Nonprofit Email Marketing Guide 2024

Nonprofit email marketing is challenging. Your marketing needs to be compelling and engaging without being too pushy or salesy. And because you aren’t selling anything, marketing for nonprofits is very different from say… your typical eCommerce email marketing.

Effective emails spark excitement about your cause and encourage people to contribute donations. That’s why we created this guide with insights and strategies, inspired by great nonprofit campaign examples. 

This guide will show you how to master nonprofit email marketing with:

  • Examples of real nonprofit email campaigns for cultivation and fundraising
  • Details on what makes each email campaign stand out and successful.
  • The best email marketing tools for nonprofits.
  • Tips to improve your nonprofit email marketing strategy.
  • Donor management platforms to simplify operations.

Chapters:
1. 7 Cultivation Emails you can’t afford to miss
1. Welcome Email for Nonprofits
2.  Nonprofit Email Newsletter
3. Impact Story Email
4. Nonprofit Thank You Email
5. Survey Email for Nonprofits
6. Advocacy Email for Nonprofits
7. Social Media Engagement Email for Nonprofit
2. Email Marketing Tools for Nonprofits
3. 7 Proven Fundraising Email Examples
1. Nonprofit Appeal Email
2. Letter Email
3. Matching Gift Email
4. Event Email
5. Urgent Email
6. Planned Giving
7. Capital Campaign
4. 7 Tips to Improve Your Nonprofit Email Strategy
1. Choose the most effective sender name
2. Craft engaging subject lines and preheaders
3. Clean your email lists
4. Segment your list
5. Personalize emails till it hurts
6. Use mobile responsive templates
7. Automate Emails
5. Donor Management Platforms
Conclusion: Wrapping up our guide on email marketing for nonprofits

7 Cultivation Emails you can’t afford to miss

Cultivation email campaigns build trust among your supporters. Your audience will come to appreciate and trust your organization. As trust in your organization grows, your fundraising emails become more effective, leading to increased donations.

cultivation email campaigns for nonprofits

Cultivation email campaigns provide value and build the donor relationship. You can offer value through updates and exciting content. But don’t stop there think about free ebooks, live streams, webinars, etc. Ask questions, listen, and respond. Cultivation emails are all about value to grow your readership and increase donations! 

1. Welcome Email for Nonprofits

Welcome emails are the first opportunity for engagement. They have an open rate higher than all other types of emails. Done well, it leads to better engagement with future emails and more donations.

Most nonprofits have a hard time getting people to donate, let alone engage with their organization.
That’s because most nonprofit welcome emails look like… 

“Welcome to our email list, this is our mission.” Followed by a big Donate Today button.

That’s no good. People crave to get to know your organization. After all, they signed up for more than a donation form via email… They signed up because they care about what you do and how you do it!

Champion nonprofits make people care. Care about their cause and what they stand for. You want your audience to become promoters who spread the word. So, how on earth can we get that level of commitment? It’s not easy.

What helps is to Share the story they never heard. Show them the real people behind your nonprofit and that every dollar counts when fighting against disease/disaster/other issues affecting society. And give them an opportunity to actively engage with feedback and replies.

Subscribers expect a welcome email series

Two things to always include in your welcome email automation: 

  1. Go into detail about your organization. Share your mission, your history, events, or extraordinary stories. 
  2. Learn more about the subscriber.

Add a survey or encourage them to reply directly from the email.

This welcome email from St. Baldrick’s Foundation is simple, personalized, and fun. They explain more about their mission and encourage you to follow them on social media.

welcome email from St. Baldrick’s Foundation for nonprofits

Notice the visuals and how they are tied together. 

Now, read just the 3 short titles marked 1,2,3. “Hi, You care about kids with cancer.” “We fund pediatric cancer research.” This email delivers the main message in the shortest and most effective way possible. Two takeaways to learn from!

  • Boil down the message to its essence.
    This email delivers the main message in a simple, short, and effective way. You can choose to be short in your message and encourage the click.
  • Create images that amplify your message and story.
    St Baldrick does this better than you’d see at first glance. The images and fonts are tied together. The header image with the girl holding “Hi” grabs the attention of their supporters. The children’s handwriting font on the images evokes nostalgia. It’s all about making them feel an emotional connection.

