Nonprofit email marketing is an incredible tool. It’s a direct line to your most engaged donors and a reliable way to deliver your important messages. Unfortunately, it’s also difficult to execute perfectly.
Nonprofits are sending more emails now than any time before, but we’re seeing a decline in individual donations. People aren’t motivated by the messages you’re sending them. Rather than sending more email blasts or worse, giving up on the channel altogether, try some of these strategies to revamp your email marketing and drive conversions.
Before you read through our suggested strategies for more successful nonprofit email marketing, we want to offer one tip. Don’t try all of them at once. The most useful learnings come from changing one variable at a time. With more than one variable, you can’t be certain which change resulted in better results. Of course, in dire situations, some organizations might consider a complete refresh of their entire brand and marketing philosophy. More likely, though, a few targeted tweaks will get you out of your rut and start converting more donors. Try one tactic at a time so you can make the most of your time and resources.
A common mistake organizations make is to assume they know what their subscribers want to hear. This trap is particularly dangerous for nonprofits because of your singular mission and the passion you feel. It’s easy to assume that anyone who is interested in your nonprofit only wants to hear about the work you do and the progress you’ve made.
Certainly, your mission is the headline. But if that’s all you talk about, donors will start to ignore you. Your emails become redundant and predictable. Donors don’t feel the need to engage. Effective emails deliver a new reason to care every time. If you don’t know what those reasons might be, open up to your donors to ask them.
Send surveys to your email list, make phone calls to donors or, better yet, hold meet ups to connect with them face-to-face. Show an interest in what they care about to start to understand how you can deliver effective emails that will drive generosity. With a more open relationship that prioritizes your donors, your content will start to reflect what your donors care about most.
Similar to sending the wrong messages, sending an outdated messages in your emails won’t catch your donor’s eye, much less motivate them to act. Especially if your message tends to highlight the negative, donors will experience compassion fatigue. These are people who have seen the same dire information from you for months, sometimes years. Without hope or excitement, they will stop caring and giving.
Try to refresh your messaging using personal stories. In general, people are more motivated by feelings than logic. If you want to get them to take an action, make them feel something instead of only thinking about it.
Include positive messages about your organization, the team and your growth. Highlight big things that aren’t about your mission, but rather, about the personal accomplishments of people in your organization. Try promoting donor stories to show what a fun and diverse community you’re building. Open the conversation about internal problems you’re trying to solve and ask for suggestions from your list.
All these examples tie to your overall message and mission, but they also add new elements for your donors to connect with. A good rule of thumb for any messaging you deliver is this: If you’re burned out from writing it, your subscribers are probably tired of reading it. The more interesting and engaging your email content, the more likely they are to feel connected to your cause.
A solution that will significantly improve overall strategy and performance of your nonprofit email marketing is understanding what your donors don’t know. As the expert, you have a deep understanding of your why. Your donors don’t have that historical knowledge, which means some ideas or initiatives that make sense to you won’t to them.
Try to understand your donor’s journey from the first time they heard about your nonprofit to the anniversary of their first donation. Identify what messaging they receive from you and where the gaps in information are.
Then, create a more holistic experience. Send emails that educate them as well as entertain them. With meaningful, frequent engagements, they will start to understand your why and create their own. That kind of loyalty and commitment is much easier to motivate into action when you’re ready to send a fundraising email.
If your emails don’t have any personalization elements, try to fix that immediately. Your donors need to know that they aren’t just another person who signs checks for you.
Personalization can be as simple as adding their first name to each email introduction. But, it should also include personalized messaging. Send donors the information they care most about from the individuals at your nonprofit whom they’ve connected with.
Use what you know about their hobbies, interests, social network plus campaigns they’ve supported in the past and events they’ve attended to craft emails they can’t ignore. Give them next steps that speak directly to what they care about and watch your conversion rates grow.
In today’s world of content abundance, some believe marketers need to be loud and fast to get people to notice. While that might be true in some instances, email marketing is much more intentional. These are people who have opted into your content. They are interested in connecting at a deeper level.
Do your part to build a relationship by including meaningful content in your nonprofit email marketing. If you provide value in each of your emails through relationship-building content and other information they can share with their friends and family, it will be a no brainer for them to donate when you send a fundraising email. Provide long-form content that they can really spend time with. This could include blog posts from your team members who are working in the field or news content around your mission in general.
Be as transparent as possible with your goals, hopes and anything you might be afraid of in the future. Honesty will drive authentic connection and commitment to your nonprofit. When you make an ask, they will want to do whatever they can to keep you moving towards a goal they’ve already invested time and interest in.
Another element to pay attention to is how your emails are being displayed to your donors. If they open an email that doesn’t load correctly, they’re going to delete it immediately, no matter what the content says.
As nonprofit email marketing gets more sophisticated, subscribers have a higher expectation for emails. If your designs don’t look like others in their inbox, they might assume you’re not as professional as other organizations. Anything that plants a seed of doubt in your donors’ minds is something to fix as soon as possible.
Make sure the text displays as the right size, the images load quickly and all your links are easy to find. Additionally, make sure that it works on both mobile and desktop. Take your time to ensure your emails are not making it harder for your donors to give to your nonprofit.
Beyond the content of your email, you may also need to change the way you think about your goals. Putting a fundraising goal to your email marketing is a good big picture goal, but it’s not something you can optimize throughout the year.
Take a look at your performance metrics to determine which ones you can be more specific about in order to improve your email marketing performance. Determine what the average number of emails you need to send in order to reach your ideal open rate. Next, determine how many emails need to be opened to get your ideal click through rate. And finally, understand what click through rate you need in order to get your ideal conversion rate on your donation page. Once you have a specific goal for each metric, you’ll have a much clearer path towards creating the best nonprofit email marketing strategy.
Traditional fundraising strategies no longer work. This blueprint explains why today's donor expects more, and how nonprofits are shifting to responsive fundraising.