Email Marketing for Nonprofits

You’re committed to fighting for the good of mankind. Justice, peace, equality, clean water – whichever your  specific focus, you’re on a mission for change.  

With email marketing campaigns, you can spread awareness about your mission and gather resources to make that change happen.  

Here, you’ll learn how to run your campaign. We’ll show you how to plan your goals, ways to get subscribers to your emails, the different kinds of messages you can send, and steps you’ll want to take in the future to keep  improving on your original setup.  

Along the way, you’ll see examples showing how some notable organizations have built solid supporting  communities with email. 

But first, let’s take a bird’s-eye look at email marketing so you can see what you’ll be doing.  

Email Marketing At a Glance 

When you’re looking for a way to get started with email, it’s all too tempting to just send short news updates to the  people in your address book. After all, you want to get the word out to your contacts 

But in order to grow a solid email community that supports your cause, you’ll need a more professional, consistent  approach. Here are the steps to setting up your campaign: 

Establishing your purpose. 

What does your organization want to accomplish with an email campaign? Knowing your purpose will help you set things up properly and make decisions further down the road. 

Setting up your campaign. 

In your account, you’ll create the foundation of your campaign. You’ll get all the basics in place so you’re ready when people start signing up.  

Building a subscriber list. 

You’ll need to get out there and invite people to subscribe. They can automatically add themselves online, or you can collect their information in person. 

Sending out emails. 

You can use email to introduce people to your brand, send them regular updates or make time sensitive announcements. The possibilities are endless.  

Strengthening your campaign. 

Over time, you can add things like donation tracking, segments and split tests. As you keep polishing the campaign, your results will get better and better.  

Ready to put together your email campaign? Let’s get started.  

Establishing Your Purpose  

Email is an extremely versatile tool. And with AWeber, you have endless customization options: you can send as  often as you like, schedule your messages for whenever you want, use different templates for different types of  content… the list goes on. 

So it’s possible to jump head first into emailing without a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish, and end up with a messy set of messages.  

Instead, take a moment to clarify the purpose of your organization’s campaign. From there, you’ll be able to figure  out what to send, when to send it and who to send it to. 

Which is the most important purpose of your campaign? 

  • To raise awareness about your cause? 
  • To collect money or other resources? 
  • To attract volunteers? 
  • To boost traffic to your site? 

You may find that you have several different things you want to accomplish with email. You can certainly send  different types of content to the same group of your subscribers, as long as you’ve told them what to expect.  

Or, you can run several different campaigns geared toward different groups: your hard-core supporters, your staff,  one-time donators…. the question to ask is, how many campaigns do you have the resources to pull together? 

Setting Up Your Campaign 

Once you’ve gotten your account set up, you’ll want to lay the foundation for your organization’s first campaign.  

To start, you’re going to add a new list. Right away, you’ll see the setup wizard on the bottom of the page. Follow  the wizard’s instructions to get everything set up properly, using the “skip” option on the bottom right if you’d rather come back to something later 

Creating a Web Form 

One of the first things you’ll need to do is create a web form – a sign up form you can use online to find subscribers.  

If you’re using AWeber, you can easily create a form. When you’re finished, you’ll be given what you need to publish your form. Hold off on that for now – you’ll want to have things set up before people start subscribing.  

What Happens After Sign Up? 

When someone fills out your web form, they should be taken to a new page that lets them know their information  was received, typically referred to as a thank-you page.  

(AWeber provides a default thank you page, but we recommend creating your own. This keeps the sign-up  experience consistently branded and lets you add any details you want to communicate.) 

What your thank you page will almost certainly have is a message of thanks for showing support for your cause by subscribing.  

What it may or may not include is a request for subscribers to confirm their opt-in. 

Confirmed Opt-In 

Occasionally, computer scripts (or even people) may stumble across your web form and subscribe with someone  else’s email address.  

Other times, someone misspells their address, and you end up sending to the wrong person.  

In these situations, the recipient thinks the messages are unrequested junk mail, otherwise known as spam.  You’re not likely to get much response from these people. 

And if they click the “report spam” button, ISPs (Gmail, Hotmail and the like) notice. If enough people complain,  they may stop delivering your messages. 

To prevent this problem, the first thing that happens after sign up is confirmation.  

