Nonprofits: Boost supporter engagement with these easy e-marketing tips

by: Amy Blasco

It’s every nonprofit’s worst nightmare: A past or potential donor sees an email from your organization in their inbox and immediately hits delete. Perhaps they donated for a friend’s birthday or they’re a longtime supporter; either way, they’ve most likely grown tired of the endless asking and don’t even bother to open your message.

This is a common problem for most nonprofits. A sense of urgency can spur organizations to send a constant stream of emails to donors—past, present, and future. And, more often than not, they never stop hitting send. According to a recent communications trends report from Nonprofit Marketing Guide, approximately 69 percent of the nonprofits surveyed said they never stop sending emails to unengaged recipients. This can lead to decreased giving and an increase in missed opportunities.

When it comes to nonprofit e-marketing, more isn’t always better. There are several components to a successful strategy, all of which boil down to the concept of “quality over quantity.” Here are some steps any nonprofit professional can take to stop their emails from going straight to the digital trash can.

Create engaging content

The best nonprofit emails tell personalized stories to their recipients. This can be done by researching your audience to better understand what resonates with them emotionally. The email you send to a first-time donor should differ from the one sent to a longtime supporter. For the first-time donor, consider developing a welcome email with a real-life story, compelling imagery or videos and one clear call to action (e.g. make a donation, sign up to volunteer, follow us on social media). The first few emails will get opened the most, so make sure they count. It’s a good idea to send them one to two days after obtaining a person’s email and to put the organization’s name in the “from” field. This will prevent the message from getting lost in the shuffle.

For longtime supporters who’ve stopped opening your emails create a re-engagement campaign with subject lines or headers teasing “what you’ve missed!” or a sincere “we missed you!” Include a real-life story of how your nonprofit has grown and helped the community and link it to your website. Personalize the email even further by asking them how often they’d like to receive emails (weekly, monthly, etc.) and then send them the most relevant updates with limited calls to action.

Actively manage your email list

Now that you have some ideas for content, let’s talk about how to ensure it gets to the right people. Nonprofits get the best e-marketing results when they actively manage their email lists. Start by doing an audit of your e-list. Many third-party platforms, such as MailChimp and Constant Contact, have tools for tracking metrics, such as clicks, unsubscribes, and email open and bounce rates. This will give you a better idea of what kind of content elicits action from your audiences.

Once you’ve honed your list, segment recipients based on their interests, giving patterns or how and when they sign up to receive your emails to ensure they receive personalized content. You wouldn’t want to send a welcome email to a longtime donor or a volunteer email to a supporter who lives out of state. Segmenting will prevent this from happening.

If a recipient isn’t opening your emails after a targeted re-engagement campaign, consider moving them to a “do not send” list or removing them completely. This can be a daunting task for nonprofit employees afraid of losing contacts. But fear not! According to the same trends report, nonprofits who saw their list size drop year-over-year because they actively managed their lists, dropping unengaged recipients, also saw a 26 percent increase in response rate and 2 percent increase in email revenue.

Have more questions about nonprofit marketing? Reach out to the Verdin team at

« PREV  |  NEXT »