Understanding Email Marketing for Nonprofits

Melanie Balke
November 13, 2023

Of all the digital channels, none are more powerful than email marketing.

Its remarkable 4,400% ROI has drawn countless brands to its table. Its centralized audience has made it one of the most accessible forms of digital marketing. And your nonprofit organization can take advantage of email marketing, too!

Keep scrolling and learn more about using this remarkable marketing channel for good! There’s a lot to cover, so I won’t draw out today’s introduction. Instead, let’s dive in!

The Perks of Email Marketing for Nonprofits

Every industry has benefited from email marketing. Just check your inbox, and you’ll see content from all over the world! You get emails every day from countless industries.

Think about it for a moment…

Your bank probably sends emails about your monthly balance. Maybe your business partners keep you updated with B2B emails. And that big conference you’re attending soon? Sure enough, you probably have a transactional email from your hotel!

Summarily, email marketing is everywhere. It’s one of the most powerful forces in modern digital marketing, and failing to utilize its power may as well be the business equivalent of a faux pas! But if you still don’t believe me, why don’t we take a look at some nonprofit-specific perks?

What Was That About a 4,400% ROI?

Money is at the heart of everything. Nonprofits need money to survive! It’s only natural to want those cold, hard calculations. And email marketing has them! On average, this remarkable digital marketing channel has a whopping 4,400% ROI, meaning you get $44 for every $1 spent.

This makes email marketing the most profitable of all digital marketing methods. There are plenty of reasons for this, but the most pertinent are its centralized audience and widespread adoption.

The majority of the world has an email account, and the majority of that majority check their emails at least once every day. That all translates to billions of potential donors every day; you just need to find them.

Note, too, that email marketing is further bolstered by decades of development. Today, you can create campaigns with the click of a button. It only takes a few minutes to deliver highly targeted campaigns to your email subscribers, bolstering those all-important fundraising campaigns. And — most importantly — most email marketing platforms have robust, easy-to-access analytics!

Get the Most Out of Your Email Campaigns by Building Relationships

All that connection goes somewhere.

You may be a nonprofit organization, but your brand awareness still matters. The numbers on your campaign monitor are worth more than a few pennies. Those figures are direct connections to your email subscribers and — by extension — your potential donors.

Now, pair that insight with the remarkable power of modern email marketing tools.

You have a verified treasure trove!

It takes work, but your email campaigns become information highways. As donors learn more about your mission, they become more likely to click on your emails. This increases your click-through rates, which boosts your donor engagement rates. Do you see what’s happening? A drop in the bucket is becoming a wave, and it’s all powered by email marketing!

Save Time and Do More Good

Finally, I want to highlight something that I’ve been hinting at: Email marketing is one of the fastest ways to reach your target audience. Moreover, it’s one of the best ways to keep your audience engaged. After all, you can send emails with countless “spins.” Outside of the basic monthly newsletter, nonprofit email marketing includes in-depth personalized emails and timed reminders for upcoming events.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s deceptively simple.

The power of automated emails makes it easier than ever to schedule and organize your email campaigns. That means you get more time to work on your nonprofit’s goals without sacrificing potential donor engagement.

How Can Nonprofit Email Marketing Help?

An inner city street. “The Uses: What Emails Can Do for You.”

While I’m on the topic of goals, allow me to elaborate on the many ways a nonprofit email marketing strategy can amplify a charity’s impact.

The conversion-driven world of B2C email campaigns may be a far cry from emotional nonprofit email marketing, but they share the same basic goals. Both strategies aim to convert awareness and education into cash. So, the overlap isn’t as surprising as it may seem!

Improve Awareness for Donation Appeals

Nonprofits and e-commerce brands face similar challenges. Nobody will buy from an unknown source. Likewise, few consumers are willing to donate to an unheard-of charity. Nonprofit organizations need a certain amount of prestige to succeed, but building that reputation is difficult.

Fortunately, a nonprofit email marketing strategy easily tackles the issues of awareness and trust. Some of the most common information-driven email campaigns within the nonprofit sphere include…

  • Awareness emails (often considered “drip marketing”)
  • Informative welcome emails
  • Periodic newsletters
  • Reminder emails and similar automated content
  • Multi-channel email campaigns (often paired with a blog post)

Notably, all these campaigns require expertise and insight. You’ll need a skilled strategist working with your team to raise awareness! That strategist will take charge of your email marketing tools, paying close attention to the campaign monitor for any drastic changes.

Take Advantage of the Season of Giving

If you’re reading this post shortly after its publication date, you’re well aware of the seasonal changes happening around you. People naturally give more during the winter months. Indeed, November and December are the most important months for nonprofit organizations!

However, current trends suggest that monetary donations are increasingly hard to come by, and many donors cite inflation as a sore spot. Charity Navigator investigated the issue, and its 2022 holiday report suggested that nearly a quarter (specifically 24.1%) of all donors contributed less in 2022 than in 2021.

All of that is to say that nonprofits need a way to rise to the top of donors’ minds. Sure, you can spend big bucks on television advertisements and social media followers, but those won’t keep you relevant for long. You need a way to reach people on an individual level. You need to make an impact in someone’s life and change how they think. You need a way to deliver a steady stream of relevant content to subscribers.

And guess what?

Email marketing for nonprofits can do all of that and more!

What It Takes to Succeed at Nonprofit Email Marketing

1946 etching of the Tower Bridge. Overlaid text reads, “The Dream Team: What It Takes to Succeed.”

Nonetheless, these benefits come at a cost. Despite its cost-effective nature, email marketing requires a considerable amount of skill. You can’t use copy-and-paste tearjerker emails and expect an endless flow of cash. No, you need a solid email marketing strategy, and that requires an entire team of experts!

So, what do successful nonprofits’ email marketing departments look like?

Well, for starters, you’ll need a few different groups to make the magic happen. In order, you’re looking at a minimum of four on-demand pros:

  • Strategists keep an eye on your campaign monitor and track your metrics. They’re also responsible for tweaking your email marketing campaigns to improve your results. Many strategists also have some control over the types of email campaigns you send.
  • Writers craft the bulk of your marketing. They weave the complex narratives you need to win donations and hearts. In addition to the body text of every email, writers must also handle image descriptions and maintain a consistent tone across all emails.
  • Designers make email campaigns shine. They add the visual appeal that keeps email subscribers interested in your content. They may use pre-approved photos or pull from personal collections of content.
  • Implementation teams combine the work of writers and designers to create coherent email templates. Alternatively, implementation specialists may design entirely unique email layouts for special donation drives or informational campaigns. You don’t want to use free email templates all the time, after all! You need some variety to add spice to those email campaigns.

How Strategists Master Your Campaign Monitor

I’ll work through these positions in order, beginning with strategists.

On the surface, an email strategist is a multi-talented liaison mediating between your email service provider, your email marketing tool, and your target audience. Within the context of email marketing for nonprofits, these experts must handle both formal and informal communications.

Depending on your organization’s scope, your strategist may be juggling informational campaigns for donors alongside formal emails to important figureheads.

Regardless of the audience, a strategist must account for every facet of marketing automation. They’ll handle your content calendar and plan your essential flows — such as your welcome email and “thank you” responses. They’re also the first and last voice that guides your messages into inboxes instead of spam folders!

And don’t forget their strategic duties. A strategist must watch the numbers for your nonprofit marketing. Otherwise, you may slowly veer from the path of success. It’s a lot of work, and it takes a special person to pull it off successfully!

How Writers Support Your Nonprofit Email Strategy

Once the specifics are ironed out, the email campaigns head to the writing department. These skilled pros must navigate the treacherous waters of spam folders and automated filters. They walk a fine line between informing the audience and maintaining a positive reputation with your email service provider.

But don’t think they only write the body of an email! No, a writer must also handle your subject lines, call-to-action, and automated campaigns. They’re always switching out hats, delivering content tailored to the audience. After all, you wouldn’t speak to new subscribers like returning donors. Likewise, a longtime donor will already know the information you send in a welcome email.

And while writers may not dabble in the visual realm, they must constantly consider the impact of their words. A long header might look nice on paper, but it won’t look great on mobile devices.

What Designers Can Do for Your Email Campaign

Speaking of mobile devices, it’s time to move to the next step of the email marketing process!

A good designer does more than copy and paste text into email templates. They engage subscribers and highlight the little touches that make your marketing shine. Those personalized subject lines may be great, but they won’t work if your subscribers don’t notice the punchy follow-up header! And how effective are landing pages when you can’t direct subscribers to your website?

Remember: Email marketing is a powerful tool with so much versatility. Your many personalization tools must meld into a cohesive narrative. Otherwise, you’re confusing your subscribers and wasting time!

Fortunately, a top-notch designer can make even the strangest email campaigns shine. They work with the limitations of various email clients to produce stunning results. More importantly, they emphasize all the features you’ve put so much time and effort into developing!

Implementation Closes the Gap

Finally — after the images are approved and the writing is polished — an email campaign is handed to an implementation specialist.

These pros often work alongside the strategist. Their primary duties revolve around sending email campaigns. They do the behind-the-scenes automation and scheduling. Without them, you’d be sending new subscribers reminder emails and pestering loyal customers with welcome email flows! Trust me on this one: You need an implementation pro.

But that’s not all of their work! The best implementation pros also double-check everything, giving all of your email marketing campaigns a final review before sending them on their way. They guarantee everything works smoothly, including that form integration your designers spent hours perfecting for mobile viewing. They guarantee everything reaches the right person with the best email deliverability. And — of course — they ensure your email content matches your expectations.

Spend Less and Get More From Your Email Marketing

Overlapping leaves. “Get the Pros: Let Us Handle Your Nonprofit Email Marketing.”

That’s a lot of work, right?

Unfortunately, nonprofit organizations are often running low on free time and funds. There’s barely a moment of breathing room to organize fundraising efforts — much less worry about the finicky details of email marketing. So many wonderful nonprofits ultimately see email marketing as an unobtainable goal, yet its power is unrivaled.

You can try using a free version of any of today’s popular email marketing platforms. You can try running it yourself. However, it’s just not efficient! You need a way to tackle your fundraising and awareness campaigns without biting into your nonprofit’s mission.

You need a strategic partner.

Fortunately, The Email Marketers can help! My hand-picked team of email marketing professionals knows the ins and outs of this complex digital medium. We understand those basic email marketing best practices and the intricacies of email marketing services.

With The Email Marketers, you receive an on-demand team ready to tackle your email marketing needs. So, see what we can do! Schedule a free strategy session to see how The Email Marketers can make your nonprofit organization shine. And don’t forget to browse the rest of my blog for more amazing tricks and tips for your email marketing.