2.  Nonprofit Email Newsletter

Nonprofits know that a great newsletter can make the difference between someone feeling connected to your organization or not. But crafting an effective newsletter is hard work, especially if you are not a writer by trade.

You can use a newsletter to update and educate. Share ideas, stories, or news that are engaging and help strengthen the relationship and stay top-of-mind.

The problem with email newsletters is that they are hard to create but often even harder to read! Newsletters are typically longer and have multiple calls to action.

Long emails are no problem as long as they aren’t cluttered. Bring a clear hierarchy and great content, and people will scroll through the entire email.

Mix it up and include articles, stories, videos, graphics, and surveys in your nonprofit newsletter.

Water.org has designed a beautiful and inspiring nonprofit newsletter. This example email has 3 sections. And each of them has a compelling image and a clear CTA button.

Water.org nonprofit newsletter
  • In the first block, they clearly explain the impact they made and how they couldn’t have done it without their supporters. Really makes you want to donate again… and the button is right there.
  • The copy is short, with just enough info for the reader to interact. They use stories, videos, and shopping in one email.
  • The video works great to get more people involved – and the ambassadors Matt Damon and Gary White amplify the social proof it has. 

3. Impact Story Email 

First-time donors are often skeptical about donating to a nonprofit. Impact story emails help potential donors see how you use their money to improve lives. Stories also build trust with potential supporters and increase donations.

An impact story is a tool in your nonprofit toolbox that helps you share your stories with your supporters, so they can see the difference they made. You can include impact stories in your newsletter or create standalone impact story emails. 

A variation is the success story. Create email templates for your nonprofit organization to share its success stories. The template comes in 2 versions: 

  • When your organization accomplishes a goal.
  • When you share the impact story of your partners. 

You amplify that success story and show proof of how donors help to make it happen.

Compassion does an excellent job with their storytelling. The copy in this nonprofit email example is short. That is no problem. The intention is to go for the click and read the full story on the website. Compassion keeps the email content just the right length to intrigue and gets that subscriber to click “Keep Reading.” 

They include a beautiful image of the 2 sponsored people adding to the impact. It’s an example of a simple, effective email.     

Compassion using storytelling for nonprofit newsletter

The header copy shows the supporters and donors how their help is impacting whole communities and not just a single person.

4. Nonprofit Thank You Email

Nonprofits often don’t thank their donors enough. A simple thank you email can make a big difference in donor retention and future donations. It’s polite to thank donors, volunteers, and supporters. And it’s not like you need to write every thank you email individually (although that would be a great and personal touch).

The thank you email we’re talking about is an automated email campaign triggered to the donor directly after donating. It will remind them of their gift and enforce the positive feeling and how it helped others in need.

The top of this email should show heartfelt appreciation for their gift. Relationship before business. You can personalize the email with the information they already gave you. For instance, first name and the donation amount. Transactional information and service questions follow at the bottom.

A thank you is already great, but an automated thank you flow is where the magic happens. Anywhere from one week to one month later, send the second thank you email. This one includes an update or impact story about how you used their gift.

Other groups, you can thank besides your donors:
Thank your donors, but don’t stop there. Send thank you emails to people who support your cause in other ways.

For volunteers, tell them how much you appreciate their time, talent, and service. Thank them for their contributions to the team. Tell them you value their hard work. Share an inspirational story and how they helped make it happen.  

Personalize the email. Let them know how many hours they worked or how many conversations they had.

Don’t forget to thank your email subscribers (those who have not donated) for their loyalty and support. If your organization is religious, thank them for their prayers. It’s an opportunity to look back at recent accomplishments. And share the work that still needs to get done. Describe a success story or provide an update on a project.

Get creative with how you thank people. Alex’s Lemonade Stand sent a thank you video from their Executive Directors.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand thank you email as a nonprofit

I love how they use their brand colors. It makes the whole email feel lively and engaging. The main messages like “We Can’t Thank You Enough!” and “A Day of Giving Powered By You” really make the readers feel good about supporting Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

5. Survey Email for Nonprofits

Every nonprofit needs to connect with its supporters, but how do you find out what your supporters want? Ask them! Survey emails are an excellent way for Nonprofits to learn more about their supporter base and their interests.

