reflect this.

For example, someone who donated $ 5 to your organization in the last year is likely not as committed as someone who donated $ 1,000 to your organization in the last month.

Factors such as the amount donated, events attended, and actions taken on your website or social media can be important indicators of engagement and should not be ignored when sending out emails.

More engaged viewers are likely to respond more positively to more frequent emails, while people with fewer touchpoints should receive fewer emails giving them more basic information about your NPO.

Test, analyze and adjust accordingly

After all, running an e-mail program is not a “one and done” marketing strategy. You can’t just set it up and do the same thing. You need to take note of the key performance indicators and regularly change your approach based on these factors.

While industry benchmarks can be a useful starting point for comparisons if you are just beginning to map out your email strategy. Remember, however, that not all NPOs are created equal and that not all NPO target groups react the same to emails.

First, keep an eye on some key email metrics, measure them every time you email, and look for trends over time. Our article on email marketing metrics for beginners provides a helpful place to start if you’re not sure what to track.

Examples of charitable fundraising emails

Would you like to put together an effective donation email? Check out a few examples to get a feel for what yours can look like.

Alzheimer’s Association

This Alzheimer’s Association email is asking for donations, but it also describes various other ways in which their supporters can act for their cause. The request for a donation remains the focus of the email, however, with a call to donate and a button that allows the reader to do so in the middle of the email.

The Trevor Project

The first time people sign up for your email, it is a good indicator that they are feeling busy with your mission. Read this automated welcome email from the Trevor Project introducing the organization to a new subscriber and requesting a donation at the end. Your audience wants to help – don’t keep them waiting!

The International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee faces the urgent task of supporting people in conflict areas and disaster areas. You don’t waste time showing how subscribers can support their mission. In this e-mail, the IRC tells the recipient what steps they can take to have a concrete impact on their work.

IRC knows that each of its subscribers is ready to take on a different engagement. Hence, they recommend various measures that they can take to support them, from signing up for texts to starting a fundraiser.

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art

Learn more about fundraising in this email from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Unlike most nonprofit emails, this one appears to be from a department store. If your nonprofit has goods to sell, you should reach out to retailers and compose emails showcasing your products for a good cause.

Free email marketing software for nonprofits

Want to use professional-grade email software for your nonprofit organization without breaking the bank? There are several free versions of professional marketing software that you can use. Check out what some of the most popular programs have to offer to find the right one for your needs!

HubSpot email marketing software

HubSpot offers a free version of its paid email marketing software that is integrated with the also free CRM software. Users can run a sophisticated marketing campaign and access forms, landing pages, Facebook, Instagram, Google, and LinkedIn ads, and templates. You also have access to contact management and live chat features to optimize the user experience for each subscriber. There are also functions for analyzing traffic and conversion for campaign optimization.


Do you want to reach a lot of people with beautiful, personalized emails? The sender could be just the thing for you as they have extensive HTML editing and personalization capabilities. The sender also has impressive analytics capabilities that you can use to track the delivery and opening of individual emails. The sender also helps you create individual profiles of your recipients in order to further optimize your strategy.

Sendin blue

If you’re looking for variety in your emails, Sendinblue is the place for you. This program comes with 70+ responsive email templates that can be designed for any screen. The free version also lets you send 300 emails a day. You can also use A / B testing to find the right email content that works and segmentation options to make sure the right person gets it.


SendGrid specializes in email campaigns that are tailored to individual preferences. The free version gives you access to a variety of personalization tools, including APIs, webhooks, and STMP relay. Plus, with a variety of delivery optimization tools, you can control exactly who gets your email. There are also sophisticated email editing and analysis tools that you can use to optimize them for your target audience.

You don’t have to be a professional marketer to get professional results from email marketing for your nonprofit organization. However, you need to allow some time to do this. The good news is that there are few other investments that you can make in your business that like email marketing. Get started today if you haven’t already and could generate more buzz for your business than ever before!

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