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Best Practices for Successful Nonprofit Email Marketing

Best Practices for Successful Nonprofit Email Marketing

With more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States, competition for donor attention can be fierce. As nonprofits often work with low resources and a limited budget, they have fewer opportunities to capture attention, making each interaction essential. 

In this blog, we’ll guide you through creating effective nonprofit emails, a foundational element of any nonprofit email marketing strategy.

Why is Nonprofit Email Marketing Important?

In today’s digital era, email marketing for nonprofit organizations serves as an essential connection between an organization and its audience. As a cost-effective marketing tactic, it’s instantly accessible and customizable and delivers your message in a timely manner directly to supporters.

Whether you share inspiring stories, upcoming events, photos, or solicitation appeals, email marketing provides a platform to engage directly with your audience.

The ability to segment audiences also allows them to send personalized messages and further enhance the effectiveness of each communication.

Ultimately, the benefits of successful email marketing campaigns can be huge for a nonprofit, extending far beyond short-term financial gains to fulfill the key goal of building long-lasting relationships with supporters.

What is the ROI of Nonprofit Email Marketing?

The ROI of email marketing is undeniable for nonprofits.

Various research reports have shown that for every dollar spent on email marketing, organizations can expect an average return of $36.

When considering email marketing for nonprofits, the returns can be even higher. According to HubSot, up to $40 for every $1 spent, as long as they have successfully fostered emotional connections within its donor base. 

The ROI goes beyond money. A successful email campaign leads to greater audience engagement, stronger donor relationships, and enhanced brand reputation—all of which are key to a nonprofit’s growth and sustainability in the long run. 

1. Build a Strong Email List

The first step toward effective nonprofit email marketing is to build a strong and clean list of email addresses. When it comes to email addresses, it’s not just about quantity—the quality of your list is essential. For instance, a nonprofit would benefit more from having a list of 500 genuinely interested supporters rather than a list of 5,000 individuals who disregard messages. 

So, how can you build a high-quality list? With channels like your website and social media platforms, you can encourage individuals with genuine interest to voluntarily sign up. This way, you ensure your communications are directed toward people who really care about your cause and are likely to support it.

Read more: Creating an Effective Email Sign-up Form

2. Identify Audience Segments

One size does not fit all when it comes to email marketing. 

Your nonprofit’s supporters are diverse, each with unique motivations and preferences. Thus, the ability to segment your email list can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your communication. 

Consider factors such as donation history, interests, demographics, and geographical location when creating segments. An examples of this is dividing your list into past donors versus prospective donors or high-dollar donors versus low-dollar donors. 

With each segment in mind, tailor your messages to be sure you send relevant content to your supporters, increasing the likelihood of engagement and action.

3. Personalize Communications

Segmentation naturally leads to personalization, and in understanding your audience segments, you can tailor your communications to resonate with individual recipients. Personalized emails, which can include the recipient’s name and content relevant to them, can greatly improve open rates and engagement.

In fact, personalization is the top tactic used by professional marketers to increase reader engagement. So, stop sending mass messages and opt for personalized, targeted communications instead.

4. Implement Deliverability Best Practices

What good is a well-crafted email if it doesn’t reach the intended recipient’s inbox (Ugh!)? At least a 95% email deliverability rate is a must-have if your email marketing strategy will see any success. To improve performance, follow these best practices:

  • Maintain a healthy sending reputation. This is done by monitoring your open rates and ensuring they stay above 18%.  
  • Use a reliable email service provider that consistently delivers a high percentage of emails.
  • Craft spam-free content. This means ensuring your images are optimized for emails, including alt tags, and creating short and concise emails. 

Also, use a your organization email address that uses the same domain as your website instead of a generic email address such as @gmail or @yahoo so recipients will not think your email is spam.

An example of this is how Goodwill and Habitat for humanity use “@habitat.org” or @goodwill.org.

​​Read more: Improve Email Deliverability with 3 Design Tips

5. Develop a Consistent Sending Schedule

Consistency is key to maintaining a successful email program. It’s true that too many emails can annoy your supporters, while too few can cause them to forget about your organization.

So, as Goldilocks discovered, you need something that’s in the middle—just right. Most nonprofits send 2-4 emails per month; however, the ideal frequency for your organization can vary based on factors like your audience’s preferences, the nature of your content, and key times in your fundraising calendar.

When’s the best time to send nonprofit emails? Late morning and early afternoon can be good times but try testing to find out when your audience responds the best.

6. Create an Eye-Catching Email Design

An attractive, professional design helps your email stand out and increases readability. If you’re not a professional email designer, no worries! Beefree has you covered with a variety of nonprofit email templates perfect for advancing the mission of your nonprofit.

Consider some of these best practices for your next nonprofit email design:

  • Maintain a good amount of whitespace for easy readability.
  • Use a layout that sections information.
  • Insert colorful call-to-action buttons to initiate user action.
  • Follow your brand standards for color and font selections.
  • Use a mobile-friendly or responsive design template for pleasant reading no matter the device used.

7. Monitor Results and A/B Test

To improve the performance of your email marketing program over time, it’s best to use analytics and monitor open and click rates, then adjust your strategy based on those results. Did you know the best nonprofit emails get around 25% of recipients to open versus just 6% for other types of emails? If you’re not seeing these results yet, try A/B testing various email elements to optimize your campaign’s performance over time. 

How to Write an Effective Nonprofit Marketing Email

What does it take to write the perfect fundraising communication? Here are some elements to consider.

Create an Attention-Grabbing Subject Line

Your subject line is like the envelope to your email—if it looks/sounds like spam, it may go directly into the trash without even being read.

Make your subject lines intriguing, relevant, and concise. A well-crafted subject line piques interest and creates curiosity, causing the recipient to want to learn more. For example, a subject line like “Jenny, would you like to plan 100 trees this month?” is personalized, invokes action, and shares the impact of a potential contribution.

Showcase Organization News

Keeping your supporters updated with the latest news, events, or impact stories helps create a transparent environment that fosters trust. This could include an upcoming fundraiser event, receiving a large donation, or sharing personal stories of how funds support your mission. Regular updates can make your audience feel part of your nonprofit’s journey and inspire them to contribute further.

Express Gratitude

The importance of saying “thank you” in your emails cannot be overstated. A simple note of appreciation can make your supporters feel valued and recognized. After all, your supporters are part of your mission, and noting their contributions is a simple yet effective way to cultivate long-lasting relationships.

Include a CTA

Every email should have a purpose and a clear, compelling call to action (CTA) to guide your supporters toward that goal. Whether it’s donating or signing up for an event, an effective CTA creates an easy way for your supporters to further engage with your organization.

Nonprofit Email Marketing Case Study: Unicef

Unicef’s partnership with Beefree shows how email can be used for effective nonprofit marketing. With Beefree’s email editor and in following the best practices outlined above, Unicef achieved substantial engagement and fundraising success for their organization. Read the full case study here.

You can improve your nonprofit email marketing efforts in a variety of ways, many of which can be done for low or no cost and can have a large impact on growing the reach of your mission. Start creating professional, engaging emails for your nonprofit by trying Beefree’s email editor and nonprofit email templates today.

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Emily Santos
Emily Santos

Emily Santos is a Content Specialist with experience as a Brand Strategist and Designer.