Surveys build trust. You care about the community, their thoughts, opinions, and needs. It is a way for your most engaged subscribers to share their stories and continue a dialogue.

Increased trust and improved loyalty from your donor base ultimately lead to a better email marketing program and a healthy, engaged database. You can use survey tools or landing page builders.      

How to use the outcomes of your Nonprofit survey emails

Nonprofits have a hard time finding out what their community wants because they never ask. Find out:

  • who your potential donors are, 
  • which causes they support and why, 
  • how much money they’re willing to give, 
  • and why they gave that amount of money. 

Surveys help you learn what content people love and which channels people prefer.

If you have fundraising events, use surveys to gather feedback pre- and post-event. This brings insight into the event activities and venue.

Improve the volunteer retention and recruiting process. Use the survey to learn more about what they want and need. Is the training adequate? Do they have enough support?

Gather donor feedback. Send an online questionnaire to understand your donor’s opinions and motivation. Poll them to discover patterns and commonalities. Ask why they support your organization and any issues to focus on in the future. With this information, you can improve your content.

Nonprofit survey emails

Use the data to segment, craft, and personalize your emails.

You can have fun with surveys and the outcomes. See this example from the Humane Society of the United States. It’s a short email that only asks “Which dog I am.” They used previous information I provided to know I like dogs. Spoiler alert: I am the loyal lab.

Humane Society of the United States fun nonprofit survey emails

The Polaroid-like pictures make you feel like you’re looking at a family wall of photos, with a family of dogs. If that doesn’t make you want to take the quiz alone, the “Which dog are you?” copy in the header and on the button triggers your curiosity. Click!

6. Advocacy Email for Nonprofits

Advocacy emails are about specific issues that affect their life and community. The goal of an advocacy email is to:

  •  Raise awareness and public support
  •  Change a policy, law, or system
  •  Start (or continue) a movement

Mobilize your supporters and encourage them to act in a way that will bring change. You allow citizens to have their voices heard. The average response rate for advocacy emails continues to increase at 3.6%.  

Advocacy Email Types:

Click-to-Contact: In this email, explain the problem. Ask supporters to help by contacting their government representative. If possible, include a phone number to call. Provide links supporters can click to email the decision-makers.

Social Advocacy: Use social sharing and your supporters’ networks to advance the campaign. Ask people to forward the email to family or friends. On a landing page, include social share buttons. They can click and share the message on their social media.

Petition: With a petition, the nonprofit collects signatures from supporters. Requesting representatives to take action in support of your organization’s mission. Sending an email allows the nonprofit to reach larger numbers of people and strengthen the request. Explain the issue and reason for the petition in the email. The call to action should lead to a landing page with the petition.

This petition email from the Wild Salmon Center includes a video to learn more. They also provide stats to show the need.          

nonprofit petition email from the Wild Salmon Center

The header image has all the visual and textual clues that say to the reader: This is important and we need your help! 

The use of red, the capitalized letters, “STOP” and “VETO” words all communicate this need for help. And the rest of the email provides all the details you need to know to get involved.

7. Social Media Engagement Email for Nonprofit 

Email and social media work well together. Use email to get more engagement on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

Send your audience an email asking recipients to like, comment, and share your posts. This increases engagement with your brand. More engagement on social media increases the reach of your posts and gets you in front of their direct contacts (who are likely also potential supporters of your cause).  

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption uses email to encourage people to share content on social media. 

social media engagement email for nonprofit

Each social media is different so they provide unique content for each platform. If you can’t create unique content for all of your social channels, that’s ok. Just repurpose your existing content, so it fits the social channel. 

Write short, clear, and impactful messages to Twitter. Stories to your Facebook pages, groups, and LinkedIn. Post short videos showing your work to Instagram and TikTok. And when you’re ready to invest in long-form video, get started with YouTube.

You might be wondering now, what is the best email marketing service for my nonprofit? Let’s have a look.

