Nonprofit Email Marketing: The Ultimate Strategy

Donor Communication, , Guides

By Jeremy Reis

Email is one of the most important tools in a nonprofit’s digital marketing arsenal. It’s a great way to stay in touch with your donor base, and it can also be used to cultivate new relationships. But simply having an email list is not enough. You need to have a strategy for how you’re going to use email to achieve your fundraising goals.

An email marketing strategy should take into account your target audience, the type of content you want to share, and the overall tone of your communications. You also need to decide how often you’ll send emails, and what kind of call-to-action you’ll include. Crafting a well-thought-out nonprofit email marketing strategy will help you make the most of this powerful tool.

As a nonprofit, one of your main goals is to engage potential donors and keep them interested in your cause. Email marketing can be a powerful tool to help you achieve this goal. By sending regular updates and communication to your email list, you can keep people informed about your work and remind them of why they should support your organization. Additionally, email marketing can also help you cultivate relationships with major donors and keep them engaged with your work. By investing in an email marketing strategy, you can ensure that your nonprofit is staying top-of-mind with potential donors and making the most out of donor relations.

A successful nonprofit email marketing strategy can be the difference between a thriving organization and one that struggles to make ends meet. By utilizing a few key practices, you can maximize your chances of reaching your fundraising goals.

Creating a Successful Nonprofit Email Marketing Strategy

  1. What is Email Marketing?
  2. Nonprofit Email Marketing Platforms
  3. Types of Emails
  4. Creating a Welcome Series
  5. Nurturing Your Email Audience
  6. Building Your Email Communications Calendar


What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is a form of online marketing that uses email to promote a organization’s products, services, or fundraising campaigns. Nonprofit email marketing can be used to cultivate relationships with potential and current donors, keep them updated on your work, and ask them for support. When done properly, email marketing can be an incredibly effective way to raise awareness and funds for your nonprofit.

Why is Email Marketing Important for Nonprofits?

Email marketing is important for nonprofits because it allows you to reach a large number of people with your message quickly and easily. With email, you can target specific groups of people with personalized messages that are relevant to their interests. Additionally, email is an inexpensive way to market your nonprofit compared to other channels like print or television advertising. Email marketing is vital for a successful nonprofit marketing campaign.

Key Components of an Email

Email is a powerful tool for fundraisers, but only if it’s done right. By paying attention to the key components of an email—the subject line, from line, preheader text, body copy, call-to-action—you can make sure your next campaign is successful.

The Subject Line

The subject line is the first—and sometimes only—thing your recipients will see, so it’s important to make it count. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. There should be some catchy element to your subject lines. The subject line is one of the key elements of getting a recipient to open your email. It shouldn’t be gimmicky or spammy,  a clear subject line is more likely to avoid getting caught in spam filters.

The From Name

The from line is important because it’s another opportunity to reassure recipients that they know who the email is from. Ideally, the from line should be recognizable and consistent with other communications from your organization. In my testing of the from name, often your President’s or Executive Director’s name wins for open rate. This should be tested with your “organization name”, a “person’s name”, and a “person’s name, organization.” For example, you would test “Charlotte Pet Society,” “Jane Smith,” and “Jane Smith, Charlotte Pet Society.” You may be surprised at your test results!

The Preheader Text

The preheader text appears in most inboxes next to or underneath the subject line. It’s a short summary of the email content, and it’s another chance to hook recipients and get them interested in reading more. This is another critical element to increase open rates.

Body Copy

For nonprofits, email marketing is a vital tool for building relationships with donors and driving click-thru rates. The body copy of an email is where you have the opportunity to share your nonprofit’s story, connect with donors on a personal level, and make a case for why they should support your organization. While it’s important to keep your emails concise, be sure to include enough information to give donors a sense of your nonprofit’s work and how their donation can make a difference. With a little creativity and thoughtfulness, you can craft body copy that will engage and inspire your donors to take action.


For nonprofits, email marketing is a vital tool for staying in touch with donors and driving click-thru rates. A call-to-action (CTA) is a key element of any successful email campaign. A CTA is a statement or question that encourages the recipient to take a specific action, such as clicking on a link or making a donation. A great CTA will drive your click-through rates.

