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FirstGiving, Online fundraising, fundraising websites, peer-to-peer fundraising

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Guest Post: Email Marketing for Nonprofits: Strategies to Increase Donations

About a month ago, I gave a donation to a local environmental group which was canvassing my neighborhood.  I’d all but forgotten about the nonprofit group when an email appeared in my inbox from them.  I looked at the subject line and instantly felt tingly:

Subject: You helped us hold politicians accountable.  Your voice is needed again!

I didn’t remember doing anything that could be interpreted as holding politicians accountable.  But, I am always a sucker for flattery so I opened the email and read about my good deeds.  The email continued to make me tingly because it resonated with me (or maybe it was just me recognizing a stellar nonprofit strategy!).

It went on:

Thanks to you and over 3,000 other locals, we achieved victory in our campaign!...

Then, I got a one-sentence recap of the nonprofit group’s victory in the cause I donated to. In two sentences, it explained the new problem and said they needed my help again.  Just sign their online petition and give another donation.

Needless to say, I donated.

There are a few things this organization did very well that others could learn from when doing email marketing for nonprofits.

1) They focused on success

Aren’t we all tired of all those depressing stories about everything that is wrong with our world?  Forget the “if it bleeds, it leads” theory.  We’ve learned to block out all the bad stuff, so it is much easier to get someone’s attention with positive news.  Plus, by starting with something positive, it tells me what I can accomplish and why I need to get active now (who is going to donate if they think the causes can’t be won?).

2) They gave social proof

Social proof in marketing works!  By including the words, “Thanks to you and over 3,000 other locals…”, the nonprofit was able to make me feel like part of a bigger movement.

3) The nonprofit acknowledged my importance

When you are doing email marketing, show how each person can help you reach your goal.  In this case, they did a great job of making me feel like my contribution mattered even while using the social proof to show it was a community effort.

4) They kept is short and sweet

Don’t get into the nitty-gritty details in your nonprofit’s marketing emails.  If subscribers have time and want to read all the details, they can do so on your website.  Make the problem seem simple (KISS) and the subscribers will be more likely to take your recommended action to overcome it.

5) The timing was right

The nonprofit group should have sent me an email immediately after I signed up.  Otherwise, I might not have recognized their email when it arrived. They could have done this with an auto-responder thank you message.  Other than this, the frequency of their nonprofit email marketing campaign was right on the mark.  If they’d sent me an email soon after I donated, I’d feel bothered and like they were just hitting me up for money.  But, at the one-month mark, I’d already forgotten about the donation and was ready to donate again.

Follow these strategies in your email marketing for nonprofits campaign and you will increase your donations quickly.

Diane Vukovic is an online marketing expert who focuses on people-oriented approaches instead of algorithmic strategies. When she’s not writing for, she’s making delicious vegetarian food.

Photo Courtesy of RambergMediaImages.


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