Time to Go Back to School: The Basics of Nonprofit Email Marketing Campaigns

It’s almost time to go back to school. (Shhh! We won’t tell the kids if you won’t.) When you walk into Target they already have backpacks, erasers, pencil boxes and every other imaginable school treasure in their “Back to School” section—is it just me, or is summer flying by way too fast?

And though you may not be gearing up for homeroom and brown bagged lunches, it’s time for you to go back to school before your next email marketing campaign. Fall’s coming (it’s not visible yet, but believe me, it’s there). So you’d better gear up, dust off your pencil box and get ready to go back to the basics.

Start at the Tippy Top

If it’s not shouting to be opened in their inbox, it’s going to get axed. My first and foremost tip? Don’t sound like a robot. You write for humans, not C-3PO. Write as such. If you sound like you’re pushing your keywords too much in your subject line, you’ll sound spammy. Avoid this at all costs. Make the subject line consistent with your tone in the body of the email, keep it short (to ensure all of it will get read and not cut off by various email hosts) and make it intriguing for your readers.

The Main Attraction

Your stellar subject line is only the colorful bobber at the top of your line. The body is the real bait. So it’d better have some good stuff. I’ve compiled a quick checklist you should keep in mind for your next nonprofit email marketing campaign:

    • Logo goes in the upper left: Eye tracking studies have shown that people instinctively look for logos in the upper left corner.
    • Include one clear call to action: Count ‘em—you get just one. And keep it above the fold.
    • Use 3 or less typefaces: Too much clutter means your message won’t get read in its entirety. Make it easy to read and mobile-device friendly.
    • Test it: Send a test copy of your email to employees. Have them glance at it for 5 seconds. Can they tell you what it’s about? If not, you’ve got some work to do.

Use a Strainer

You wouldn’t send the same email to your grandmother as you would to your spouse or significant other, right? Maybe a forwarded message. But for the most part you speak in different voices to your “Gammy” versus your “Sweetie.” (And if not, perhaps you should re-examine your email habits.)

This same idea of separation should be used for the recipients of your nonprofit email campaign. Need a couple of ideas for some filters? I’ve gotcha covered:

    • Volunteers/Donors: People who have already volunteered for or donated money to your nonprofit, or in some way have an existing connection. They’ve already decided that your nonprofit is worth their time—give them the proper credit.
    • Demographic/Geographic/Psychographic: Men and women, age group, country, political or religious affiliations are all fairly ascertainable qualities. So you should ascertain them, and segment accordingly.

I hope this transition back to school hasn’t been met with horrible resistance. After all, there is great power in knowledge and learning. (I feel like I stole that quote straight from a teacher’s desks.) But for now, class dismissed.

How do you keep your nonprofit email marketing campaigns in tip-top shape?


Kathryn Pauley

Kathryn is a regular contributor to the Nonprofit Hub. Soon to be college graduate, she enjoys helping nonprofits understand better how to reach the millennial demographic—cause we are living in a millennial world, and Kathryn's a millennial girl. With experience leading the largest student-run charity event on her campus, she looks forward to bringing her unique perspective to the Hub team every day.

July 9, 2012

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