Email Marketing Tools for Nonprofits

the best email marketing tools for nonprofits

Choosing the best email marketing software for your nonprofit seems like a hassle. There are so many options, and each email marketing platform is just a bit different.

For example, some of the email marketing services are great at helping you easily create emails that get high open rates, but don’t include any advanced segmentation or automation. Others seem to have it all. From A/B testing to automated workflows to social media integration – plus a ton more features, but are quite expensive or complex. 

We’ve compiled this list of popular nonprofit email marketing software so you don’t have to spend hours researching and testing different platforms yourself. Here are our recommendations on which platform is best for each type of nonprofit.

ActiveCampaign for Nonprofits

ActiveCampaign is more than an email marketing tool. It’s also a CRM and does marketing automation, so you can provide a complete donor journey.

The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI) sends engaging emails using ActiveCampaign. MSI automates many of its emails, sending a welcome email series, updates to exhibits, and re-engagement campaigns.

ActiveCampaign has an easy-to-use drag-and-drop email editor to build your emails in minutes. But the real power of ActiveCampaign is in the automation canvas, which lets you automate welcome emails, track contact engagement, pull info from social media or offline channels, and more. ActiveCampaign also allows you to segment your lists and personalize the email.

For the omnichannel experience, you can also build landing pages, send texts, and connect with social media.

ActiveCampaign has 4 plans depending on the number of contacts. They offer a 20% discount for nonprofit organizations. Check out our ActiveCampaign pricing guide to choose the right plan. 

Cancer Wellness Support and The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation use ActiveCampaign to increase memberships, data accuracy, and survey responses.

Try ActiveCampaign or read our full review

Mailerlite

Mailerlite is one of the most affordable email marketing platforms there is. It is their mission to help you grow subscribers and build strong relationships. They send emails to nonprofit clients like Boys Scouts of America, and ActiveYouth. They increased their open rates by 10% after implementing Mailerlite.

They have a drag-and-drop editor to build professional-looking emails. With MailerLite you can automate triggered campaigns, segment your audiences, and personalize all emails. Tagging and dynamic lists keep your contacts organized.

To grow your audience MailerLite includes a simple landing page builder, forms, and pop-ups.

MailerLite is free for 1,000 contacts or 12,000 emails a month. Their premium plans include all their features and 24/7 email and chat support. Pricing varies based on the number of contacts. Check out our full Mailerlite pricing guide for all the details to help you select a plan.

The World Food Travel Association, and Paterson Habitat for Humanity are just a few nonprofits using Mailerlite for their email marketing.

There is a 30% discount for nonprofits. Be sure to indicate that you’re a nonprofit when you complete your profile after signing up to get the 30% off.

Try Mailerlite for free or read our full review

Moosend

The World Wildlife Fund and the Make-A-Wish Foundation use Moosend as their email marketing tool.  

Moosend is an easy-to-use tool to send personalized newsletters and triggered emails. You can follow the user’s journey from website visit to donation. Design landing pages for lead generation and view real-time reports.  

They have a 30-day free trial and 2 pricing plans. The 30 days are enough to test if the software fits your needs. After that, you can upgrade to paid plans starting at $9/month ($6.75 with the nonprofit discount) for 500 contacts. This makes it much more affordable if you compare it to Campaign Monitor, for example.

Moosend offers a 25% discount for nonprofits. Get started here, and send them your company details and your site address so the discount can be applied. 

Try Moosend for free or read our full review

Brevo

Brevo is an email marketing tool for nonprofits that adds SMS, chat, and a CRM to keep all your data centralized.

You can use their drag-and-drop editor or choose an email template from their library. Automation with triggered emails, segmentation, and personalization. You can also set up transactional emails that will immediately be sent after a donation.

All plans come with unlimited contacts. They offer a free plan, for up to 300 email sends per day. The other plans allow you to send more emails and access more features. Some of the paid features include a landing page builder and phone support. They also have a pay-as-you-go option. Learn more about the details in our full Brevo pricing review.

Try Brevo for free or read our full review

7 Types of Fundraising Email Examples you can’t afford to miss

Do you want to raise more money for your nonprofit or cause-based group? Of course! 

Fundraising emails are a great way to reach your financial goals and get your recipients to take action. Fundraising emails provide a significant income stream for nonprofits and cause-based groups. 

types of fundraising emails

These emails are sent to people who have donated in the past or signed up for updates. They’re usually personalized and include a call-to-action like “Donate now” or “We need your help”. The goal is to get recipients excited about donating again.

Did you ever get a fundraising email from your favorite nonprofit and it was just too compelling so you needed to act on it? That is what we are going for!

While cultivation emails develop the relationship and build trust, fundraising emails are where the money is.

A lot of nonprofits do not realize how powerful fundraising emails can be. No need to think of fundraising emails as spammy or salesy, because they don’t have to be!

With a little bit of creativity and the right examples, you can send an email that will increase donations and keep the positive spirit that your cultivation emails have laid the foundation for. 

If people understand your mission and they know you care, then fundraising emails will perform better because of that solid foundation. 

We’ve outlined the 7 best types of fundraising emails. These examples will help you get started on your campaign and inspire future campaigns as well.

1. Nonprofit Appeal Email

Email continues to prove its value as a way to raise money. The response rate for fundraising emails increased by 41% compared to last year. For every 1,000 messages an organization sends they raise $78

An appeal email raises funds for a specific need. Supporters passionate about a cause want to further it. They want to contribute to a purpose, to know they sacrificed to make a difference.

The appeal email is a convenient and tangible way for supporters to meet that need. It is the most straightforward fundraising email there is. So keep it simple.

The purpose is to get donations so we need to limit the distractions. Focus it on the single call to action: donate.

A simple one-column email is all you need for an appeal email. Describe the need and explain what the reader needs to do to make it possible. Appeal emails work well with a powerful image that matches the story and one button or link to donate.

Don’t add too many calls to action or links. Feed the Children sent this simple, effective email to help provide food. 

nonprofit appeal email

The email references the pandemic and paints a startling picture. They also include stats and a tangible offer. For every $1 donated you provide $8 worth of food. Numbers that show your organization’s contributions build the trust you need to increase donations.

2. Letter Email

Another way to raise funds is to send a personal letter.

This email is from an individual in your organization. It includes a greeting. A personalized greeting is best. At the end of the letter it has a closing and it’s signed, either typed or with an image signature.

You don’t need to include images or buttons. The more like a personal email it looks the better it will perform. 

This email from Acts for Water makes good use of the plain text style email. It is a letter addressed to the individual and signed by the sender.

Acts for Water using plain text style email

They do a great job of telling a story without the use of images. Instead of using a button to donate, Acts for Water hyperlinks the text. They also make the email person-centric, using “you” and “your” throughout the copy.

Use a plain text style appeal email when:

  • you have a strong story to tell but don’t have any visuals,
  • you want every supporter to feel like you’re talking to them personally.

3. Matching Gift Email

One of the great fundraising incentives is the gift match. For every dollar a person gives, a partner will also give that amount (or more).

Nonprofits use this email frequently during end-of-year campaigns. Make it clear that this is a match. Don’t hide the text. Mention this is a match opportunity in the subject line, preheader, body, and/or button.

Communicate the impact a match has on your mission. Keep the focus less on the money and more on the greater impact of their donation.  

Drive the urgency of the match. Use countdown clocks or include how many days or hours they have left to donate.

Send more than one email as the deadline draws near. Don’t overdo it, though, 2-3 emails are all you need before people tune you out. Also, remove anyone who has donated on earlier emails so they do not continue to receive reminders.

Match Email Types
Matching Gift Explainer: Connect supporters with resources to learn how your partner matches their gifts. The email should explain what are matching gift programs, how they work, and the impact they have on your cause.  

Company-specific: Reach out to donors who work for companies with matching gift programs. They work like this: if an employee makes a donation their company will match it. Simple, right?

Campaign-specific: Use this match email to increase fundraising for specific campaigns. Send tailored matching gift emails. For instance, this is a great way to increase gifts on your capital campaign goal.

