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10 Tips For More Effective Nonprofit Email Marketing

While email marketing isn't a new trend, it certainly should be a staple of your constituent communication. Why? Fast, easy, inexpensive. I don't have hard numbers, but I'd be willing to bet that it's faster than snail mail, too! Email is the anchor to everyone's online life. Here are 10 tips for more effective email outreach:

There are many ways of communicating with your constituents. Of course there are increasingly less-effective methods such as direct mail and phone calling and there are in-person fundraising events such as auctions or walk-athons.While important interactions, they're also a bit time consuming for you and your already busy staff. 

Savvy email marketers/fundraisers know that email, coupled with other communication modes like direct mail, social media, and personal interactions, is an essential piece to building direct relationships and strengthening your brand and mission. However, I'm sure if you're reading this, you may be thinking: “but who has the time?” We get it. At DonorPro, we work with hundreds of organizations who have a limited staff and a tight budget. You're feeling stretched at both ends.

To help simplify your email communication and optimize your outreach for the greatest success, here's a list of tips and tricks compiled from both DonorPro's long experience in nonprofit email marketing as well as advice from some of the industry's top email marketing platforms, like Constant Contact.

Keep it Simple (and Short)

Imagine yourself as the recipient. During your workday – or whenever you most often check email – how long is too long until you think, “oh forget it, I'll come back to this email later” but never do? If your emails are streamlined, concise, and to the point, your constituents will thank you.

Be Engaging

Think first: why are you sending this email? Keep this reason(s) in mind throughout your whole crafting process. Provide plenty of opportunities for your readers to respond, engage, and act from each individual email. Is the goal to watch a video? Then make it front and center. Hoping that they'll forward to a friend? Include a big button call-to-action so they can't miss it. The more engagement opportunities within an email, the longer they'll stay on your message and the more they'll absorb.

Provide Incentive

Why should someone sign up for your email list? Be sure to be clear during the sign-up process as to what your readers should expect (ex: monthly/weekly emails, exclusive info, behind the scenes look, etc.).

Allow Easy Sign-Ups

For many organizations, your email list is extremely valuable. Design your website, landing page, and social media sites to cater to those interested in signing up for your e-newsletter or email updates. Constant Contact provides and especially slick email list subscribe widget.

Time It Right

Timing is essential. Plenty of studies and best practices have been published regarding best times to send if you goal is a high open rate. Depending on your mission, it can vary. Within our client base, we've seen organizations like humane societies have a lot of success with weekend distribution. While others prefer the workday or late night. In general, we recommend Tuesday-Thursday or weekends. Research shows that emails with the highest open rate are sent between 6am-noon and 6pm-midnight. There's also a peak in open rates right around lunchtime. To figure out the best time for your nonprofit, test it! Segment your list and send at various times of day and see what generates the highest open rate.

Craft Your Subject Line

Along with the timing, your subject line may be the most important factor leading to a high open rate. Consider both the wording and length. It's recommended to have a max subject line of 50 characters. Further, a subject line that clearly tells what's inside an email sets a reader's expectation and tends to garner higher open rates. Here's a useful infographic about how to craft an effective subject line.

Test and Re-Test

I've already mentioned testing a few times throughout this post. Testing is easily the most efficient way to optimize your emails. Here are some good opportunities:

Segment your list into 2 or more groups then vary the send times for each. Practice to see what time generates the most opens from your subscribers.

Try different words, lengths, and punctuations in your subject line to see if something really peaks your readers' interest.

Test social sharing widgets. Are your subscribers sharing your content? If so, is your email list growing as a result?

Send Regularly

If you're going to send monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly, stick to it. If not, they will begin to lose interest and those emails will land in trash folders. Consistent communication will ensure that you maintain your network's attention. Keep your emails regular, light, informational, and interesting. Then, when it's time for the year-end appeal or gala registration, your readers will be willing to help out.

Guide to Growing Online Support

Encourage Sharing

There are so many other opportunities for your email - get the most out of each one! Include all of your social media links, options for readers to post on their social media pages, and easy opportunities to forward to a friend. Those shares could garner new subscribers!


Your subscribers are pretty likely to also be your current or future donors, volunteers, advocates, and supporters. Be sure to thank them regularly for subscribing and reading your news.

Topics: Marketing