Nonprofit Email Marketing: 7 Emails for All-Year Engagement
One of the best ways to get the word out about a fundraising campaign is through email. Emails are free, instant, completely customizable and able to reach anyone on your list who has an email address, which is pretty much everyone.
But you don’t need a major fundraising campaign on the horizon to engage your supporters through email. In fact, to build meaningful relationships with your donors, you need to show them that you don’t just care about them when you’re asking them for donations.
Here are seven kinds of emails you can send to your donors that aren’t donation solicitations:
- Requests to update profile
- Educational content
- Alternate giving information
The key with all of these non-solicitation emails is a focus on the donor. If it’s all about you, then you aren’t actually showing your donors that you care about them.
If you’re ready to show your donors just how much you value their support, keep reading!
Depending on the online fundraising software you’re using, your donors might receive automatic confirmation messages after they complete a donation. These messages often say “thank you” in the subject line or the first paragraph, but their primary purpose is to confirm a donation.
It’s important to also send out messages just to thank your donors for supporting your nonprofit without being prompted by a specific donation.
A proper, non-automatic thank you message should contain some or all of the following elements:
- The thank you in the subject line, the copy and any videos or images.
- The donor’s preferred name and title, as recorded in your CRM.
- A reference to the donor’s engagement with your nonprofit, either a specific campaign or event they participated in or the type of support they provide
A thank you does not need to be complicated to be effective. In fact, in many cases, a short message is better at conveying a sense of intimacy, the same way a handwritten note feels more personal than a highly formatted, typewritten letter.
While you can send a thank you at any time of the year, your donors’ birthdays, the holidays and the end/beginning of the year are good places to start.
Sometimes, you might want to do more than say “thank you”—you might want to actually show your donors the effect their support has on the cause you champion. To accomplish this, you need to tell a story.
A nonprofit story shares anecdotes, interviews or statistics detailing the positive impact donors have had on the community served by the nonprofit.
Limited only by your communication software and your imagination, you have your choice of formats for your story, including:
- A few paragraphs
- A photo or photo series
- A video or video series
- Charts or tables
- Interactive elements
The best nonprofit impact stories are those that show donors exactly what part they played, especially if there is still work to do. Show how your beneficiaries are better off because of your efforts or the effort your volunteers put into your latest fundraising event, in story format.
In this way, stories are a part of your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy without seeming to be.
Just because an email isn’t asking for a solicitation doesn’t mean it isn’t asking the recipient for anything. Quite the opposite!
One of the best ways to keep your donors engaged through your email marketing without soliciting a donation is to ask them to complete some other action, such as filling out a survey.
Your survey could ask for thoughts on any topic—from feedback on your latest fundraising event to voting for your nonprofit’s next fundraising beneficiary.
An area of your nonprofit that can benefit especially from survey emails is your volunteer engagement. Your volunteers are among your most dedicated supporters, and you need to show them that you want to make their experience the best it can be.
By sending out a general feedback survey to the volunteers that helped with a certain event immediately after the event takes place, you get valuable ideas for making your program better while your volunteers get the satisfaction of knowing their voices are being heard.
4. Requests to Update Profile
Another type of email that requires some action other than a donation is a request for your donors to update information in their profile in your nonprofit CRM.
As you can explain in your email to your donors, having the proper information on file ensures that you can send them important paperwork, such as donation receipts, and contact them about campaigns they might be interested in.
On a deeper level, the more detailed information about your donors you have, the more targeted your actual solicitation emails can be. For instance, donors are more likely to contribute to fundraising campaigns that directly affect the cities they live in than those they don’t have a connection to.
You might ask you donors to confirm that the following information is correct:
- Contact information, such as physical address, email address and phone numbers for home and work, as well as communication preferences.
- Personal details, such as preferred name and title, marital status and employment information.
- Payment preferences, such as their credit card or banking numbers.
Though these emails are typically sent around the end of the year, you can schedule them for a less busy time of year to ensure that they aren’t buried under other messages in your donors’ inbox.
5. Educational Content
You want your emails to have some value to them. Otherwise, your donors will simply ignore, archive or delete them. You want your donors to open and appreciate your non-solicitation emails, so that they better receive your actual solicitations when they come along.
A popular way to add value to your donor emails is to provide some kind of educational content that your donors would like to read.
You don’t have to guess what you think they would be interested in. Think about it: You know that your donors are interested in philanthropy, so why not send them news from the world of charitable giving, particularly the area that your nonprofit serves?
If you have the staff and the time, you could write interesting, educational content yourself. But for smaller nonprofits or nonprofits that just want a quick non-solicitation email to send, you can share blog posts from established nonprofit and fundraising blogs, like those on this list curated by Double the Donation.
Whether you write them yourself or find them elsewhere, make sure that the content you’re sharing with your donors isn’t too long or complicated. You’re trying to avoid donors simply deleting your emails and sending high-level content about the inner workings of philanthropic organizations is a great way to get your emails moved to the trash.
One of the most basic best practices of nonprofit operations is transparency. You have to build trust with your donors—otherwise, they won’t trust you to be a good steward of their money and time. To show that your organization is worthy of that trust, you have to keep your donors in the loop.
Why not take advantage of an opportunity to strengthen that bond of trust, while also keeping your nonprofit in the front of your donors’ minds?
Email your donors with messages about updates to your nonprofit, such as:
- Changes in leadership: A new face on the board or in an executive position can take some getting used to, so use an email to introduce your new leader to your donors in the form of an interview, a picture and a short bio.
- New software: Especially if you’re implementing new software that your donors will be interacting with, like fundraising software, send your donors a rundown of the new features and ways their interactions with your organization will change.
- Website redesigns: If you spend the time to make your website more interesting, share it with your donors! They should be the first to know.
- Publicity: Any time your nonprofit gets mentioned in a news story or a nonprofit blog, send the link to your donors. This shows your donors that your organization is getting recognized for their good work.
In all of these cases, make sure to emphasize that all of these exciting changes are made possible by the donor’s support. You really couldn’t do anything without them, so make sure they know it!
7. Alternate Giving Information
Sometimes, all a donor needs to become more involved in your organization is information. You know how many ways there are to support your organization, but do your donors?
Without directly soliciting a donation, you can spread the word to your donors about other ways for them to contribute to your cause, like:
- Specialized fundraisers, such as peer-to-peer fundraising
- Volunteering at an event or group volunteer day
- Calling donors as part of a phone bank
- Purchasing a membership
- Serving on the nonprofit board
You should already be hosting a “Ways to Give” page on your website. This page is likely dominated by your donation form and information about tax-deductible donations. But be sure you include these alternate ways to give and promote them in occasional emails.
When sending information about alternate giving methods, you can take an educated guess at which of your constituents would be most open to each type.
For instance, major donors and business owners or C-level employees are more likely to sit on the board than small gift givers, and students and retirees likely have more time to volunteer than working professionals.
With these seven types of emails in your pocket, you don’t need to wait until a big fundraising campaign rolls around to remind your donors that you exist. Keep in touch with them without soliciting a donation to show them you care about their support.
Bonus! Need some writing tips for your next email campaign? Try these tips!
Dan Quirk is the Marketing Manager at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Dan's marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.