5 Secrets to a Foolproof Nonprofit Email Marketing Campaign

You heard the saying back in your elementary school days. “Secrets don’t make friends. But, friends make secrets.” And our nonprofit friends have some great secrets on the world of effective nonprofit email marketing for your organization.

Jay Wilkinson, CEO and Founder of Firespring, recently presented some of the secrets of nonprofit email marketing that he’s learned throughout his career. With knowledge and some easy fixes, your nonprofit’s email marketing campaign can give the results you want and need.

Don’t take it from us. Take it from an email marketing guru and nonprofit industry leader. Here are some of the most common nonprofit email marketing mistakes Wilkinson says he sees from organizations, and what it means for your nonprofit.

1. Relevant and Compelling Headlines

The Point: Think Twitter-esque practices with your email header. Wilkinson suggests a 40 characters or less email header. The more characters, the less likely your constituents will be to open the message. He also shared that effective headlines should embody three criteria: specific, interesting and relevant. All three should be met with every header your organization creates. What it Means for Your Org: Short, snappy headers that are case-and-point will have a better open rate than headers that can’t captivate. Utilize test groups to see if people would open your email. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Send it out to volunteers or staff to see if your headline was engaging. If you can’t even keep your staff engaged, it’s back to the drawing board.

2. Meaningful Message

The Point: Wilkinson is a strong believer in sending out one message with one purpose, instead of jamming multiple pieces of information and content into one on a scheduled basis. If something happens on Tuesday and you just sent an email on Monday, you wouldn’t want to wait until the next scheduled time—almost a week later. What it Means for Your Org: Although you have the urge to slip in that extra bit of information, resist. Nobody wants to take the time to sort through all of the information. If something important happens, share it. If you have a fundraising event coming up, share it. This method forces you to choose the most important information that constituents will care about, and send it out in a timely manner.

3. Mobile Friendly

The Point: In just two years, the amount of mobile users who check email on their phone has gone up 300 percent. As technology evolves, more and more email is being opened up on phones, tablets and other devices—besides your computer. Come on, haven’t you evolved with technology? What it Means for Your Org: As organizations, we know the reality. We open up emails from other organizations on our smartphone or tablet. We get newsletters and scroll through it on our phones. Yet for some reason, we don’t take the time to make our email marketing campaign user friendly. But utilizing simple changes can make your campaign mobile friendly.

4. Call to Action

The Point: If you don’t have a call to action, you lose the ‘marketing’ aspect of ‘email marketing.’ In order for an email marketing campaign to succeed, you need your constituents to get on board with the message. No matter what your message, include a call to action. What it Means for Your Org: Ask yourself each time you send an email marketing message, “Is there a clear and concise call to action?” If you can’t find one, it’s time to rework. Maybe you have included a call to action, but it gets lost in the text. Make your point evident and clear, with a place for constituents to act simply. Using bold colors, bigger text and a single click of a button to act will increase your organization’s effectiveness.

5. Insider Material

The Point: Wilkinson pointed out that constituents will be more likely to share information if they feel like an insider rather than the mass. It’s a fun feeling when you know something and nobody else knows. You feel powerful. You’re in charge. And you can make your constituents feel the same way with each nonprofit email marketing message you send. What it Means for Your Org: Although you have the urge to share every little detail on social media or your site, give the people on your email marketing list a chance to hear about the big news before everybody else. Then, your constituents will be excited to post and spread the big news once it comes out. They’ll feel included and on the inside. With a few quick changes to your email marketing campaign, you’ve got the green light to send. You’ve checked it with staff and volunteers, and now it’s time to reap the reward. Get out there, and use the secrets wisely.


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

March 8, 2013

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