E-mail Marketing – Best Practices for Nonprofits

Why do e-mail marketing?

E-mail MarketingContrary to some reports, e-mail is not going away. It still holds its place in a nonprofit’s overall marketing plan. Plus the automated e-mail marketing services continue to add features that make outreach easier and offer analytics so your can see how your audience reacts, adjusting your communications accordingly.

  • Grow a loyal supporter base: engage with your donors so they feel connected to your cause.
  • Maximize your organization’s time and resources: take advantage of templates, segmentation and analytics.
  • Boost engagement with your website and social media: if appropriate, choose a service that will post to your social media channels automatically.

What type of communications?

Though time-consuming to produce, an e-newsletter is important for maintaining relationships with donors, volunteers and other advocates in your community. If your resources won’t allow you to commit to a monthly newsletter, see if you can publish one quarterly. Some things to include:

  • Donation information
  • Upcoming events
  • Upcoming volunteer opportunities
  • Articles and blog posts related to your mission
  • Share successes to show an impact

In addition to a newsletter, you can use your e-mail service to send out periodic news as it happens.

  • Introduce a new team member
  • Thanks to a new corporate donor
  • Holiday greetings

Choose a reputable e-mail service.

Some services are free up to a certain number of contacts or e-mails sent over a given period of time. But sometimes it’s worth paying for a particular feature that will time or return valuable analytics.

Here is PC Magazine’s 2021 Feature Comparison:


And here is PC Magazine’s 2021 Pros and Cons List:


Build your contact list.

  • Export from your CRM and upload to your e-mail marketing provider.
  • Add a sign-up form on website and to share on social media.
  • Segment your list as it makes sense for your communications.

Get proper consent.

Obviously if someone is filling out your sign-up form, they want to hear from you. But if you’re adding subscribers manually, be sure they have agreed to receive e-mail communications from you. And be sure your template includes a way for readers to unsubscribe – this is a legal requirement.

Design for branding and engagement.

Customize the e-mail template to match your brand (colors, logo, font, etc.)

Keep the most important information at the top of the e-mail. A catchy headline will draw readers in. A two-column template gives you the opportunity for two headlines or one headline and a table of contents.

Images get much more attention than plain text so it’s best to include them whenever possible. If you don’t have an image about the topic at hand, here are some websites that offer free stock photos. Be sure to read the license agreement and give credit if it’s required. Google “free stock photos” for more choices.

Always include your mission or a short paragraph about your organization in case the reader doesn’t know you.

Include a donate button.

Include links to various pages on your website that correspond to the topic in the newsletter. When you look at your post-send analytics you’ll be able to see which subjects were most popular by the number of clicks to a given website page.

Take advantage of your e-mail service’s social sharing links and include links to your organization’s social media.

Time your communications for best response.

Take a look at your organization’s calendar and make sure that you are not sending out conflicting messages so that news announcements don’t overshadow a major donation campaign. Be aware of holidays or other times that your communications are not overlooked. The best days to send are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

For best success with your e-mail marketing campaigns, be sure that you are consistent in whatever you choose to do. It’s better to commit to a small plan and perform the actions regularly than to create a vision that can never be realized.