There are a few things to keep in mind when crafting an effective CTA. First, make sure your CTA is clear and concise. Don’t try to cram too much information into the CTA; simply state what you want the reader to do, and why it’s important. Second, best practices suggest to use strong language that inspires action. Words like “join,” “give today,” and “act now” are all good options. Finally, make sure your CTA is visible and prominent in the email; don’t bury it at the bottom of the message.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your nonprofit’s email marketing campaigns are more effective and successful.



Your Email Marketing Platform

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach out to potential donors and keep them updated on your nonprofit’s activities. However, with so many options on the market, it can be tough to know which email marketing software is right for your organization. In this section, we’ll walk you through the process of selecting an email marketing platform for your nonprofit so that you can make the best decision for your organization.

Define Your Goals

Before you can select an email marketing platform, you need to define your goals. What do you hope to accomplish with your email marketing campaign? Are you trying to increase donations? Drive traffic to your website? Encourage volunteers to sign up? Once you know what your goals are, you can start looking for a platform that will help you meet them.

What to Look for in an Email Marketing Platform

There are a few key factors that you should keep in mind when selecting an email marketing platform for your nonprofit. First and foremost, you want to make sure that the platform offers a free trial period so that you can test it out before committing to a long-term contract. You also want to look for a platform that offers discounts or special pricing for nonprofits. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that the platform is easy to use and provides customer support in case you run into any problems. Finally, you’ll want to make sure that the platform integrates with your other fundraising software so that you can manage all of your donor communications from one central location.

Free trial period

For nonprofits, email marketing is a powerful tool for building relationships with supporters and raising funds. However, many nonprofit organizations operate on tight budgets, making it difficult to justify the cost of a paid email marketing tool. This is where free trials can be extremely beneficial. A free trial allows nonprofit organizations to explore the features and capabilities of an email marketing platform before committing to a paid subscription. This way, nonprofits can ensure that they are getting the most bang for their buck. In addition, free trials can also help nonprofit organizations to build their email list in a cost-effective manner. By offering supporters a free trial of the email marketing platform, nonprofits can encourage sign-ups without incurring any upfront costs. As a result, free trials can be an invaluable tool for nonprofit organizations looking to maximize their email marketing efforts.

Pricing for nonprofits

There are a number of factors that a nonprofit should consider when pricing an email marketing platform. First, the nonprofit should consider the cost of the platform itself. Some platforms offer a free plan, while others charge a monthly fee. The nonprofit should also consider the cost of any additional features that they may need, such as automation or reporting. Many email marketing platforms offer discounts for nonprofits, so be sure to shop around. Second, the nonprofit should consider the amount of time that they will need to spend setting up and maintaining the platform. If the nonprofit has a limited staff or budget, they may want to choose a platform that is easy to use and does not require a lot of time to manage. Finally, the nonprofit should consider the return on investment that they can expect from using the platform. If the nonprofit plans to use the platform primarily for fundraising, they will want to choose a platform that offers powerful tools for managing donor lists and sending personalized emails. By considering these factors, the nonprofit can choose an email marketing platform that meets their needs and fits their budget.

Customer service

Customer service is an important consideration for any nonprofit, but it is especially important when choosing an email marketing platform. The platform you choose will be responsible for helping you to communicate with your donors, so it is essential to find a provider that offers responsive and helpful customer service. When evaluating customer service, nonprofit organizations should consider the following factors:

– How quickly does the customer service team respond to inquiries?
– How easy is it to contact customer service?
– What kind of support do they offer?
– Do they have a knowledge base or other resources that can help nonprofit organizations use their platform effectively?

Choosing a platform with excellent customer service is vital for ensuring that your nonprofit can make the most of its email marketing efforts. By taking the time to evaluate your options, you can ensure that you find a provider that meets your needs and provides the level of support you require.

