TNF #001: Email Welcome Series

TNF #001: Email Welcome Series

Read Time: 3 minutes

We didn’t have an email welcome series when I joined Food for the Hungry. It was one of the more frustrating things to put into place.


Our donation management system didn’t integrate with our email system. The email management system’s automation tools were challenging and not reliable. We relied on exporting email lists from one system and importing them into the other for every email send.

Getting the first email in place

It took two years to get a single welcome email in place – and that was only accomplished by manually importing lists of new donors each week.

A year later, we migrated to a more robust marketing platform and hired a firm to build an API connection between our donation management system and the marketing platform.

Now we were ready to implement an email welcome series!

But were we?

We needed a plan

With multiple audiences (new leads, single gift donors, monthly donors), we needed more than one welcome series and needed something that took the recipient through a journey to accomplish something.

We took a pad of post-it notes and started outlining the email journey for a new subscriber. This journey became a foundation for increasing second gift conversions, reducing donor attrition, and converting more leads into donors.

I want to help you get your email welcome series in place

It’s one of the best things you can do to increase donor retention.

But there do you start?

Like we did, with your first email. I recommend creating at least three welcome series:

  1. New lead
  2. New single-gift donor
  3. New monthly donor

Your goals for these three series are different. We want a new lead to learn about the organization, develop trust, and give a first gift. The goal for a new single-gift donor is to build trust and get them to a second gift. Finally, the goal for a new monthly donor is to reinforce the decision to give and reduce attrition (meaning when donors quit).

The First Email

The first email in the series should welcome the new subscriber and show gratitude for whatever action the subscriber took – signing up for a resource or giving a gift. This email sets the expectations for the new subscriber – what kind of emails will you send? For a new lead, the email should contain a link to the resource to download.

Your new subscriber likely came from an external source – they could have found you via a Facebook Ad or an ad on a radio station. If you know the source, your goal is to transfer trust from that source to the nonprofit organization. For example, if you use a day-long fundraiser at a radio station, perhaps one of the on-air DJs could record a short video talking about why they support your organization and thanking the donor for their gift.

The Second Email

The second email is a chance to show the good your organization does. This could be an impact story or a video that tells what your organization accomplishes when someone gives. The email should be donor-focused and put the donor in the position of the hero.

For example, this sentence is organization-focused:

Last year, we equipped 1,250 children with backpacks full of school supplies.

A slight change helps the donor understand their role in the process:

Last year, people just like you equipped 1,250 children with backpacks full of school supplies.

The change may seem slight but it helps the reader connect with the children they will be helping.

The Third Email

When you get someone to do something small, it increases the likelihood they will do something bigger later.

In the third email, give the subscriber an opportunity to take an action or engage with the nonprofit. This might be something as small as sharing about the nonprofit in social media, or something more engaging like sending a note of encouragement to a beneficiary.

Allowing for the subscriber to feel involved with the work of the nonprofit increases the likelihood they will become more engaged.

If your organization is a religious charity, you could also use this email to encourage the subscriber to send in a prayer request.

The Fourth Email

The fourth email in the series is designed to capture a gift from a new lead or single-gift donor, or confirm the decision to give for the monthly donor. For new leads and single-gift donors, I recommend sending the most compelling donor acquisition email appeal you have. The appeal should have these traits:

  1. Story: a story of a beneficiary who needed help
  2. Clarity: an easy-to-understand ask
  3. Compelling: an ask that makes donors want to give
  4. Urgency: an immediate need

For monthly donors, you don’t need to get them to give a second gift, instead, you want the donor to know they made a good decision to signup for monthly giving. I recommend a great video that explains your programs in a compelling way. You can also use this email to remind the donor of their next gift so they aren’t surprised with the credit card or bank charge.

This is a lot, where do I start?

Maybe you’re like me when I started at Food for the Hungry and even thinking about creating a four-part welcome series is too overwhelming. You don’t need to start with four emails – you could create one or two to start. Introducing even a single welcome email to your new leads and donors will help reduce attrition.

Want more great emails like this one? Subscribe to our 2 Minute Tip emails:

Looking for additional resources to welcome your donors?

Listen to Episode 34 of the Nonprofit Answers podcast: How do we use an email welcome series to reduce donor attrition?

Read this article: Reinforce the Donation Decision to Eliminate Donor Remorse

If you’d like to learn the essential requirements in a great thank you communication, read this article.


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