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11 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!

Email Marketing Nonprofits

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 Salsa, 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

Salsa's long experience in nonprofit email marketing and analyzing the work of over 3,000 clients across the globe!

1. 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.

2. 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 it 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.

3. 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.).

4. Allow Easy Sign-Ups

For most organizations, growing 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Include a Donate Button

I mentioned earlier how important it is to have your end goal in mind as you craft your emails; it's also important to give donors clear instructions on what their next steps are. 

Therefore, all your emails should lead readers toward making a contribution. By having a donation call-to-action directly in your emails, donors can simply click the button and be taken to your donation form. 

Work with a donation form provider that allows donors to verify their gift via email. That way, donors can give seamlessly. 

Here's how it works: donors will click on the donate button in your email and be directed to a pre-written email with their desired donation amount. All they have to is send the email to confirm their donation. 

With just two steps in the process, supporters are more likely to contribute to your cause.

8. 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?

9. 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.

10. 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!

11. Thank Your Supporters

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.


There you have it: eleven ways to improve your email marketing. Use these tips to increase your supporter engagement and raise more funds for your organization.

For more fundraising advice, check out these additional resources:

  • Nonprofit Marketing Software: If your organization wants to easily track your email campaigns, you should consider investing in marketing software. Learn more about how this tool can help manage your supporter engagements.
  • How to Write a Fundraising Email: Writing a strong email is essential if your organization wants to ask for donations. Learn the ins and outs of creating an email that motivates donors to give.
  • Online Fundraising Software: With online fundraising software, you'll be able to track your email open rates and see how many donations are coming from your email campaigns. Learn more about purchasing fundraising software. 
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Topics: Marketing