Ease of use

For nonprofit organizations, email marketing can be an invaluable tool for staying in touch with supporters and raising awareness for their cause. However, nonprofit staff are often stretched thin, and they may not have the time or resources to invest in learning a complex email marketing platform. That’s why it’s important to choose an email marketing platform that is easy to use. A platform that is intuitive and user-friendly will save nonprofit staff time and allow them to focus on other important tasks. In addition, an easy-to-use platform will make it more likely that nonprofit staff will actually use the platform to its full potential. When choosing an email marketing platform for a nonprofit, ease of use should be a top priority.

Many charities look for a library of email templates to help design high-quality emails. The right email template can make a big difference in whether or not you produce engaging emails. Email service providers can also offer sign-up forms or a pop-up form to build your subscriber list.

Marketing Automation

Email marketing is a powerful tool for nonprofits, but it can be time-consuming to manage manually. Automation can help by handling tasks like sending welcome emails to new subscribers, and thank-you emails after donations. Automated email campaigns can also be set up to send regular updates about the nonprofit’s work, including details about upcoming events and how donors’ money is being used. nonprofit organizations rely on donations to support their work, so it’s important to keep supporters updated and engaged. Marketing automation can make email marketing more efficient and effective, freeing up staff time to focus on other important tasks. With all of the different email marketing tools available, it’s vital to review each service’s automation tools to ensure they provide the best results for what you’re trying to accomplish.


When it comes to email marketing for nonprofits, segmentation is key. Nonprofit organizations have a lot of different audiences they need to communicate with – from donors to volunteers to people who receive their services. When you’re looking for the best people to communicate the right message to, segmentation will help you produce better results. Each of these groups has different needs and interests, so it’s important to be able to send them targeted messages that are relevant to them. That’s where segmentation comes in. By dividing your mailing list into different groups, you can send each group email addresses that are tailored specifically to them. And, with the help of automation, you can make sure that each person receives the right message at the right time. Segmentation is an essential tool for nonprofit organizations that want to make the most of their email marketing efforts.


Integrations are important in an email marketing platform for a nonprofit because they allow you to automate your email marketing campaigns. By connecting your nonprofit’s email marketing platform to other software, you can save time by automatically adding new contacts and subscribers, sending out automated nonprofit emails, and tracking results. This can free up time that would otherwise be spent on manually managing your email marketing campaigns. In addition, integrations can also help you to maximize the impact of your campaigns by providing insights into how your nonprofit’s email list is growing and who is engaging with your messages. As a result, integrations can play a vital role in helping you to effectively manage your nonprofit’s email marketing efforts.

An email marketing platform can be a gamechanger for your nonprofit. With the right tool, you can cultivate relationships with your supporters, manage your fundraising campaigns effectively, and grow your base of loyal donors.


Types of Emails

Email marketing should be a key component of your communications strategy. After all, email offers an easy and affordable way to stay in touch with your donors and keep them updated on your work. However, it’s important to remember that not all email messages are created equal. In fact, these eight are some of the different types of email messages that nonprofit organizations typically send:

1. Appeal Emails

A nonprofit appeal email is an email sent by a nonprofit organization to request donations. These emails typically include a story of a beneficiary who was helped, brief description of the nonprofit’s work, information about how the donations will be used, and a link to the nonprofit’s website or donation page. While some nonprofits send appeals to their entire email list, others use segmentation to target specific groups of donors. For example, an organization might send an appeal to recent donors, lapsed donors, or major donors. By carefully targeting their appeals, nonprofits can increase the likelihood of receiving donations.

2. Newsletters

A nonprofit email newsletter is a type of email marketing that nonprofit organizations use to keep donors updated on their work. Nonprofit newsletter emails typically include a mix of stories about the organization’s work, information about upcoming events, and calls to action for donations. Some nonprofit organizations also use their newsletter emails to thank their donors for their support. Nonprofit newsletter emails can be a powerful tool for keeping donors engaged with the organization’s work and fostering a sense of connection to its mission.

Click to read a larger version of this e-newsletter

Project Rescue tells stories of impact in their monthly newsletter. They also include an appeal and call-to-action.