Year-end: During this busy time of year for nonprofits add one or more match emails. These work well around high-impact days, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. 

Feeding America using matching features for nonprofit emails
  • Feeding America uses a GIF in the middle of the email to highlight this is a match. Instead of the typical ‘donate now’ text on the button, they say “Match My Gift.”
  • There is still a big red “DONATE” button at the top that grabs attention and could work well for subscribers who are ready to donate (without reading more), or it could be distracting from the match email.

Be sure to AB test your match email button placements and CTA texts. Test buttons higher up in the email to see which works best for your audience. 

4. Event Email

Events may look different than they did before 2020, but many organizations continue to rely on them to raise funds. 

Whether the event is in-person, digital, or a mix of both, the event invitation emails will increase your engagement.

Keep it simple. An image, text, and button are all you need to get your reader’s attention. Explain the reason for the event, highlight the time and place, and how their participation will make a difference in stimulating event registrations.

Use an automated email sequence to deliver reminder emails to increase attendance. For in-person events send them weeks and days before and for online events days and hours before the event. Figure out a schedule that works for your case and make sure not to overwhelm your audience with too frequent sending.

This email from the Young Storytellers about a town hall event conveys the message with clear and concise language. They use a branded image, share the reason for the event, and how easy it is to get involved.

Young Storytellers nonprofit event email example

The header image is compelling while not taking up too much space. This helps the supporter get right to the meat of the email. At the end of the copy they provide a clear call to action to “RSVP to Meet Gary” They could have said “RSVP Now,” but their choice to be more specific will increase the click rate.

5. Urgent Email

When disasters happen. When time is running out. Use email to explain the urgent need.

This email is not as much about design as it is about timing. You must convey the message at the right time with the right tone. Describe the circumstances and the need. Share ways their support will help those affected.

At the top of this Samaritan’s Purse email is a powerful image of the destruction caused by the tornadoes. 

nonprofit urgent email example from Samaritan’s Purs

Visuals are processed 60000 times faster than text, so don’t forget to include them in your urgent emails. 

They report on the facts and follow it up with a button to give in the middle of the email. Placing it higher gives people a quick option to donate.

6. Planned Giving

Don’t ignore the importance of using email for planned giving. This is a topic on many supporters’ minds. They need guidance and your nonprofit can help.

This email from the Michael J. Fox Foundation talks about taxes, IRAs, and stocks, but the central message remains how the reader can “leave a mark on Parkinson’s research.” 

nonprofits using emails for planned giving

The yellow header’s copy offers a win-win deal to donors. This is great to give that extra nudge to hesitant, first-time donors.

The block below explains the different options for leaving a lasting legacy. The 2-column layout is structured well:

  • They gave the blocks enough padding so it doesn’t feel cluttered. Use padding and spacers to get a cleaner layout.
  • Their use of divider lines is simple and elegant. Steer clear from using thick borders, they will make your email look like it was designed in 1998.

7. Capital Campaign

Can email help you raise money for your new building? Yes. Use email as part of the campaign.

To capture people’s attention use action verbs in the subject line and call to action. Stay away from words like “updates,” instead say “exciting plans.”

This is where a segmented list is important. You will need to find the people most excited about this campaign.

If you plan to send to a larger audience, add the content to a newsletter that includes other content.

Throughout the campaign provide emails with photos, videos, and stories.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association includes a photo of the building under construction. 

using email campaigns to raise capital as a nonprofit

The content of the email shares the purpose and also thanks them for their continued support. 

The image of the building under construction gives supporters an almost tangible feeling of how they use their money. The copy reinforces this with a story of the workers and the unique center.

Give your donors a peek behind the scenes. Make them feel the work you’re doing and they’ll be happy to give more.

7 Tips to Improve Your Nonprofit Email Strategy

1. Choose the most effective sender name

Email subject lines get all the love, but the sender name is a more important reason for people to open your email. Nonprofits have a couple of choices when it comes to choosing the best sender name.

  1. Send from the organization.
  2. Send from an individual who works for the organization, like the president or development director. 
  3. Or both.

