5 Email Marketing Must-Do's to Boost Nonprofit Donations
Email marketing is a key strategy for any nonprofit’s overall fundraising strategy.
While email is a digital platform for persuasive rhetoric, which can be used to help convince people to donate, this can only be done when email is used correctly. When you take the latest social science research findings into account, as discussed in this article, you can craft your email to best appeal to the audience you want to reach.
Inarguable fact: Communication is key to building relationships with supporters, retaining more donors and boosting your overall fundraising strategy. And digital communication centers around email.
How can email boost your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy for more donations? Here are five primary ways:
- Collect email addresses at every turn.
- Collect data, segment it and personalize your outreach.
- Email has to link directly to your optimized online donation platform.
- You can engage your supporters to build relationships with your organization.
- Show your appreciation to supporters.
Before you can reap the benefits of an effective email marketing campaign, you need the tools to create and send the emails to connect to recipients. We recommend using a complete nonprofit CRM to do so.
A complete CRM solution will help nonprofits craft emails, choose recipient lists and ensure everything is branded to the organization within the same system. If you’re in the market for a complete solution, check out CharityEngine’s nonprofit CRM buyer’s guide.
1. Collect Email Addresses at Every Turn
One of the major benefits of an effective email strategy is that your organization can effectively start a connection — and begin gathering information — at a pretty low cost. Anytime you have the opportunity to use emails as a platform to introduce people to your organization, do it.
Always have lead capture forms on your website’s frequently visited pages or blog posts. Motivate people to sign up at events or in person.
Lead capture forms are used to collect entry level information (like a name and email address) in order to acquire new supporters for your fundraising campaign.
From that form, the names enter into your CRM. Then, you can create a segment of new supporters to send a welcome email to in order to kick off the engagement. Not just asks — welcome messages. In this email, you should include elements like:
- Your nonprofit’s mission statement.
- Opportunities for involvement including donating, volunteering and others.
- Links back to the website to learn more about the organization as a whole.
- Purchasing opportunities if your organization offers merchandise.
Helpful information can be gleaned by what they open. Their click activity can tell you valuable information to help with segmentations. It’s why importing and exporting mailing lists into other email tools doesn’t help you. You need to be able to apply their email interaction data to their profiles.
2. Reach Donors on a Personal Level via Segmentation
While the timely welcome message will help your organization kick an engagement with supporters off right, continued outreach and communications will help maintain those relationships and foster them for more donations in the future.
The more information you collect about your supporters, the more personalized you can make the communications you send to them. Personalization leads to these imperative relationships.
Again, this is why using separate CRM and email platform systems works against your nonprofit’s success.
Store the information you collect about your supporters in your nonprofit’s donor management software, then use that information to create segments. We mentioned earlier that your nonprofit should create a segment for newly acquired supporters, but other segments that your organization should create include:
- First-time donors
- Repeat donors
- Giving frequency
- Demographic information
When you craft your messages to your supporters, use these segments to ensure personalization. For instance, if you create a segment of supporters based on their employer, you can identify which supporters will be eligible for a matched gift by their employer based on information in a matching gift database.
3. Link People Directly to Your Optimized Donation Platform
Working in a complete digital system allows your organization to link your supporters directly to the giving platform. This takes away the step of asking supporters to search for your organization’s website or donation page on their own. You can send them right there!
This also means you will be collecting actionable data. Your donation page will see an upward trend in online traffic as a direct result of your email marketing campaign, which is why your nonprofit should make the optimization of the page (and the platform tools used to optimize the page) a primary concern.
When you can connect emails sent with resulting analytics like open rates, click-through rates, which links proved most successful, and which elements led to the most total donations and total revenue, you can make smart decisions. If the email was a success in terms of opens and clicks, but didn’t do well on conversions, it tells you where to focus — a better landing page!
Asking for money online is always more effective when your organization has a customized and effectively branded donation page.
When you design the donation page that you want to link to in your emails, be sure to:
- Check for mobile responsiveness. Many donors prefer to check their email on their smartphones, so be sure you’re ready to receive donations from handheld devices as well with a responsive donation page (in addition to your mobile-responsive email).
- Effectively brand the donation page. It should be immediately obvious that the donation page that’s linked to from your email comes from your organization, so be sure to maintain consistency with your nonprofit’s logo, colors and fonts.
- Use persuasive imagery. Don’t make the mistake of cramming too many pictures onto your donation page. Instead, choose the one that will captivate the widest audience and include that image in a prominent location on the donation page so as to not crowd it.
- Write a clear call-to-action.You should have clear calls-to-action on both your email and your donation page. Your email call-to-action should make it clear that you’re directing your supporter to the donation page. Meanwhile, the donation page call-to-action should make it clear that the supporter is submitting their gift.
Asking for money online may seem tricky to nonprofits. But with confidence in your communication ability and an effective email donation page, you’re off to the right start. Plus, you can check out this guide for more tips and tricks.
4. Engage Supporters to Build Relationships With Your Nonprofit
With an effective email marketing strategy, your nonprofit can focus on boosting your entire engagement strategy.
When your nonprofit looks at the big picture engagement strategy for your supporters, you boost the donations supporters give and bolster the other opportunities to advance your mission.
Some of the other opportunities you can email your supporters about to get them more involved with your organization include:
- Advocacy campaigns
- Volunteer opportunities
- Event invitations
- And more!
One of the main reasons nonprofits see a boost in their fundraising when they push for other engagement opportunities is because it keeps your donors from feeling like you’re hounding them for cash.
If someone just gave to your organization, and you send an email a week later asking them to give again, they’re less likely to feel as though that first gift was fully appreciated. However, if you instead send them a notice of your latest click-to-call advocacy campaign, that donor will likely be more willing to get involved.
And again, it helps you segment your donors by giving you data to use!
Opportunities like nonprofit advocacy help switch up the types of asks that you send to your supporters, which maintains their engagement with the organization itself. More engagement helps build the relationship, which leads to more donations. To get started on your next advocacy campaign, start with more research from this article by Double the Donation.
5. Show Your Appreciation for Your Supporters
Email is instantaneous. This means your supporters no longer need to wait for two to three days before they receive a thank-you note for their donations by snail mail. Now, donors can receive an immediate recognition for their gift and immediate appreciation from your organization.
Showing appreciation is linked directly to relationship-building between your nonprofit and its supporters.
After all, your nonprofit is fueled by the generosity of donors, so make sure they know how much they mean to you! Saying thank you gives donors that warm fuzzy feeling inside when they know they’ve helped someone and made a difference. You can guarantee that they will also adopt negative sentiments toward your nonprofit if you don’t say it.
When it comes to thanking your donors, we recommend:
- Setting up automatic confirmations to be sent by email after each donation.
- Sending a follow-up email to reinforce the appreciation for the gift.
- Personalizing all appreciation emails with the donor’s name and gift amount.
Timeliness and genuinity are key to appreciation emails. Don’t make them run-of-the-mill! Your nonprofit should stand out for showing that you truly and deeply care about your supporters. Make them feel like part of the family.
And don’t forget, email isn’t just for asks or receipts. It’s a way for you to give back to them. Send emails that just say “Thanks!” “Thanks for being so important to our success!” We couldn’t do it without you!”
Email is key to an effective communication strategy for nonprofits. When used correctly, it can drastically bolster the relationships you have with your supporters. This relationship-building is used to also build donor retention. And nonprofits who retain more donors end up with a stronger and more reliable fundraising strategy!
When you think about it, your strengths in fundraising all come back to your email, your ability to communicate and your ability to use email data for measuring success. Therefore, your nonprofit should do its best to make this strategy as comprehensive as possible.
Leigh Kessler is VP of Marketing and Communications at donor management software platform CharityEngine and a frequent speaker on branding, fundraising, data and technology. He is a former nationally touring headline comedian and has appeared on numerous TV shows including VH1’s “Best Week Ever”, CNN’s “Showbiz Tonight”, Discovery Channel & Sirius Radio. He has overseen and informed research and branding strategies for some of the most well known brands in America.