3. Impact Reports

A nonprofit impact report is an email that a nonprofit organization sends to its donors in order to update them on the organization’s recent activities and successes. The nonprofit impact report is an important tool for nonprofit organizations because it allows them to build and maintain relationships with their donors. The nonprofit impact report also allows nonprofit organizations to show their donors the concrete ways in which their donations have made a difference. Finally, the nonprofit impact report can help nonprofit organizations to raise additional funds by inspiring donors to give more.

4. Thank-you Emails

A nonprofit thank-you email is a great way to show appreciation for your donors and keep them updated on your latest activities. It is also an important tool for email marketing, as it helps you to build relationships with potential donors and keep them informed about your work. When writing a nonprofit thank-you email, be sure to personalize the message and include information about how the donor’s contribution is making a difference. You might also want to consider including a call to action, such as asking the donor to share your work with their friends or make a donation to your next campaign. By following these tips, you can create an effective nonprofit thank-you email that will help you build strong relationships with your donors.

Click to read a larger version of this email

The Human Coalition uses events in the news and a close-to-successful fundraising campaign to send out a thank-you email to their entire email list. This can be an effective way to make readers feel good about supporting the organization even if they didn’t give to a specific campaign.

5. Surveys

A nonprofit survey email is a type of email marketing used by nonprofit organizations to collect feedback from donors, volunteers, and other supporters. The surveys can be used to gather information about how the nonprofit is doing, what areas need improvement, and what kinds of programs or initiatives donors would like to see in the future. Nonprofit survey emails are an important way for nonprofits to stay connected with their supporters and ensure that they are meeting their needs.

A survey can also be used to gather information for fundraising purposes, such as finding out if the organization is named in the supporter’s will or the area of focus a donor is most interested in.

In this example email from Feed the Children, you’ll find a two question survey which is designed to take people down a path to revealing what motivates them to give to the nonprofit.

6. Welcome Series

A nonprofit welcome email series is a set of automated emails that are sent to new donors. The purpose of the series is to introduce the nonprofit to the donor and build a relationship with them. The welcome email series typically includes three to five emails, and each email covers a different topic. For example, the first email might introduce the nonprofit’s mission, while the second email might highlight recent achievements. The final email might ask the donor to renew their support. By sending a series of well-crafted emails, nonprofits can create a strong connection with their donors and encourage them to continue giving.

7. Reengagement Series

A nonprofit reengagement email series is a series of emails sent by a nonprofit organization to its donors in an effort to reconnect and reengage with them. The goal of the email series is to remind donors of the good work that the nonprofit is doing and to encourage them to continue their support. Email marketing is an effective tool for nonprofit organizations, and a well-executed reengagement email series can go a long way in keeping donors engaged and committed to the cause.

8. Take Action

A nonprofit action email is a type of email marketing used by nonprofit organizations to cultivate relationships with potential donors. These emails typically include a call to action, such as making a donation or signing up for a volunteer opportunity. Nonprofit action emails can also be used to provide updates on the organization’s work, share stories about the individuals they are helping, advocacy emails, or invite donors to attend an event. By taking the time to cultivate relationships with potential donors, nonprofit organizations can build a base of support that will help them achieve their goals.

When it comes to nonprofit fundraising, the principle of taking a series of small actions to get a bigger action from a donor is known as the ask string. This principle is based on the idea that it is easier to get a small commitment from a donor than a large one. Once the donor has made that initial commitment, they are more likely to be receptive to asks for larger gifts. This type of fundraising strategy is often used in email marketing campaigns, where donors are asked to make a series of small donations over time. By taking this approach, nonprofits can build relationships with donors and ultimately secure the funding they need to achieve their mission.

Click to read a larger version

Nashville Rescue Mission offers a free will service to help people understand the necessity of creating a will and hopefully leave some of their estate to the Mission. Actions are often things that will benefit the reader so they feel reciprocity towards the nonprofit. The best actions leave the reader wanting to do more for the non-profit organization.


Creating a Welcome Series

A welcome series is an excellent way to introduce your new donors to your organization and its mission. By sending a series of emails over the course of 1-2 months, you can introduce your new donors to your organization’s work, engage them in your mission, and ultimately convert them into recurring donors. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a welcome series that will engage and retain your new donors.

