The nonprofit email marketing trifecta: save time, save money, attract donors

The nonprofit email marketing trifecta: save time, save money, attract donors

Your nonprofit wants (and needs!) more visibility, more donors, and more volunteers.

Although there are many ways to skin this charity cat, there’s one that gets the job done with minimal time and money.

What is it? Email marketing. Targeted, tailored, automated emails can help your organization reach a large audience fast.

You can use email marketing to raise money, share your message, build a relationship with donors and supporters, and educate and inform about your mission.

Direct mail ain’t cheap.

Snail mail still has its place. Fundraising appeals, thank you letters, and hard copy annual reports (for those donors who just need.to.have.a.printed.copy) are effective ways to connect.

But direct mail of any kind demands extra time for your staff (design work, coordination with mail houses, manually stuffing if you do it in-house, lead time for printing) and extra money from your budget (printing costs, postage).

And once it is sent out into the world, it’s hard to track how well each piece actually worked. Did the recipient open the card? Did it prompt a donation? Did they share it with a friend?

With email marketing, you have a better idea which campaigns and appeals perform well. If an email bounces back, you know in real-time which addresses to remove. If a recipient clicks through to donate or learn more, you’ll know.

Even better? Direct mail can be visually appealing, but there’s only so much life you can give to a 4×6″ piece of cardstock. Emails can include videos, fun audio, slideshows, and more.

Get specific.

No matter what the method or the medium, donors and supporters want to feel special.

Sure, you might have the urge to send everything to everyone with the see-what-sticks approach, but you can improve relationships with donors (and ultimately ramp up your donor retention) by segmenting your message to meet the needs and interests of individuals and groups.

When it comes to connecting with your supporters and your base, one size does not fit all.

Email marketing is an easy and effective way to send different messages to different audiences. You can create email campaigns for specific groups:

  • First-time donors
  • Volunteers
  • Corporate sponsors
  • Recurring donors
  • Those who have given in the past, but not in the last year or two
  • VIP donors (read: those who give A LOT!)

Define these groups to best meet your current universe of donors and supporters, and then tailor the message and the information accordingly. Maybe you send general educational info to first-timers. Corporate sponsors could get a digital impact report (where they can see their name in lights!).

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This type of targeting will also lead to increased fundraising. Donors are constantly bombarded with financial asks. To stand out, you can’t send them the same thing as anything else. Make them feel appreciated and they are more willing to give.

Bonus tip:

Email marketing also helps you segment and target based on donor and supporter demographics. Millennials, for instance, like to learn more about nonprofits via email (newsletters, specifically). 70% of them have donated to a non-profit via online giving.

Connect instantly.

When it comes to donors and supporters, you want to reach them at the right time with the right message. Email marketing lets you send real-time updates and information to connect with your audience while the iron is still hot.

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Still confirming your event keynote speaker, but need to send out a save the date? An email invitation gives you the opportunity to send multiple reminders (with updated information) without having to a) wait to confirm the speaker before sending the invites to the printer, or b) paying twice to send out a save the date and a speaker-included invite.

Emails also give you the chance to include a specific call-to-action (again, that’s trackable) to get your audience to act now (donate to a cause, register for an event, share the news with their social contacts).

Increased engagement.

These (hopefully enticing) calls-to-action elicit a sense of urgency, which will ultimately increase your engagement.

Additionally, email marketing puts you in front of your audience more frequently. Top of mind is a great place to be for any organization that wants more volunteers, donors, and money. (Hint: That’s you!)

You can also include a little incentive in your emails to encourage your audience to get more involved:

  • Early access to registration for an event
  • Act-now donation rewards
  • First looks at the upcoming annual report
  • A free drink ticket to this year’s gala

Email marketing encourages your supporters and volunteers to get more involved with the organization. Emails take less time and less money to produce and can be shared with an even bigger audience.

So what are you waiting for? Press send!

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Lindsey Thieken

Lindsey is a passionate community-builder and storyteller. When she's not writing, she's traveling, reading as much as possible, and practicing her left hook with her new obsession—boxing.

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