For nonprofits sending from an individual seems more personal. But it isn’t always the most effective. Choose only one person as the representative. Don’t send different emails from different individuals. This will confuse the recipients, making it difficult to build trust. 

The best option is to send from an individual and also include the organization.  

using effective sending names for nonprofit emails

Word of warning: the sender name will get cut off in the preview pane if it is too long. Still not sure what works best for your organization. Test it.

2. Craft engaging subject lines and preheaders

Now that we have a trusted sender name, focus on the subject line. An engaging subject line will improve open rates. One study found 33% of people open an email based on the subject line.

Writing a good subject line is difficult, often it is the toughest part. Write the email first and look at the copy for subject line inspiration. Match the subject line to the purpose of the email.

Keep the subject line short, between 20-35 characters. There are 6 types of subject lines to choose from. The best ones portray a sense of curiosity or urgency.

crafting engaging subject lines and examples

Preview text is the unsung hero of the inbox preview. It’s the final chance to encourage people to open the email. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked by marketers. 

Without preview text, the first line of the email will get pulled into the inbox. Resulting, sometimes with preview text that says “View in browser.” Or if your email starts with an image the email service provider will pull the image alt tag.

nonprofit preview text example

Since the subject line is short, use the preheader as an extension. To explain more about the email. Look for ways to trigger curiosity so you’ll get higher open rates.

3. Clean your email lists

This is an often neglected practice for nonprofits. A clean email list is a healthy email list

Remove people who have not opened your emails. Why, you ask? Sending to people who don’t open affects your deliverability. By scrubbing your email list, you have a better chance your emails will get delivered. 

By using good email verification tools you keep your email list clean, your bounce rate low, and sender reputation high. It hurts your deliverability when you have too many bounced emails. And risk ending up in the spam box. By validating emails, you don’t waste money on sending to bad addresses.

How often you clean your lists depends on how much you send. Some organizations clean their lists every 3-6 months. Feel free to send a re-engagement email before removing subscribers for good. 

Don’t send emails to anyone who has not opened an email in 1 year.    

4. Segment your list

Group people based on preferences or behavioral data to send better emails. You can create lists of people who share the same interests or have taken the same action.

A few segmented list ideas include:

  • Donors
  • Lapsed Donors
  • Contribution Amount
  • Volunteers
  • Event Attendees
  • Projects
  • Region
  • Board Members, Major Donors, etc

Sending emails to segmented audiences will help your subscribers feel like you know them.

It will also improve the performance of the emails. Emails to segmented audiences have better open, click, and conversion rates. And lower unsubscribe rates.

Check out how the Idaho Conservation League used segmentation to increase their membership renewals. 

5. Personalize emails till it hurts

Personalized emails engage with people at a one-to-one level.

It isn’t enough anymore to only personalize an email with a first name. Find ways to personalize the entire email. Use specific and relevant messaging for the intended audience.

Personalize the audience first, then the email.

Look for common behaviors and interests. Does a group of people give to a certain project? Does another group like one type of content? Can you send it only to specific volunteers?

Exactly what makes your email personal for the reader?

personalizing emails as a nonprofit

6. Use mobile responsive templates

Most people open their email on mobile. It’s common to first check an email on mobile and then read it or take action on a desktop. 

As nonprofits, we still have work to do with emails displaying well on mobile. 

An email that looks good on mobile has:

Use email render testing tools like Litmus or Email on Acid to check how an email will look across multiple devices.   

7. Automate Emails

automating emails for nonprofits

Time is precious. It’s difficult to send as many emails as you would like. That’s why automation is so helpful. Automated emails help you send the same emails to the same groups of people. Freeing you for other tasks.

They also increase reply and engagement rates because they are more timely and relevant than regular campaigns.

Nonprofits should have the following email automation series activated.