What is a Welcome Series?

A welcome series is a sequence of email messages that are sent automatically to new donors soon after they make their first gift. The goal of a welcome series is to deepen the relationship between the donor and the organization so that the donor remains engaged and committed to the cause.

Email 1: The Thank You Email

The first email in your welcome series should be sent as soon as possible after the donor makes their gift. This will show them that you’re excited to have them on board and that you’re grateful for their support. Include a personal message expressing your appreciation for their donation. One of the best ways to help increase donor retention is for donors to feel your gratitude for their gift.

Email 2: The Impact Email

The second email in your series can be sent a few days later and should introduce the donor to your organization’s mission, values, and work. Share stories and data points that highlight the difference you’ve been able to make thanks to generous supporters like them. This email helps build trust with the donor in your work by sharing an impactful story. Your hope is to get new email subscribers to act so it’s more likely your emails will end up in their inbox in the future. When a reader clicks on a link or replies to an email, it indicates to their email service provider that this email is reaching the right people.

Email 3: The Action Email

The third email in your welcome series can be sent a week or two later and should focus on engaging the donor in your work. This could include sharing volunteer opportunities, upcoming events, or easy ways to take action on behalf of your cause. We want to motivate the reader to take an action with this email. When donors take several small steps, they’re more likely to take a big action (like donate a second time!) when you ask.

Email 4: The Appeal Email

In the final email of your welcome series, invite your new donor to become a recurring donor or to give a second gift. Share how their monthly gift will make a difference in the lives of those that you serve. If you have any upcoming needs that their donation could help fund, this is the time to share those stories as well. Be sure to include links to sign up for monthly giving on your website or social media channels.

A welcome series is an excellent way to engage new donors and convert them into recurring donors. By sharing stories about the people that you have helped and inviting them to get involved in your work, you can cultivate lifelong supporters for your organization. It only takes a few minutes to set up a welcome series, but the benefits will last a lifetime!


Nurturing Your Email Audience

It’s no secret that email is one of the most powerful tools in a fundraiser’s toolkit. When used effectively, email can help you cultivate relationships with donors, keep them updated on your latest campaigns, and ultimately inspire them to give. But if your email list is full of inactive or unengaged subscribers, all your hard work will be for nothing. That’s why it’s so important to regularly nurture your list.

But what does “nurturing” mean, exactly? In the context of email list management, nurturing is the process of regularly engaging with your subscribers in order to keep them interested and invested in your cause. Nurturing can take many forms, but some of the most common and effective methods include sending targeted content, segmenting your list, and automate your communications.

Sending Targeted Content

One of the best ways to nurture your email list is by sending targeted content that appeals to their specific interests. If you have a large email list with different segments of people with different interests, this can seem like a daunting task. But there are a few different ways you can go about it.

If you have the time and resources, you can send separate emails to each segment of your list. This might seem like a lot of work, but it’s actually an incredibly effective way to show your subscribers that you know and care about their interests.

If you don’t have the time or resources to send separate emails to each segment, another option is to send one general email and then use targeting parameters (like “Interested In: Animals”) to ensure that only people who care about that specific topic receive the email. This way, you’re not bombarding people who aren’t interested in what you have to say with irrelevant information.

Segmenting Your List

Another great way to nurture your email list is by segmenting it into smaller groups based on factors like interests, location, or giving history. Once you’ve segmented your list, you can then begin sending targeted communications that are more likely to resonate with each group. Not only will this fend off feelings of being inundated with too much information, but it will also make people feel seen and valued – something that is essential for building long-term relationships with donors.

Personalizing Your Emails

Don’t forget about the power of personalization. Adding a personal touch to your emails can go a long way towards building relationships with your supporters. You might consider adding personalized subject lines or signatures, or including information like the donor’s name or giving history in your messages. Whatever you do, just make sure that you are taking the time to connect with each and every one of your supporters on a personal level.

