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6 Best Practices for Nonprofit Email Newsletters

6 Best Practices for Nonprofit Email Newsletters

For nonprofits, newsletters can be a powerful tool: They can funnel traffic to your website, educate subscribers and help launch fundraising campaigns. Subscribers and donors who have interacted with your nonprofit in the past need to stay in the know about what’s going on with your organization, because keeping them updated can encourage them to continue their partnership with you. Many nonprofits tend to overlook email; if you have a newsletter, you’re already a step ahead of the game. Improve even further by following these six best practices for nonprofit email marketing: 

#1. Define a strategy

How often should you send a nonprofit email newsletter? Unfortunately, many nonprofits are notorious for not putting as much time and thought into their marketing as they could, which equals fewer emails going out. If you feel as if less is more, override that instinct, making a point to send email newsletters regularly — you want to stay at the top of your subscribers’ minds, because 53% of subscribers leave an organization when that organization doesn’t communicate often and well. Many nonprofits find a sweet spot by sending a newsletter biweekly and running some tests to determine the best time of day to send. Just make sure every email you send is high-quality and relevant, containing something that interests your readers. Which brings us to our next point…

#2. Tell a story

Your newsletter subscribers don’t want to hear stats and figures — at least, not all the time. Instead, use stories to resonate with your readers and tug at their heartstrings. Storytelling is a powerful way to convince someone to do something; our brains are wired for story. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, for instance, sends its subscribers a weekly “patient spotlight” that shares the story of a child receiving cancer treatment at a St. Jude hospital. In your email newsletters, look for ways to share the stories of the people your organization has helped. And don’t overlook your volunteers: Often, volunteers have a powerful story of an event or experience that made them be passionate about a certain cause.

Subject line: *|FNAME|*, your weekly update and patient spotlight

nonprofit storytelling email

#3. Craft powerful subject lines

Keep your nonprofit email subject lines clear and brief; 28-39 characters is best. Allude to what’s inside the email (“Here’s how we’re saving the whales”) but leave enough mystery that the email needs to be opened. If you’re asking for donations, you can also include a time limit (“Last chance for a tax-deductible gift”).

And even though your subject line needs to stay short, you can still use it to evoke emotion in your readers, getting them to open the rest of the email. The World Wildlife Fund sent a recent email with a powerful subject line that read, “Together, we are 8 million strong.” Those few simple words are enough to make donors and subscribers feel as if they are a part of something bigger than themselves – a feeling that is extraordinarily compelling. 

Subject line: Together, we are 8 million strong

nonprofit email subject lines that work

#4. Design a specific CTA

Designing a CTA for a nonprofit email newsletter is a little different than designing a CTA for another organization. As a nonprofit, in many cases, your CTA will ask people to open their wallet — and that can be a little awkward. What’s the key to getting people to give? Answer: Spark emotion and remind people of the real need behind your ask.

Include only one CTA button in each email so you don’t overwhelm readers with requests. Think carefully about the design of the button; Charity:water added a little doodle to the upper left of the CTA button, helping it stick out. And the button itself is blue, just like the clean water the donations will help provide. 

As you write your email, don’t overlook the copy that leads into the CTA, too. A CTA will only be effective if it’s backed up by the rest of the email. Here, Charity:water talks about why clean water is so important and uses emotionally evocative language before it even gets to the CTA. Plus, the subject line acts like a CTA in and of itself. And this nonprofit goes a step further by using a cute formula graphic to assure subscribers that 100% of their donation will go directly to providing water for those in need.

Finally, you may want to use hyper-specific language on your CTA button such as “Save an elephant” or “Make a cancer patient smile.” This will help the donor envision exactly what their money is going to do.

Subject line: Give clean water. Give everything.

nonprofit email call to action

#5. Find meaningful imagery

Images are hugely important for your nonprofit; after all, a picture is worth a thousand words, so the right photo can do a lot for your email campaign. Choose high-res photos that give a face to the work you do, helping donors see why your organization is so important. Here, Make-A-Wish included a photo of a little boy with a heart condition who got his wish to become a firefighter — it’s the kind of image that you can’t help but smile at. Make-A-Wish also used photos of smiling volunteers, implying that volunteering with this organization is a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

Subject line: How will you change a child’s life?

nonprofit email imagery

#6. Carefully choose colors and fonts

Design elements such as colors and fonts play a big role in how your subscribers perceive your newsletter and your nonprofit. The font you use for both headlines and body text should be easily readable, although your headline font needs to attract attention, too. Make sure the two fonts you pick don’t clash with each other. 

In addition to fonts, pick the right colors, using them to evoke emotion in readers. For instance, orange is a playful color, which fits in with these images of dogs and cats from the ASPCA. If your nonprofit is based around nature, consider choosing a stable, balanced shade of green; a pale yellow could evoke a feeling of summery happiness, while threads of blue make a company seem trustworthy and secure. Once you’ve settled on your colors, stick with them and be consistent.

Subject line: Easy ways to continue helping animals 

nonprofit email design example

Wrap-up: Making an impact with nonprofit email newsletters

If you aren’t sure where to start with your nonprofit email newsletter, don’t worry: BEE has a set of templates made especially for nonprofits and even supports nonprofit email marketing efforts with free plans for nonprofit organizations! Use these templates to drag and drop design elements such as meaningful images, blocks of compelling text and a strong CTA. Then send regular newsletters to your subscribers and watch your nonprofit email open rates rise!

free email templates for nonprofits

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Hailey Hudson