5 Must-Know Email Marketing Tips for New Nonprofits

July 13, 2023 / Comments Off on 5 Must-Know Email Marketing Tips for New Nonprofits

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Even as new social media websites ebb and flow and text and instant messaging campaigns emerge, email is here to stay. At least for the foreseeable future!

In study after study, report after report, nonprofit after nonprofit, we see the same trends. When used as part of your broader multi-channel marketing strategy, email marketing is an effective way to reach and engage with nonprofit audiences. In fact, according to Funraise, supporters are 26% more likely to be inspired by an email to give to a nonprofit. 

And for new organizations, email is a cost-effective and efficient way to regularly communicate with your community! Emails can drive donations, boost awareness, increase visits to your nonprofit’s website, and keep community members updated on what matters as you grow as an organization.

If you’re already feeling the burnout creep in thinking about adding another item to your ever-growing to-do list, don’t worry. In this post, we’ll cover our top five email marketing tips for new nonprofits to get the most out of this tried and true marketing channel right off the bat. Let’s get into it!

1. Compile an email list.

The first step to a successful email marketing strategy is to compile your list. When you’re just getting started, the easiest way to build out a list is to add an email sign-up form to your website and encourage website visitors to sign up with relevant calls-to-action throughout your site. For elements like an email sign-up tool, Cornershop Creative’s guide to nonprofit web design best practices recommends making sure your calls-to-action are clear and that the sign-up experience is quick and streamlined. 

You can also collect emails through events that you run and even from other digital marketing channels. For example, you could drive followers on social media to your website to sign up for your list. 


As you’re building out your list, it helps to think ahead about the different groups that you’ll want to reach out to and group them accordingly. When you’re able to segment your email list, you can better target groups of supporters that share characteristics.

For example, you might create groups for donors, volunteers, and constituents. You could even get more specific to ensure that your email content is hyper relevant to the audience that you’re targeting. The possibilities are endless, but these examples offer a nice place to start:

  • Donor behavior: Segment by monthly donors, lapsed donors, major donors, one-time donors to a certain campaign, and more.
  • Interests: Segment by supporters interested in programs, events, and other aspects of your operations.
  • Engagement level: Segment by email engagement, reaching out to those who’ve opened and clicked within previous emails.
  • Volunteer status: Segment volunteers and other supporters who may be interested in volunteering.

2.  Lean into personalization. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if your supporters felt like they were receiving an email from an old friend when you reach out to them? You pay more attention to emails when it feels like the person sending them knows you and knows what you care about. That’s where personalization comes in! Personalizing your emails can make them stand out to supporters and work to strengthen relationships.

When email content is written specifically for the group receiving the email, it is more engaging than a general email that tries to loop in multiple groups. Along with segmenting emails, these three tips can help you better personalize email content to your subscribers:

  • Use supporters’ names in salutations. Some marketer’s recommend putting names in subject lines but beware – this can trigger spam filters!
  • Reference past involvement and donations in communications.
  • Write personalized calls-to-action.

Beyond that, keep your email tone friendly and conversational to help communications feel like an email from a friend. This will help to grab subscribers’ attention and keep them reading through to the end!

3. Create compelling content.

Compelling content is content that your email subscribers are interested in, content that they can connect and engage with. When you spend the time to create good content, your emails will achieve better results, more subscribers will take action, and you’ll avoid spam folders.

Here are a few ideas for content that can engage your subscribers:

  • Share impact: Let subscribers know exactly how their support has or will make a difference for your cause.
  • Use eye-catching visuals: Include photos, graphics, and data visualizations that are relevant to the email content and help bring it to life for your subscribers.
  • Leverage your branding: Make sure your emails are branded to build trust and prevent any questions about who the email is coming from.
  • Write stories: Real-life stories always make for compelling content. Subscribers want to hear examples about what your impact looks like in action.
  • Include testimonials: No need to toot your own horn when you can include testimonials that do it for you!
  • Use emojis: When used correctly, emojis grab attention and add a fun, visual element to email text.

Even beyond these tips, there are plenty of ways to engage your audience with email content. Pay attention to emails that perform well so that you can replicate the types of content that you used in future emails.

4. Use clear calls-to-action. 

Calls-to-action inspire email recipients to act on what they’ve read and encourage further involvement. Within email content, you should always include a call-to-action or next step that a person should take after reading your email. Make it as simple and clear as possible for them!

To make your calls to action stand out, consider these tips:

  • Use action-oriented language: Calls-to-action should never be passive. Encourage your subscribers to act now!
  • Keep calls-to-action short: The most effective calls-to-action are short and sweet. In the simplest possible way, let your subscribers know what to do.
  • Make the call-to-action button or link stand out: Don’t make them search for an action! Draw their attention to clickable elements through your email design.

5. Test and optimize your emails. 

As with anything we do in life, for your email marketing strategy to consistently improve, you’ll need to consistently iterate on it. When you discover email elements that work for your audience, use them within future emails to show that you’re listening and learning.

These tests can get you started: 

  • Test subject lines: Do questions, emojis, or personalization elicit more opens?
  • Test calls-to-action: Do short and to-the-point calls-to-action inspire more clicks than longer, more general calls-to-action?
  • Test design: Does your audience prefer one email template over another? Or are they partial to plain text emails?

While many email service providers have the functionality for A/B tests to run formal tests on specific email elements, it is also possible to simply keep track of the results when you try something new or different in an email. Data can be telling when it comes to email marketing. Tracking metrics like open rate, click rate, and unsubscribe rate can help you keep an eye on which emails are resonating with your audience and which emails may be falling flat.

There are lots of ways to use email marketing to reach your target audience and keep your community engaged with your cause. You know your supporters and what they are passionate about. Don’t be shy—reach out and share! Use these tips and your knowledge of your audience to keep folks connected with your organization for the long term. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much more support and attention a great email campaign can bring. 

To take your efforts to the next level, work with a nonprofit website design company that can help you design email campaigns. A fresh, expert-level perspective can help you achieve even better results. 

Guest Contributor

Ira Horowitz stands in front of a blue brick  background wearing a hoodie sweatshirt.

Author: Ira Horowitz

With 15 years’ experience, Ira is an expert in nonprofit online communications and online fundraising. His work has resulted in increased funds and resounding supporter engagement for hundreds of organizations.

Ira oversees our project management team and works with clients to provide our clients with the best possible final product. He also manages all of our strategic engagements and helps guide nonprofits to determine their long-term strategy goals for online communications.