The Ultimate plan to achievable email marketing for nonprofit organizations

By November 16, 2021 No Comments

Stay in contact with the advocates of your cause, raise money from your donators.

Why Do Nonprofits Need Email Marketing?

  • It helps you stay in contact with their donors so that money can be raised for their cause
  • It helps you contact and communicate with the advocates of your cause

How To Build Your Nonprofit Email List In 4 Simple Steps

  • Step 1: Find your supporters
  • Step 2: Figure out what your supporters want
  • Step 3: Choose an email service provider
  • Step 4: Entice your supporters to sign-up for your email list

5 Email Marketing Strategies To Boost Donor Giving

  1. Verify all information you collect.
  2. Use multiple methods to grow your email list
  3. Send your subscribers compelling content
    Personalize your messages
    Event invitations
    Calls for donations
    Thank you emails
    Retention emails
    PRO TIP: Automate your email workflow

  4. Humanize your emails to create feelings of trust and connection.

  5. Be diligent in monitoring your email performance.

If you are trying to raise funds for a nonprofit organization, that probably means that you have a lot on your plate. You do more tasks than you can handle, and you do your best to raise funds, thank your donors, and mobilize advocates to take action for your cause.

If you’re dealing with all of that, email marketing campaigns can help take away a lot of that repetitive stress.

Email marketing helps you stay connected and engaged with your advocates and nonprofit partners so that your cause can make big strides in less time.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through some essential email marketing strategies and tools – like Cakemail – that can help you reach your nonprofit’s outreach and fundraising goals.

Keep scrolling to download a printable checklist of the actionable tasks from this guide you can share with your team.

Hands with money - Photo by Katt Yukawa on Unsplash

Why Do Nonprofits Need Email Marketing?

There are lots of different ways to use email marketing to promote your non-profit organization. It’s not just for corporate businesses to send out marketing emails!

By using nonprofit email marketing you can get people involved and let them know about important objectives. And that can mean the difference between successfully completing those objectives or falling short.

It helps you stay in contact with their donors so that money can be raised for their cause

Email marketing is an effective way to keep in touch with your donors. It also allows you to send out messages to your supporters at any time.

You can use email marketing to promote your fundraising efforts, ask for donations, and even thank your supporters.

Furthermore, if you’re looking to grow your donor base, then email marketing is one of the most cost efficient methods available today. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on advertising to generate leads. Instead, you can simply create a list of contacts who might be interested in learning more about your cause. Then you can start sending out personalized emails to these individuals.

And depending on the email tool that you choose, there are a range of options that let you keep track of what they’ve done and how much has been donated. This way you’ll always know where you stand when it comes to your cause’s fundraising efforts.

It helps you contact and communicate with the advocates of your cause

Email is an effective way to reach out to potential volunteers, and supporters. It’s also a great way to stay connected with current supporters and keep them informed about your organization.

Your supporters are your advocates. They want to be updated about your cause and what they can do to help. Sending out an amazing email to them is something that is both beneficial to your organization and also something that your supporters are craving.

What’s more, by keeping up with the latest news and events related to your cause, you can show your supporters that you care about them as well.

So how can non-profit organizations like yours leverage email campaigns to reach more donors and advocates to help your cause?

How To Build Your Nonprofit Email List In 3 Simple Steps

A good mailing list works like magic for nonprofits. The magic comes from knowing more about who’s on your list so that you can communicate to the needs of specific sub-groups in your email list.

By creating a list of names and email addresses, you can easily target specific groups of people based on demographics such as age, gender, income level, etc.

When you have a large enough database of contacts, you can segment your audience into smaller segments. So, for example, instead of targeting everyone over 18 years old for email updates, you could focus on reaching young adults ages 25–34. Or maybe you’d rather target women ages 35–44.

This way, you can engage each group better with information that they would find more exciting and relevant.

So how do you do it? Here are 4 steps to building an email list for your nonprofit:

Step 1: Find your supporters

Firstly, you must identify which type of person will benefit from receiving your messages. For instance, someone who wants to volunteer their time may prefer to receive regular newsletters than someone who only wants to donate money.

Step 2: Figure out what your supporters want

Secondly, once you know who you’d like to target, you need to decide what kind of content you’ll share with them. Will it be educational? Or will it contain more calls to action? How often will you update them? What types of offers will you include to keep them engaged? These questions will help you figure out exactly what kind of message you’ll deliver to your subscribers.

Step 3: Choose an email service provider

If you want to send a large amount of email newsletters, you’ll have to use professional email providers like Cakemail that provide you a large library of email templates to make your workflow easier. This way, you’ll be sending bulk newsletters the legal way.

