Whether you have an upcoming fundraiser you’re trying to promote to donors or if you’re preparing for the end of the year, your nonprofit needs a focused and impactful marketing strategy.
Email marketing has traditionally been the backbone of nonprofit marketing strategies for years. And not without reason! Nonprofit email marketing is a powerful tool that allows your organization to reach individual donors with specific messages that engage them with your organization.
However, this only works if your organization keeps up with the latest trends and strategies for email outreach. If you fail to do this, your organization might fall behind and spend more and more time on an inefficient strategy. Make sure you’re using the most effective email marketing tactics to reach your supporters by leveraging the following tips:
- Identify and segment your audience.
- Set a purpose for each message.
- Conduct A/B testing for various strategies.
- Use email addresses to target ads.
The average email open rate for nonprofits is much higher than other industries. This rate rests around 26% compared to the national average email opening rate of 6%. Take advantage of this opportunity and make sure you’re making the most of your outreach by ensuring your email strategy is up to date.
1. Identify and segment your audience
Sometimes it seems like the most time-efficient way to get a message across to your audience is to send a mass email. That means if you have an upcoming fundraiser, you would add all of your donors’ and supporters’ email addresses to the recipient box. While this might seem time-efficient, it’s actually not effective at all.
People are much more likely to read and engage with messages that are personalized. In fact, according to one source, 74% of Gen Zers, 67% of Millennials, 61% of Gen Xers, and 57% of Baby Boomers all prefer personalized messages in the marketing messages they receive. That’s over half of your audience (no matter their age) that prefers a more personal touch to your emails.
The best way to make sure you personalize each email you send is to segment your audience and craft messages per segment. It might take slightly longer than a mass message, but it’s a much better strategy.
Doubleknot’s segmentation guide explains that there are three primary types of data that nonprofits can use to group their audience into segments for marketing purposes:
- Sociological. These data points include the social, cultural, economic, and lifestyle traits of your target audience. For example, you might use gender or age as data points for some segments.
- Preferential. When donors provide you with information about their communication preferences, you can also use this to make specific segments. For instance, if a donor prefers to only receive emails twice a month, you can limit the number of messages you send them.
- Psychological. These are the traits that you might collect via survey or in notes after a one-on-one conversation with a supporter. Psychological data comprises an individual’s values, passions, interests, etc. For example, if you know a donor’s motivations to give, you can mention those aspects of your mission in your outreach to them.
Save relevant details regarding this type of data in your nonprofit’s CRM. Then, use that information to create segments and better personalize your outreach strategy. Be sure to regularly clean up this data in your database so that you are always working with the latest information.
2. Set a purpose for each message
Each email that you send to your audience should have a concrete purpose. The last thing you want to do is to send mindless emails that don’t call your supporters to do anything — these types of messages simply waste both you and your supporters’ time.
Strategize what the most important thing you want to promote at your organization is. Ask yourself, “Why are we sending this email?” Then, you can use that information to structure your messages and encourage supporters to help you accomplish your goals. For example, consider promoting opportunities for:
- Online fundraising. Use your messaging to explain how the funds will be used and to share stories of previous fundraising campaigns that impacted the community. Then, be sure to include a link to your donation page so that people can give directly after reading your message.
- Event registration. Use these messages to highlight key aspects of the event like the auction items for lower-level audiences and your VIP tables for major donors.
- Volunteer events. Send specific outreach emails to talented supporters for specific volunteer opportunities (like graphic design skills). Or, send a more general message to past volunteers asking for help at your next event.
Appreciation messages need to have a purpose too, even if you’re not immediately promoting an upcoming campaign. You should explain the impact supporters had, thank them for getting involved, then offer a next step, like filling out a feedback survey.
You should always include an opportunity for your supporters to get involved after reading your message. These calls to action should link your readers to proper landing pages directly from your email. For example, link to your online donation page as a part of your fundraising outreach and to event registration pages when inviting people to attend your next big auction.
3. Conduct A/B testing for various strategies
A/B testing allows your nonprofit to test aspects of your email outreach on your audience to see what strategies are most effective. Essentially, it helps you gain insight into what your audience responds best to so you can use that data for future campaigns.
You should only ever test one variable at a time. Send one message using one strategy to half of your audience and use the other strategy for the other half. For example, you might send a message to half of your audience using a graphic style image and another message with a stock photo to the other half. Whichever gets more click throughs is the more effective image strategy.
Some of the factors you might choose to test in your emails using A/B testing include:
- Subject lines
- Calls to action
Make sure you have relevant metrics you can measure to see which option performs better during tests. For example, you might measure the email open rate when testing two different subject lines or the click-through rate when testing different calls to action.
Save this information and update it when necessary. A/B testing is an important aspect of donor data because it describes those preferences specific to your audience. It’s much more precise than simply reviewing statistics for general audiences from other market testers and will be useful in future campaigns.
4. Use email addresses to target ads
You can take your email strategy a step further by leveraging your email addresses to create ads that will help drive more traffic to your organization. This process is called email mapping. It allows your nonprofit to send targeted ads to a list of specific email addresses.
Although many organizations are often hesitant to leverage ads, whether due to financial strain or a lack of understanding of their impact, Feathr’s nonprofit advertising guide explains that there are a great number of benefits that accompany this strategy:
- Increased reach, providing more opportunities for supporters to get involved with your mission.
- Major returns and campaign conversions for a low-cost outreach strategy.
- Automation options, saving your team’s time for working on other aspects of your mission.
When you use email mapping to display ads to your supporters, these messages will show up in the margins of web articles, on their Facebook feeds, and elsewhere across the internet. Be sure the message you display relates back to your email campaign. This repeat exposure reminds your supporters about the opportunities you offer to get involved and increases the chances that they will do so.
Now that you know email outreach strategies, create goals based on what you want to pursue. Be sure each goal is tied to a specific measurable metric so that you can define what success looks like for your organization. The key performance indicators (KPIs) you might choose to track could include your email open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate.
Consider which KPIs will be more impactful for your particular mission. This tracking of metrics will also help you identify improvement opportunities for future campaigns. Good luck!
About the Author
Aidan Augustin | Co-founder & President, Feathr | linkedin.com/in/aidanaugustin
Aidan Augustin is the co-founder and president of Feathr, an industry-leading software company making digital marketing more accessible to nonprofits and event organizers. Feathr has helped over 800 nonprofits and thousands of events know, grow, and engage their audiences. When he’s not steering the ship at Feathr, he’s playing strategy games, singing karaoke, or reading books about people who changed the world.