Dream A Little Email: How a Non-Profit Markets

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

– Margaret Mead.

It’s a tough economy, ever-present ads are tough to stand out from and online marketing makes global competition tough to beat.

Marketing an organization is tough right now. Marketing a non-profit is even tougher. But we know a little business, Dreams4Kids, that’s even tougher than these challenges.

All the money that they bring in goes to help at-risk and disabled children. That’s also where most of their staff’s time and energy go as well.

But They Had a Dream

Dreams4Kids knows that to help these children, they need to raise support. That means they need to get the word out about their programs to those who might be interested in helping. They also must communicate with previous donors to show what their involvement has accomplished and invite future donations.

So about 10 years ago, they started marketing their organization via email. “People are very email-oriented now,” says Shelly Gonsch, Vice President of Operations. “They just ignore regular mail.”

The original plan was to keep in contact with donors and potential donors by sending a newsletter every two weeks. They felt that was a good timetable for customers to hear from them.

Sometimes Dreams Clash With Reality

As a nonprofit, Dreams4Kids is continually skimming the edge of “just enough.” This means they’re sometimes shorthanded, without someone available to get the email out as often as they planned.

Instead of scrapping their email campaign altogether, they adjusted their dream. They determined that monthly newsletters fit their staffing needs. So, “that’s our goal, now,” Shelly says.

And it’s a good place to be. But for such a limited staff and budget, it’s still a challenge to pull off.

Sometimes You Need Help to Make Your Dreams Come True

Dreams4Kids needed to build an audience for their email newsletters. So they’ve established a presence on major social media networks: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

“You need to get social media going,” Shelly says, “Get awareness going and people will start reaching out to you. Then you can work on getting them into your database.”

Once their accounts were set up, they needed people to manage them. A board member monitors their accounts on HootSuite. An intern helps put content out through their social channels.

As for their email campaign, Tom Tuohy, the president and founder, has actually been putting together many of the newsletters himself. An assistant does the work of getting new subscribers imported into their email list.

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If It’s a Good Dream, It’s Worth Fighting For

And this is a good dream. Dreams4Kids has an important mission, and they’re trying to market it the best way possible.

“Our email is really a newsletter,” Shelly says, referring to the quality of content they send. “We try to stay away from email ‘blasts.'” The newsletter presents Dreams4Kids’ recent events and initiatives, as well as events by related organizations.

We’re proud that they’re customers; we’re proud of their mission and we’re proud of their emails.

How Do You Make Dreams Come True?

As a marketer, you may have developed some of your own creative ways to manage limited time and resources.

Would you, like Dreams4Kids, share them here for others who are fighting the uphill battle to make a difference?

If you’re inspired by the mission of Dreams4Kids, you are welcome to make a donation, volunteer your time or subscribe their newsletter here.


  1. Bill Zipp

    5/29/2012 9:15 am

    Amanda, this is much more that just a post for non-profits.

    The small business owners that I work with are crazy, crazy busy and have the same kind of limited resources. I love Dream4Kids’ tag-team approach to social media and email marketing. It’s a perfect model to use with for-profit organizations as well. Thanks for sharing this GREAT story!

  2. Amanda Gagnon

    5/29/2012 9:36 am

    Bill, I’m glad it was helpful! We also have a guide for nonprofits that can perhaps help them out, if you want to pass it along: https://www.aweber.com/blog/guides/email-marketing-for-nonprofits

  3. Dexter

    5/29/2012 10:24 am

    Grate motivating inspiring. Like dreams4kids I’m trying to make a start. I have been an electrician all my life. So even tho this is a challenge to me it’
    Make’s me stronger…

  4. Winston Marsh

    5/29/2012 7:16 pm

    Thanks for the article Amanda but you left out the most important information… what have been the results?

  5. Amanda Gagnon

    5/30/2012 11:03 am

    Winston, Being that we don’t have access to Dreams4Kids’ reports, I can’t speak in terms of numbers, but according to our conversation, the organization has seen an increase in site visits, donations and donor activity from the emails.

  6. Ayaz

    6/4/2012 5:08 am

    Very important post amanda and I think social media has certainly changed everything now a days unless what is for non-profit or earning profit organizations.

    I think its the strategy to run your campaigns how to use social media best to promote your online presence.