The biggest benefit is probably how these email providers are specifically made for email marketers like you. That means they have newsletter templates, marketing resources, and other features that are designed to look amazing and engage people.

Step 4: Entice your supporters to sign-up for your email list

Keep in mind that even though your supporters want to support you, they probably want to make sure that you only send them high-quality emails. These days, our inboxes are polluted with emails from all sorts of companies that we often forget about.

So a good way to entice your supporters into signing up for your newsletter is to give them something for free. For example, a “getting started with activism” toolkit or a printable checklist on ways supporters can start helping right away.

Give them something relevant and desirable for free as a way of saying, “This is the kind of value we will offer you with our emails”.

Okay, so you’re ready to get some emails. How do you do it?

You can collect emails in multiple ways:

On your website – Your nonprofit’s website should have an easy-to-use email sign-up widget on as many pages as possible. It could also help if you include a sign-up widget in the footer of your website pages or as a pop-up when your visitors try to leave a page.
On social media – People go to social media to follow causes that are important to them. Try to find forums, Facebook groups, Facebook pages, and websites where your supporters might gather online.
This doesn’t have to be YOUR nonprofit’s page. It can be a more broad page or even a similar nonprofit’s page.

For example, if your nonprofit is about providing meals for the elderly, you can join groups and pages that are related to food insecurity, food banks, senior interest pages for different age groups, or even local community groups.

With advertisements – This is a faster but more expensive approach. You would take a similar approach with social media, you can target advertisements towards people who follow certain Facebook/Instagram pages related to your nonprofit.
When you’re actively working on these 3 steps, you’ll be well on your way to building a healthy list of email addresses from supporters, nonprofit partners, and potential donors.
Volunteers - Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

5 Email Marketing Strategies To Boost Donor Giving

Whether you’re starting from ground zero or just trying to grow your donor list, here are 5 tried-and-tested email marketing strategies that should help boost the amount of supporters, nonprofit partners, and of course donor giving.

1. Verify all information you collect.

It’s best to combine the data from all your tools to ensure that your email list has accurate and detailed data.

Nonprofits have a wide range of tools for inputting and tracking donations, registrations for events, membership details, personal gifts, and more. So it’s essential to make sure these elements of data get into your emails.

You can incorporate all of this data by integrating your email provider with your donor management system, CRM and database. By connecting your email list – eg. from Cakemail – to Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, or Raiser’s Edge, you can maintain your organization’s supporters data in a centralized location.

You can communicate with more authority and relevance when you know more about your donors.

Your ability to deliver relevant content to your supporters will depend on how you track engagement data. You can invite supporters to take action by sending them specific messages that relate to how they have engaged with you.

By engaging supporters in unique ways, you can keep them engaged and encourage them to take action. In fact, 78% of internet users in the US said they were more likely to purchase after viewing personalized content from brands.

Supporters are most likely to donate and support you if your content reflects their interests.

Offering subscription choices can be one of the easiest ways to reach that goal. You can use this method if you host events, run multiple campaigns, present field work updates, or present other types of content. This also prevents you from sending too many emails and ensures your audience is receiving extremely tailored content.

Your engagement and donations could increase tenfold if you sent subscribers extremely personalized and relevant data.

2. Use multiple methods to grow your email list

You want to make it easy for people to support your nonprofit. That means making it easy to join your email list!

So be sure to make the signup page easy to find for people looking to join your mailing list.

Signup forms should be placed on several locations on your website: the footer, pages with the most traffic, the “About Us” page, Facebook, Twitter, among others.

Collecting names and email addresses at events is another great opportunity. This is a perfect opportunity to set up a sign-up form on an iPad in your registration table, merchandise table, or other kiosk. To create beautiful signup forms quickly and easily, you can use apps like Enlist, QuestionScout, or directly from your email provider.

List-building through partnerships is another great option. You can broaden your reach by partnering with other organizations with similar missions – or even with for-profit companies. Don’t forget to follow laws and regulation compliant list-building practices.

Below are a couple more quick email marketing tips to help you grow your list of donors and subscribers:

Get the most excited supporters on your list.
Double opt-ins are a great way to ensure you have a quality list that is interested in your content.

Keep the quality of your email list consistent.
A small group of true supporters is much more effective than a large circle of people who may or may not be aware of your cause. We often focus on the size of our list, but the quality of our list is what really matters.

Create short signup forms.
Make sure your signup forms are as simple as possible when collecting email addresses. The more fields a supporter needs to fill out, the less likely it is that they will complete your form.