This simply means new subscribers are sent a message asking them to confirm their choice to opt into your mailing list by clicking a link.  

When the link is clicked, the address is added to your list. As a sender, you’re assured the address is legitimate.  And since your new subscribers have bothered to confirm their interest, they’re likely to be engaged and responsive.  

Your Confirmation Page 

Once subscribers confirm their opt-in, they should be taken to your confirmation page.  You can also use this page to tell your new subscribers: 

  • That they’ve successfully registered for your emails 
  • When they’ll get your next message  
  • How often they can expect to hear from you 
  • Where they can find you on social networks 
  • How they can get involved in the meantime 

Welcoming New Subscribers 

Someone’s interest is often at a high point when they first sign up for your email campaign. For prospective  members, it’s important to start emailing them right away, or their search may take them elsewhere. 

So greet them with a welcome message. Let them know they’ve signed up successfully and tell them what they can expect from you.

Besides extending a welcome, your welcome message should: 

  • Thank your new subscribers (yes, again) for their interest and support  
  • Let them know what you’ll be sending and how often, if you haven’t already 
  • Be simple and to the point – you don’t want new readers to feel overwhelmed 
  • Include your logo, or use an email template that you’ll use throughout your campaign, so your emails are  recognizable.  
  • Invite readers to respond to any email by hitting “reply” or calling you. (You’ll want to make sure you’re  regularly checking the email address they’d be responding to!) 

Collecting Subscribers  

You’ll likely have two main categories of subscribers: people who are familiar with your organization and attend your events, and people who aren’t yet involved.  

People who already attend your events will be easy to invite onto your email list. Just ask for subscriptions at your  events, using some of the methods in the “building your list offline” section below. And of course, these subscribers can forward your emails on to whomever they think may be interested.  

As for people who aren’t involved with your cause yet, there are many ways to get them on your email list, both  online and off.  

Building Your List Online 

You probably run into a few dozen people in a typical day. Most likely, there are thousands of others that you don’t run into who live within a few miles of your church.  

Many of them go online regularly. Meet them there, and invite them to subscribe with an online sign up form, called a web form.  

With AWeber, you can create a web form in your account. Site visitors just enter their information, and they’re  automatically added to your subscriber list.  

We even have a library of web form templates you can choose from. Pick one that matches your site or looks good with your logo, then customize it however you like with the sign up form builder.  

Once your form is ready, it’s time to get it out there!  

There are three places you can put your web form. 

1.) Your organization’s web site 

Not only will frequent visitors know exactly where to go to sign up, but any new traffic coming in will be met with  the invitation. You never know when someone might be ready to sign up, so display your web form (or an invitation to sign up elsewhere) on every page. 

2.) Social media sites. 

If your nonprofit has an account on a social network, it’s only a few clicks away from millions of people. Direct those millions to a sign up form, and it’s likely that a few will find you’re just the right match.  

3.) A business blog 

If your company has a blog, display your web form so people can opt in to get email updates whenever there’s a  new development. Then they don’t have to remember to take time out of their day and check the blog. 

Building Your List Offline  

Just because emailing happens online doesn’t mean you’re limited to the Internet for finding subscribers. There are plenty of times your business may have contact with potential subscribers, and those are all opportunities to offer them an email subscription.  

The key to collecting sign ups is in your approach. You don’t want to be too reserved (you do need to ask for  subscriptions), but you also don’t want to be off-putting.  

If your organization has a table or booth at a fair or other event, ask anyone you talk to if they’d like to sign up. Display a sign up sheet in a central location, along with a clear description of what people are signing up for.  

If you hold a fundraiser, make sure that everyone who makes a purchase or donation gets a thank-you note. On the note, include an invitation to sign up on your web site.  

Pass out QR codes on postcards, flyers or business cards. People with smartphones can scan these 2-d cousins to bar codes and be taken directly to your sign up page.  

However you collect email addresses, make sure to include a clear explanation of what will happen next. People  need to understand that they are signing up for regular email updates, so they aren’t surprised when your  messages start arriving.  

What to Put In Your Emails 

Emails can help you explain your cause, build relationships with supporters, announce goals met and get your  subscribers involved in various ways.  