  • New Subscriber Welcome: A 3-5 email drip campaign that introduces the subscriber to the organization, shares stories and resources and asks for a donation.
  • First-time Donor Welcome: Another multi-email campaign that thanks the donors for the gift and explains more about the mission of the organization and how that gift will be used. They can email new content, stories, and resources, as well. By the end of the series, nonprofits should ask for either another donation or to become a monthly donor.    
  • Donation Acknowledgment: Send an automated donation thank you email with a receipt. Include an impact story so donors see how their gift will be used toward your mission  
  • Event Acknowledgment: Once a supporter signs up to attend an event, send an acknowledgement email with the date, time, and link if it is an online event. 
  • Volunteer Thank You: At least once a year send your volunteers a thank you email that shares the impact of their assistance. You can also include a story of how their time and energy helped with the mission. Personalize this email with the number of hours they volunteered, how many people they spoke to, etc. 

You can also automate emails for:

  • Donor Birthday
  • Donor Anniversary 
  • Abandoned Donations or Ecommerce Purchases
  • Update Payment Information
  • Lapsed Donors

Automated emails allow nonprofits to prioritize other higher-value tasks. It simplifies nonprofit marketing and fundraising so organizations can capitalize on their resources, increase engagement, and achieve greater impact on their mission. 

Donor Management Platforms

Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT

Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT crm for nonprofits

Built for nonprofits to help fundraise. Blackbaud helps you to find new supporters and engage existing donors.

They provide multi-channel tools, including email. To see how your campaigns perform, they give you analytics and reporting tools.

Their fundraising software automatically processes online donations, pledges, and payments from your website. Removing the hassle of manual entry.

Pricing is only available upon request. Training, how-to docs, support, and a community are there to help you if you get blocked.

Bloomerang

Bloomerang donor management platform

The donor management platform from Bloomerang is easy to use. It integrates well with many other companies, including Eventbrite, SurveyMonkey, and MailChimp.

Their CRM allows you to manage donors, volunteers, and sponsors. They have real-time retention and engagement metrics to help you build strong relationships. You can create online giving forms and records are automatically updated.

Bloomerang allows you to identify prospects. You see every person’s current engagement level based on interactions with your organization.

Their pricing starts from $99/month for 1000 contacts. It includes 5000 emails, unlimited users, free email and chat support, unlimited online giving pages, and forms.

Virtuous

Virtuous responsive fundraising crm

Virtuous prides itself on responsive fundraising. Designed to help organizations build better donor relationships.  

Simplify your donor management with their CRM. They also provide digital marketing tools that help you send integrated engagement campaigns. Giving people an omnichannel experience.

Their automation process allows you to connect with every donor in real-time. No additional staff time is required.  

For mid-sized nonprofits, they have 2 pricing plans. 

The Standard plan starting at $350/month includes:

  • 1,000 contacts,
  • 5 users,
  • 4 automation workflows,
  • and 5,000 email sends per month. 

The Professional plan starting at $700/month allows for 

  • 5,000 contacts, 
  • unlimited users and automation workflows,
  • 25,000 emails per month,
  • and many other features.

Virtuous also has a plan for large nonprofits. Available for organizations with 50,000 to 3 million supporters.

Documentation, help articles, video training, and on-demand support are available for all plans.

Wrapping up our guide on email marketing for nonprofits

Nonprofit email marketing is more than collecting funds. It is a way to communicate. Think of email as communication and relationship building, and the gifts will follow.

Use the right tools. The best nonprofit email software will free up time that you can use to create content to spread your mission. Take inspiration from the best nonprofit newsletters. These will provide a solid foundation and will improve your email engagement.

About John Walsh


John Walsh is one of the most innovative digital marketers in the nonprofit sector today. He currently leads email marketing at one of the world's largest Evangelical ministry organizations. He also has a blog called Nonprofit Campaign Lab where he writes about real nonprofit marketing campaigns.


About Jordie van Rijn


Jordie van Rijn is an independent email marketing consultant and analyst. He is the founder of Email Vendor Selection and specializes in smart email marketing, online marketing strategy, software selection, campaign management, optimisation and RFP / vendor selection. He tested, reviewed, and wrote about 100+ business software including email marketing services, CRMs, ecommerce platforms, and online course creators. Published in-depth email marketing guides for financial service, ecommerce, travel, restaurant, and fashion industries.
Named one of "50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch" by Entrepreneur magazine. Companies like Scania, KLM, Unilever, AEGON, CZ, FNV, NRC Media have asked me for advice.

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