Use our professional templates to plan your non profit campaigns.
You can easily brand them to suits your need.

3. Send your subscribers compelling content.

Creating compelling messages when discussing a cause is extremely important. It’s important to remind your donors and supporters of the value of your work as well as how it benefits them.

You can do this by:

  • Personalizing your messages
  • Sending event invitations for increased engagement
  • Sending targeted newsletters with specific purposes
  • Sending donation appeals to reach your fundraising goal
  • Sending regular “thank you” emails to thank your donors, volunteers, and supporters
  • Sending retention emails to follow-up with your donors and supporters with how you’re using their money and support
  • Automate most of these emails so that you can focus more on making big progress with your cause

Personalize your messages

Remember that people donate to your cause for emotional reasons. Your cause is personal to them – and so your email content should be personalized to them, too.

Make sure that the content you send is relevant to the donors’ interests. Emails customized for each recipient can generate six times more transaction rates (donations) than a generalized email. The most effective way to do this is by sending emails based on donor preferences.

Whether you segment your donors according to their preferences or based on their previous donation areas, you should segment them to deliver targeted communication to each gifting group.

Event invitations

Try to organize events that are specific to donors, volunteers, and regular supporters (who could turn into donors in the future). Now with online event options, there are many options for making events like this more accessible and regular.

And if you’re planning new events – especially ones that need table or team hosts – you can invite previous event participants to help out or even host those events!


There’s no single way to make an amazing email newsletter. You can send unique targeted newsletters based on:

  • events that people attended
  • campaigns that they donated to
  • newsletter preferences that they chose when they signed up for your email

Plus, you can keep things interesting and fun by including content from other channels such as social media posts, website updates, etc.

Calls for donations

Whether you’re asking for regular donations, seasonal cause donations, or new campaign donations, being specific to donor interests is critical.

For example, you could get more seasonal cause donations by sending emails specifically to those who have donated to seasonal causes before.

In addition, you can also ask for donations at certain points during campaigns. For instance, you might want to send a special message to all donors after someone has made a large contribution. Or maybe you’d like to send a reminder to everyone after a month has passed since last contact.

If you’ve been trying hard to raise funds but haven’t had much success, then you may want to consider writing a more personal letter to your donors explaining why you need additional funding.

Remember: people donate because your cause is personal and emotional to them. So entice them with content that touches their emotions!

Thank you emails

Just like donation emails, you should make “thank you” emails as specific and personalized as possible to each donor.

Moreover, it’s good practice to include links back to your main site where they can learn more about what you’re doing with donations. This will encourage them to visit your site and donate again.

If you don’t already have one, set up a separate “Thank You” page on your website. On that “Thank You” page, try to include information about how they can stay connected to your work through social media, volunteer opportunities, etc.

Pro Tip: You can even recognize individual donors by name, company, city (with permission, of course). This shows other supporters that you value each donor and makes the cause more personal to them by knowing how many other people are active with your cause.

Retention emails

These emails can take the form of…

  • follow-up emails that let donors know how you’re using their gift to make an impact
  • reminders about the fundraising progress for your range of causes
  • event reminders for donors and supporters to be involved in
  • updates on nonprofit partners and the impact that you’re making with them

Retention emails should be sent out at least once a month, and they should include an email address where people can contact you if they have any questions or concerns.

Send targeted emails based on when, how, and how much donors gave their gifts. This way, you can be specific about their individual impact.

These emails will make your donor feel like they make an active difference and will inspire them to stay involved because you value their support.

PRO TIP: Automate your email workflow
As a nonprofit employee, time is precious. And personalizing so many types of emails can be time-consuming and stressful.

Email automation keeps your audience engaged and frees up your time. A study found that automated email series result in a 250% increase in engagement and reply rates.

Welcome, thank you, and retention emails are among the easiest to automate.

A welcome series is the perfect way to engage someone who subscribes to your email list or makes their first donation. Introduce them to the programs and services of your nonprofit and how they can get involved. The average open rate of your welcome emails can be double that of your other emails, so you can expect increased engagement.

Automating thank-you emails can also be extremely useful. Set the donor up so that one month after receiving a thank you email, they will receive another email showing the results of their contribution.

You can set up these workflows to send thank you, retention, or follow-up emails based on how your database is integrated with your email provider.
Once you recognize the ways you want to reach out to specific segments of your donor base, you can design an automated email journey for them that meets their needs.

Red donation box - Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash

4. Humanize your emails to create feelings of trust and connection.

How an organization designs its emails says a lot about the company. Visual influences, such as design and imagery can reflect certain feelings, thoughts, and values. Since donors give based on their emotional response, it’s imperative that you carefully consider your design and what emotion it sends.

Use templates that are easy to read.

The content of an email will be more readable if it is presented in a user-friendly manner. Fortunately, most email service providers provide a wide choice of template email messages to do all of that for you.

Create an attention-grabbing email subject line.

The subject line of your email should both summarize its content and grab the attention of recipients. This will engage your reader and keep them interested throughout the rest of the email.

Most people will read your email for only 15 seconds, and most internet readers will only actually read 20% of your emails, so the headline is your best bet at attracting readers.

To figure out if your headline is captivating enough, try to use one of these free email subject line analyzers:
* Email subject line analyzer from CoSchedule
* Email subject line analyzer from Omnishare
* Email subject line analyzer from automizy

Use subheadings and bulleted lists to organize your emails.

By using bullet points or subheadings, your email will be easier to read. It is important to organize your content properly, since 79% of readers scan rather than read. You can make your email scannable by using subheadings and bulleted lists.

Moreover, when writing your email messages, avoid long sentences because many users won’t have patience to scroll through a lengthy message. Instead, write simple sentences that include keywords related to your topic.

As a result, your subscribers will find it much easier to understand your point.

Call to action with a button.

Always add a call to action to every email, ideally a button following the header or body text. A call to action button stands out, and subscribers have become accustomed to recognizing them as places where they should click.

Usually, the primary call to action in your nonprofit’s email will be “donate” or something similar.

Accordingly, you need to ensure that this button appears prominently within your email. Don’t always make it at the end of your email – especially if your email is pretty long.

Use images effectively.

Images can help convey information quickly and efficiently. They’re great tools for conveying complex ideas, making your emails look professional, and even helping you stand apart among competitors.

When designing your email, think about which image works best for each part of your email.

Most importantly: Donors will emotionally connect the images.

In fact, studies show that visual stimuli like pictures and videos capture our attention better than words alone. So, don’t underestimate the power of visuals.

Your nonprofit will benefit from this not only because your donors will want to continue supporting it, but because it builds long-lasting relationships. Giving is a relationship-driven activity, so this will pay dividends to your fundraising efforts in the future.

5. Be diligent in monitoring your email performance.

Tracking your email campaigns is relatively easy with most email service providers. These are just a few of the most important email tracking metrics…

Open rates

The open rate refers to how many people open your email message. It is typical for nonprofits to have an open rate of around 25%. The metrics will provide you with information about the quality of your subject lines, whether you’re sending too many emails, and whether your content is appropriate for your subscribers.

As long as you keep track of all five key metrics, you should be able to determine which strategies are working and which aren’t. This way, you can adjust your approach accordingly.

Click-through rates

The metric helps you gain insight into how well your content engages your audience and whether you are sending compelling messages, imagery, and content.

By tracking click-through rates, we can see how many people click on links within emails. 2.6% is the average click-through rate for non-profit.

As a result, you’ll learn what types of content work best for your recipients.
You may notice that certain subjects perform differently depending on who opens your email. For example, if you send an email promoting a fundraiser, you might expect more clicks on the link to donate. However, if you sent an email asking supporters to sign up for updates, you’d probably receive fewer clicks.

Email conversions

A conversion measures how many supporters follow through on your request when they click on a call-to-action in your email. For instance, it can provide information about how many donations were generated through an email or how many seats were reserved for an event.

Monitoring this metric is important for showing how many members of your organization are developing a connection with your email. The difference between this number and the click-through number may reflect a problem with your email’s content or the landing page’s messaging.

So, make sure you monitor these numbers regularly and make updates to your email content strategy as appropriate.

Unsubscribe rate

This metric shows how many people left your email list. The unsubscribe rate is usually low for nonprofits. You’re doing well if your rate is under 2%.

Otherwise, you could rethink how often you send emails or if the content of your emails is irrelevant and boring to your audience.

Donation tracking.

You can determine the value of email by tracking engagement through donations. The number of people who convert into donors will tell you if your email campaigns are effective; in fact, you may be able to use your donor database to learn which emails are more effective and should be focused on.

When you do not have the right tools, calculating your return on investment can be extremely difficult. You may be able to sync subscriber data from tools like Cakemail directly to Salesforce or Raiser’s Edge, thereby syncing it directly with your database.

Having this information helps you see your donor engagement efforts in greater detail.

What Next?

Download our Checklist For Successful Nonprofit Email Campaigns.

Use this checklist to keep your email marketing progress in-check!

Share with your team and send us your best tips or your questions.

Author Cakemail Support

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