Each email you send will have a different focus, but every one should include the following: 

  • A subject that accurately reflects the content inside. You want your subscribers to be able to trust you. 
  • Your organization’s name. Put this in your from line so readers can see who the message is coming from.
  • Your contact info – all of it. Web site, email address, postal address, phone number, Twitter handle – give  subscribers every available option for contacting you.  
  • A call to action – ask your readers to respond in some way, whether it’s clicking over to your site to see more photos, booking a session, following you on Facebook or just keeping you in mind.  
  • Pictures. Everyone loves looking at pictures. Besides, they can depict devastating need – and the relief that can be brought – far better than words can describe it.  

The specific content of each email will be different depending on who you’re sending it to and what you’re trying to  accomplish with it. You can choose to send that content in one of four ways: 

  1. As an autoresponder (or “follow up”) to get new readers started 
  2.  In a regularly scheduled newsletter 
  3.  As an occasional update or time-sensitive announcement 
  4.  As a report pulled directly from your blog 

Let’s take a look at the kinds of content you might send for each of these.  

Follow Ups: Getting Readers Started 

Current supporters will already be fairly familiar with your services, programs and members. But as others sign up  to find out more about this group they’ve just joined, they’re going to want to find out what you’re all about. 

You can introduce people to your organization with a follow up series. This is a sequence of messages that are  automatically sent to new subscribers. Each follows the other at a predetermined interval that you set. (You can  even choose a specific time for these to go out.)  

You can design your follow up series around whatever information you think would make a helpful introduction to  your campaign, but here are a few suggestions:  

Introduce your your staff or supporters. Show their pictures, ask them for quotes, and explain why they’re   passionate about your cause. You may especially want to highlight people your subscribers will be hearing from.  

Explain each program you run or are involved in. Who are you trying to help? What are the conditions you’re trying to change? Where are you located, and how can someone local get involved? 

 Show off your successes. Share pictures and stories of people you’ve helped, neighborhoods you’ve improved, neighborhoods you’ve improved, other organizations you’ve teamed up with.  

Over time, your new subscribers will grow familiar with your organization and look forward to hearing from you.  

Sending A Regular Newsletter 

Sent monthly, weekly, or even (with the right kind of content) daily, newsletters keep all of your members and  attendees up to date on your goals.  

Since newsletters usually include timely information, they’re sent as broadcasts. While follow up messages are sent in sequence to each subscriber, a broadcast is sent just once, to your entire list (or the group of people you specify), at the date and time that you specify. 

With a newsletter, you can share the status of fundraising efforts, list upcoming events and let readers know where and when you may need volunteers. 

The frequency of your newsletter will depend on how often you have time to put one together and how much you  have to say. Make sure you establish a frequency that you can keep up with – your mailings will become something your subscribers count on as part of their experience with you. 

You can even include a note such as “weekly update” or “July 2021” in your messages to help remind subscribers  – and inform those who were forwarded the email – of the schedule.  

If you send more often than monthly, you may want to include only an item or two in each message. This gives you room to go into specifics without overwhelming your readers. The less often you send, the more you can put  into each message.  

Making One-Time Announcements  

Occasionally, things may come up that you’d like to share with your subscribers without waiting for the next  newsletter to go out.  

Or maybe you’ve chosen to avoid the pressure of a regularly scheduled mailing and instead, send a separate email whenever something important comes up.  

 Either way, you can use broadcasts for any time-sensitive announcements. As with newsletters, announcements  can be sent to your entire list or to a particular group of people you specify, at whatever date and time you choose. 

 Each announcement should have its own, distinct subject. You can use them to let your subscribers know if:  

  • you’re taking on a new, exciting project 
  • an urgent need suddenly comes up 
  • an event is cancelled or the time or location changes 
  • a fundraising goal is met midweek and you want to celebrate 
  • you need something from your readers 

Whatever you send, make sure it fulfills the expectations you set for subscribers when they signed up. 

Broadcasting From Your Blog 

A blog takes your email community to the next level. Posts on the latest happenings keep your members engaged.  

But life is busy, and readers may not often remember to keep coming back on their own. So if you’re blogging, you  may want to set up a blog broadcast. It will automatically convert your latest posts into email. 

You set the preferences: how many articles, how often and who will receive them, and the rest is taken care of  automatically. 

Blog broadcasts are good for sharing much the same kind of information as regular broadcasts. You’d choose to  use blog broadcasts instead if you already have a blog – it’s just easier to make the updates in one place. 

Alternatively, you could add a blog to your site and then set up blog broadcasting so people can get your  information there or by email, whichever way they’d prefer. 

Either way, once your blog is ready, it only takes a few minutes to set up your blog broadcast and start sharing  your posts with your subscribers.  

Scheduling Your Emails – When to Send? 

Once you’ve got your email campaign set up, you’ll develop a regular routine for creating and sending emails. But  occasionally, you may have an extremely busy spell. 

For example, if you hold special fundraisers around Christmas, you’ll be busy taking care of last-minute details.  Email marketing just might not happen that week.  

Or will it?  

If you ever know beforehand that you’ll be running short on time, you can just create your emails beforehand –  whenever you have the time and the inspiration. Then schedule them, and they’ll automatically be sent on the  date and time you choose.  

In the midst of the chaos, your emails will be already taken care of!  

Getting The Right Message to The Right People 

With all the different types of emails you can send, you might end up sending out more messages than your  subscribers want to read. 

Yes, they can just delete emails they don’t want, but this could lead to them feeling annoyed and unsubscribing  altogether. What’s more, their lack of engagement could affect your deliverability negatively.  

To keep your emails from overwhelming your readers, find out what kinds of emails each subscriber prefers, then  target your messages to the right groups.  For example, the Union Rescue Mission sign up form offers subscribers three kinds of emails to choose from. 

They can get standard newsletters, end-of-month updates or stories of people the mission has helped.  Once URM finds out what kinds of emails each subscriber wants, they can use that criteria to send each message  to the right groups. 

If your organization has more information to send than one general newsletter can handle, you may want to try  something similar. To make sure everyone gets the information they requested, you can divide your list into  segments.  

First, you’d run a search to see who requested what information. Then, you’d put everyone who requested a  certain type of information, such as monthly updates, into a segment called “monthly.”  

Whenever it’s time to send out a monthly update, you’d just write up the message and send it to that segment.  

You can also segment by: 

  • survey results 
  • whether someone’s volunteer, a prospective donor or a donor or member 
  • interests, location and other criteria 

By writing your messages with your target group in mind, you’ll be able to provide content that specifically relates  to their interests – always a good thing. 

Keep Refining As You Go 

Once you have your campaign set up, you’re good to go. Over time, though, you may want to go through it and  make improvements.  

Split Testing Your Web Form 

Your web form is your main tool for collecting subscribers across the Internet. So you’ll want your form to be as  attractive and effective as it possibly can. 

But it can be difficult to tell just what color draws the most eyes, what testimonial resonates the most and how  much information you can ask for before subscribers get tired of filling out your form.  

It can be difficult, that is, unless you test various combinations to see which one attracts the most subscribers.  

This is called split testing. In AWeber, it’s easy to do right in your account. And if you need ideas for what to split  test, here’s a collection of examples.  

Running a Reactivation Campaign 

Eventually, you may find that some of your subscribers are mysteriously inactive. They don’t open, they don’t click, they don’t respond no matter what you send.  

This is a sign that it’s probably a good time to run a reactivation campaign.  

To reactivate their interest, you’d send the unresponsive subscribers your most appealing content, with your most  carefully crafted subject lines. If they’re still not opening your messages, it’s time to ask straight out if they’d like to  stop getting your messages.  

For anyone who still doesn’t respond, it’s time to stop emailing them altogether.  

When you’re thinking it’s time to reactivate your subscribers, you’ll find step-by-step directions in this guide.  

Discount for Non-Profit Organizations

In many cases, email marketing can directly contribute to the fundraising abilities of non-profits, but those funds won’t come in immediately.

To help offset the costs of getting started, we offer 3 months of service free to non-profits opening new accounts, followed by a 25% discount on invoices from there forward.

To qualify, print the order form, fill it out and fax it in to (+1) 215-701-8733 the along with your valid 501(c)(3) paperwork.

Ready to Start Marketing With Email?

Email can help you build an audience and raise awareness for your cause. And if you’re looking for more donations, email outperforms social media and search when it comes to conversions.