Send Regular Updates

You should be sending emails to your list at least once a month, but more frequent communications are better. Consistently sending updates will keep you top of mind for potential donors, and it will show them that you’re still actively working towards your fundraising goals.

Automating Your Communications

Finally, automating your communications is another great way to nurture your email list without putting extra strain on yourself or your team. Automation allows you to set up triggered emails that will automatically be sent out when someone takes a specific action (like signing up for your newsletter or making a donation). This not only saves you time in the long run, but it also allows you to create a more seamless experience for donors – which often leads to increased loyalty and engagement.

Nurturing your email list may seem like a lot of work at first glance – but trust us, it’s worth it! By regularly engaging with subscribers and sending targeted content, you can keep them interested in what you’re doing and inspire them to support your cause both now and in the future.


Building Your Email Communications Calendar

An email communications calendar can help you map out your fundraising email strategy in advance, so you can hit your goals month after month, year after year. Here’s how to build one.

Step 1: Set Baseline Metrics

Before you start planning out your email calendar, it’s important to set some baseline metrics that you’ll use to measure success. Open and click-through rates are two of the most important metrics for email campaigns, so make sure you’re tracking those for each of your sending periods. Other important factors to consider include unsubscribe rate, complaints/spam reports, and conversion rate (for donations or signups). Once you have a good understanding of your current performance, you’ll be able to set realistic goals for improvement.

Step 2: Identify Your Segments

Earlier, you learned the importance of segmenting your donors. When creating a communications calendar for your nonprofit, it’s important to segment your email list. This will help you tailor your content and ensure that you’re reaching the right people with the right message. For example, you might segment your list by donor type, or by geographic location. By doing this, you can make sure that you’re sending relevant information to each group, and that you’re not bombarding people with irrelevant emails. Segmenting your email list will help you build a more effective communications calendar, and it will ultimately lead to better engagement with your donors.

Step 3: Determine Your Sending Frequency

One of the most common questions nonprofits have when building their email communications calendars is “How often should we be sending emails?” While there’s no magic number here, a good rule of thumb is to start with a frequency that feels manageable for your team—somewhere between once a week and once a month is generally a good starting point. You can always adjust your frequency up or down based on results later on. You will determine a sending frequency for each segment you create.

Step 4: Develop a List of Emails You’ll Send

When determining which types of emails to send when building a nonprofit communications calendar, it’s important to consider what kinds of messages will resonate with your donors. For example, some donors may be interested in hearing about the impact of their donations, while others may prefer to receive updates on how the nonprofit is progressing towards its goals. It’s also important to consider the frequency with which you send emails. If you send too many emails, donors may become overwhelmed and unsubscribe from your list. On the other hand, if you don’t send enough emails, donors may forget about your nonprofit altogether. The key is to strike a balance that will keep donors engaged without bombarding them with too much information.

Step 5: Create a Matrix of Email Sends by Segment

One of the most important elements of nonprofit email marketing is segmentation. By tailoring your message to specific groups of donors, you can create a more personal and relevant experience that will resonate with readers. However, segmentation is only part of the equation- you also need to consider the types of email content that will best suit each group. To help you get started, here is a matrix of email content ideas for various donor segments:

Prospects: Email content should aim to introduce prospects to your nonprofit and its mission. Include information about your recent activities and how donors can get involved.
New donors: Thank new donors for their support and include information about how their contribution is making an impact. This is also a good time to invite them to participate in additional activities, such as volunteering or signing up for a giving program.
Lapsed donors: Try to re-engage lapsed donors by sharing updates about your nonprofit and its recent successes. You can also offer special giving opportunities, such as matching gifts or End-of-Year tax deductions, that may incentivize them to give again.
Monthly donors: Keep monthly donors updated on your nonprofit’s progress and share stories about the individuals or families who have been helped by their contributions. Also be sure to thank them for their ongoing support!
Major donors: express gratitude for major gifts and provide updates on how the funds are being used. This is also a good opportunity to invite major donors to participate in special events or project committees.

Email marketing is a powerful tool that every nonprofit should be utilizing in order not only increase brand awareness but also engage potential donors and bring in much needed funds.


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