How to Run an Email Marketing Strategy for Nonprofit Organizations

Email Marketing Strategy

Email marketing is one of the best way to stay connected with your audiences and helps in increasing sales and conversion rates. 

Let me start by saying that email marketing – despite the predictions that hinted at it being dead and gone by now – is still reigning supreme. And how could it not, since it’s the most effective and affordable communication channel, with an ROI of 3800% on average?

It makes sense if you think about it. An email address is like a home address, only it’s free and most people have more than one – a business email, a personal email and so on and so forth.

email marketing graph


The graph above shows how many emails are being sent and received worldwide daily, with estimated predictions for the years to come. The numbers are in billions; this gives email marketing a huge potential, but only if done correctly through an email marketing platform.

But email marketing for Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs) is not an easy task to carry out. Especially since NPOs don’t have a product to sell, per se. Rather, their aim is to educate and help, without sounding desperate or needy. And while subscriber(s) will open the email if they recognize the address of the sender, the end goal is for the email marketing to achieve something. What would that something be, though? 

That’s a tricky question, and it has to do with the goals you will set and what you’re aiming for, in the end.

When you plan or make improvements to your email marketing strategy, these tips can make a big difference in your ability to keep your subscribers intact.

Email marketing is a powerful strategy for any kind of goal you may set and any kind of business in general, as it can improve the company’s relationship with the subscribers, help inform your prospects through your email newsletter by sharing social proof (testimonials, anyone?) or important courses of action your NPO decides to take. 

All in all, email marketing for nonprofit can help you show, with actual numbers and some great storytelling, why your cause is something your subscribers need to be on the lookout for.

But let’s move on to what kind of strategies an NPO can make use of, in order to use email marketing’s basic principles to its benefit and serve its cause.

  • Apply segmentation principles

This goes for anyone that uses email marketing, which is only logical. As with all businesses, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies, ecommerce companies, etc, NPOs have prospects that have interacted with their cause in a different way. Therefore, they’ll need to segment, much like a brand would do, and create content that is appropriate.

Some prospects may have already donated. Some others may have just subscribed, and some others may have unsubscribed from your program and not only your email list, for their own reasons.

The important thing is to segment and make sure that your subscribers will receive the email they’re supposed to receive with content that is appropriate and useful.

Unsubscribe Graph Email Marketing


The graph above clearly shows that irrelevant emails are the second biggest reason that people unsubscribe from an email list.

Therefore, data segmentation seems to be the only logical option.

  • Send a welcome email

Welcome emails are a staple and NPOs can work wonders with them, provided they’re used correctly. 

As you know, a welcome automated email is something the subscriber has been “trained” to expect, seeing as it always follows a subscription and it’s only polite to welcome new subscribers.

A welcome email can help a lot with awareness or even donations, provided you put on your best smile and showcase your cause, not as something one should aid out of pity, but as something that makes sense for any human being to help out with.

Just remember that welcome emails are not-and should never be-promotional emails. Send out these welcome emails in the form of beautifully designed newsletters, which can be created using email newsletter software. Their aim is to help the subscriber understand and not secure a donation in an obvious way.

Email Marketing Sample


This is an example of the point I am trying to make: There is nothing pushy about the email. Its colors are bright, vivid, and its tone is positive. The organization is “excited” to meet the subscriber, “thankful”, “glad”.

What is more, this automated email provides links that can be used as “proof” of the NPO’s actions and how the donations are used, which can be what makes or breaks the prospect’s decision to donate.

But, there is more to it than just crafting a perfect welcome email with proof and catchy CTAs and colors.

A prospect won’t donate just because he/she saw a button that said “Donate”. This sounds, let’s face it, needy and lazy, from a copywriter’s perspective. 

Email Marketing Sample 2


This email marketing example, is asking for a donation in a very simple, yet very clever manner. Its visual is colorful, but it does match the tone of the email is trying to set. 

The organization didn’t lose time on explaining the inner hows and whys, the body copy is just a clever wordplay between the #GivingTuesday – i.e. the global day of giving, established seven years ago – and the donations that can be made. Not too many words, just a powerful visual and the “Give Now” CTA work perfectly here. That’s such a great example of an email advertising with no-hassle.

  • Tell them a story

People tend to help others for a variety of reasons. It’s imperative that you brainstorm long and hard and understand what those reasons might be, before taking any further action.

The reasons may be purely altruistic. They may be deeply rooted to the donor’s family. One of their loved ones may either care deeply for your cause or may, at some point in their life, have been a part of the minority your cause aims to help. 

Those storytelling emails aim to tell the subscribers the story of the impact their donation has made by using actual, real-life examples and not cold and lifeless numbers and statistics. And, it also showcases a perfect email advertising concept for NPO.

Email Marketing story sample


The example above tells the story of Srey Krem, a Cambodian woman who was in dire need of clean water.

The language is simple, objective, aiming to show what kind of difference the donations made. There is gratitude, but it’s simple and a million miles away from emotional manipulation.

  • Ask for your donors’ opinion

A survey is a wonderful tool for every type of organization, and NPOs are no exception. But why would you need a offline surveys, if you’ve already got your subscribers’ data?

Surveys, in the case of a non-profit, can do more than that. A survey would be more than welcomed by a subscriber, especially after receiving a donation. This survey could aim to improve the whole donating process, for example.

You can also ask them if and how they liked one of your organization’s events they RSVP’d yes to and what they would change.

Ask for feedback on anything and everything. This will create a better relationship with your donors and help you even more, since feedback surveys and being asked about their opinion, will keep them engaged and make them feel valued. You can use any online survey platform to create a survey easily.

And value, as we all know, rarely has to do with money.

  • Say thank you, always

This is an important step, as important as a welcome email, in fact. Essentially, it’s the least you can do in order to thank your subscribers for donating to your cause. 

This means that an email like that should always be well thought of, customized and personalized. Don’t go for the “Dear Donor” opening line, as it will make your donors feel like they’re, in fact, just another one out of the generic bunch.

Use all the data you can gather: “Dear Jane”, instead of a generic “Donor”, “Supporter”, etc, the name of your cause or that specific something the donation was about, the amount of money they donated and so on and so forth.

More importantly, let them know what kind of difference their donation is going to make in the long run.

Include strong, positive images the subscribers/donors will be able to connect to, thus giving them a clear idea of how much better life can be if they decide to donate.

Sample email thankyou


A thank you email will honor the donor’s efforts as well as yours. Don’t forget that you’re talking to real people with real problems. They’re probably making an effort with their donation as well.

Oh and while we’re at it, use a name as a signature for the email. Not the team’s name, not the organization’s name but a name that will make sense, the name of the person who could’ve written the email.

To sum up

Email marketing for nonprofit organizations is no different from email marketing for any other type of company, but there is a small twist.

The donors have nothing to gain, apart from personal gratification and the knowledge that they did the right thing, and helped someone or helped a cause in general. The value, therefore, should be visible but the tone shouldn’t be needy or begging.

Use facts, visuals that emit positive energy (that way, your donors will subconsciously think that their donation can make a positive impact and that alone) and storytelling that will be compelling, as well as humane.

Just remember that email marketing is for everyone and, in that instance, can serve a good purpose.

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