Email marketing is likely a significant part of your nonprofit fundraising efforts. Everyone knows that it’s essential to look at email performance and make adjustments as needed continually. However, there’s a lot you have to think about when developing a successful email marketing program, which needs to be regularly evaluated and fine-tuned.

Everyone is inundated with emails and after a few emails, people who are on your email list may or may not continue. Reasons, why they won’t continue to open or click through your emails, can be varied. For instance, you have people who will make a single donation, perhaps in honor of a friend and then they will not support your cause again. Another type of attrition that can happen is people who are no longer using the email they provided, which is why you should scrub your lists a couple of times a year.

Other times, people get too busy, or candidly, they are no longer interested in your cause for a whole host of possible reasons. Surveying your donors and supporters, especially those who do not continue to support you should be something that you get in the habit of doing so you can gain valuable insights.

As you prepare your plans for 2019, the following are the best tips for ensuring that your email program performs well for your organization.

Subject Lines

  • Emails that have the highest level of engagement have between 6 to 10 words on their subject line. Remember, most people open emails on their mobile devices, and they need to be able to quickly grasp the intent of the subject line on phones and tablets and not have critical information cut.
  • Think of your supporters as your friends. You increase your chances of getting your emails opened by being friendly. For instance, you can do something like this: “Hi Paula, what’s on your schedule for today?” Then ensure that the copy provides them with a call-to-action that prompts them to do something with their time.
  • Personalizing subject lines goes a long way toward increasing open rates. You can do this by using someone’s name, as noted in the previous example, or by location, donation history or even sending an email on a supporter’s birthday.
  • When you use numbers in your subject lines, you capture people’s attention. People generally like facts and statistics. As an example: “Why 99% of Students Graduate.”
  • Create urgency in your email subject lines and the content. For instance, if you have a particular fundraiser, tell your donors when it ends and use it to your advantage. As an example, you can have a subject line that reads something like this: “10 families need dinner tonight,” or “We have to reach our goal today. We need you.”

Email Content

  • Supporters want to learn and receive content that is of value to them. It should inform or entertain (yes, even nonprofits can use humor in ways that are clever and not making light of important issues).
  • Consider content that is different by changing up what you’re subscribers are seeing. For example, consider using GIFs, videos, and freebies that are relevant to your supporters. Don’t follow the same approach all of the time because the clearest way to cut through the noise once in a while is to try something different.
  • Suppress people who are hard bounces, in other words, people who have emails that are permanently undeliverable. You can resend to supporters whose email gave you soft bounces because their email is full or there is a fixable reason why an email bounced.
  • If you haven’t heard from your supporters in more than 6 months, try to re-engage them by sending them a special “do you still to want to hear from us?” email. While this may seem counter-intuitive because nonprofits don’t want to “lose” people, individuals who are not engaging will eventually drive down your numbers, and by “reactivating” or getting them off your database, you will be improving your email results.
  • Segment your email list. You should not treat new subscribers the same way that you treat donors who have been giving to you for a long time, or who gave to you for a long time and then eventually stopped. At the very least, you should be looking to educate and inform new donors and subscribers with a welcome email series. Active donors should be primed to continue to support the cause, but when they haven’t given in a while, you should consider looking at different messaging to re-engage them. Finally, for consistent supporters, figure out ways to cross-promote other efforts or programs within your nonprofit organization that will get them to re-up on their donations.

Finally, make sure that SPAM filters are not flagging your emails. Take the time to continually A/B test your emails for subject lines, content, and the time and day you’re sending emails. Generally speaking, sending emails at 10 AM in the time zone of your supporters is optimum; however, other organizations have also found that sending emails on weekends have improved results.

Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)


© 2018 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved