4 Critical Components to Your Nonprofits Email Marketing Strategy | npENGAGE

4 Critical Components to Your Nonprofits Email Marketing Strategy

By on Jul 27, 2011


eMail Marketing for Nonprofits

I’ve been deep in the world of email marketing for the past few months. eMail Marketing for Nonprofits

It’s a form of communication (and full blown industry) that’s been around for a while. There are very well established best practices, standard metrics that are tracked, widely accepted and proven statistical data to measure your effectiveness by and countless bits of information on the web to teach us how to do email marketing and communication well.

Funny thing is though; a lot of us don’t listen (or get off track due to the need to drive results in the short term).

That said … here’s 4 parts to an effective email marketing strategy that will work in any industry.

Know the purpose of your list

The worst thing you can do is build a list that doesn’t have a clear purpose.

The best thing you can do before you begin capturing people’s emails is make sure you’ve clearly defined the purpose of the list you’re building.

Will it be for a regular newsletter about the work you’re doing to create a better world? Will it be to keep event participants up to date with ongoing event planning and fundraising efforts? Will it be for notifying supporters about a new petition you’d like to generate some support for?

We started an eNewsletter for event fundraisers. We specifically designed it to meet the needs of fundraising professionals who are looking for useful ideas, tips, resources and lessons learned from peers in the industry. It’s focused and we know exactly why we created it and why people would subscribe to it.

Figure out the answer to “why” (why are you creating this list) before you do anything else.

Once you’ve got that answer in place let it guide the rest of your decisions. Especially the ones you make related to the content you send to people, the frequency of your messages and the “asks” you make.

Keep a laser focus on growing your list

After you’ve determined what your list will be used for by answering the “why” question make sure you to keep a laser like focus on growing your list.

But grow it the right way.

Attracting the right people, the ones interested in the content you’re sharing, is the key to an effective email marketing program.

If you can get the right people subscribed to your email list then you’ll benefit from above average open, click through and conversion rates. What that really equates to is greater engagement from your list.

As you go about growing your list make sure you’re letting people know about it at every touch point – on your website, at your physical event, when people make a donation, as people are in your offices, in your year-end appeals and anywhere else you interact with real people.

While you’re doing this try using a URL shortener like http://bit.ly to keep an eye on traffic to the sign up form.

Bit.ly click TrackingThis will help you determine the effectiveness of each channel. Here’s an example of clicks per day on a bit.ly we’re using to track things (more on that below).

You’d be amazed at how quickly you can build a solid list this way.

(I should note that I’m assuming you’ve got good content. If that’s not the case then it won’t matter how great your list is or how focused you are on growing it.)

Know where you’re attracting people to your list

As I mentioned above, you should let people know about your email list at every touch point.

But don’t simply let people know.

Track where they come from.

This way you’ll start to get an idea of where you’re attracting supporters who are interested in what you have to say. Doing this will allow you to see where you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck (or time). By determining where the best return on investment (ROI) comes from you can then focus your energy.

And focusing your energy in the right area opens up a world of other possibilities like the ability to experiment with other channels, new technology, etc. because you’ll still be getting the results you’re looking for.

Here’s a simple example of how you should be tracking things. It shows the various places we’re attracting subscribers to our event fundraisers eNewsletter:

eMail Communication Source TrackingKnow how to treat the people on your list

As your list grows you’ll want to keep an eye on your interactions with people on your list.

Treat them well.

They decided to let you into their inbox so make sure to respect that by only messaging them when you said you would with the type of content that you promised them you’d deliver.

If you attracted them by promoting a monthly newsletter that would include content about local issues in their community then make sure you stick to that contract by only messaging them monthly with content that’s on topic.

Not doing this is the fastest way to destroy your list.

Doing it is the best way to keep your list alive and growing because you’ll end up with a lot of happy individuals who will eventually tell their personal networks.

And that’s the Holy Grail.


Ok, those are some of the keys to the effective email marketing, but there’s a lot more to it. What else would you add to the list?


Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

Comments (7)

  • Anonymous says:

    Great points Frank! One thing I would add is to build in a schedule to monitor your email reports. Along with “know where they are coming from”, it is also important to “know where they are going”.  Use  Link Tracking to see if the primary focus of your communication are getting the response you want: This way we keep tabs and adjust for how our audience is using/not using the email communications you are pushing out.

  • Anonymous says:

    Very good points! In addition to your suggestions, some other good e-mail marketing strategies include expanding your opt in list, testing the actually e-mail to ensure the appearance of sophisticated code and graphics, implementing proper HTML and relevancy. As the author mentions, knowing the purpose of your e-mail list and knowing how to grow the list are two very important elements in e-mail marketing. Once the foundation of your e-mail marketing list is established then you can implement the effective e-mail marketing practices. Interestingly, I wasn’t quite as aware of what effective e-mail marketing truly was until I read a very interesting article pertaining to the necessary strategies to ensure e-mail deliverability. Check it out! http://www.goldlasso.com/learning-center/the-from-line-blog/entry/email-marketing-best-practices

  • Geri Stengel says:

    You mention content in passing but I think that needs to be #1. If you don’t have readable, interesting content, you have nothing. That content needs to reflect not only the interests of those on your email list but must also accurately represent the values of your organization.

    • frank barry says:

       Yep. Content is still KING. Just wasn’t the focus here. You’re completely right in that if you’re content isn’t any good then your email marketing efforts will likely fail.

  • In addition to the
    traditional email marketing (mass email) one should look at another marketing
    opportunity and that is the emails we all send from our corporate email addresses
    every day. I represent a company that has developed a solution for just those
    emails and thus this post.

    The basic idea behind
    wrapmail (OTC: WRAP) is to utilize the facts that all businesses have websites
    and employees that send emails every day. These emails can become complete
    marketing tools and help promote, brand, sell and cross-sell in addition to drive
    traffic to the website and conduct research.

    WrapMail  can also be used to create personal email
    stationary based on social networks (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace) hobbies,
    interests etc for anyone’s personal email.

    Wrapmail is available for
    free at http://www.wrapmail.com and wrapped emails arrive with no red x!

    WrapMail also helps expose
    missing children by having each email sent by us and participating users search
    for missing children in the US.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *