29 Mar 6 Ways for Nonprofits to Maximize Email Marketing
Your most powerful marketing tool is one that you use every single day. But it’s also one that many nonprofits overlook and simply don’t leverage as effectively as they could.
Yep, you guessed it — it’s email.
As a marketing channel, email boasts a plethora of advantages: It costs very little or even zero dollars to employ. Everybody uses and understands it (the same can’t be said for social media even). And when done right, it’s highly effective at raising awareness, attracting fundraising dollars, and inspiring action.
By some estimates, email marketing has the highest return on investment of any marketing channel, up to $40 for every $1 spent.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to email is the sheer volume of it. Most of us receive way more email messages every day than we would prefer. While email is an excellent way to get in front of your most important stakeholders, it can be a challenge to avoid getting lost in a crowded inbox.
Here are six ways for nonprofits to stand out and make the most of their email marketing efforts:
- Make It Personal
Gone are the days of mass marketing. Consumers now demand relevancy and personalized attention. So they’re much more likely to ignore an email message that feels generic.
Personalized promotional emails produce 29% higher open rates and 41% higher click rates, and generated six times higher transaction rates and revenue than non-personalized emails, according an Experian study.
To give your messages the personal touch, you should at least personalize it with the recipient’s name, either in the subject line or the welcome line. You can personalize messaging by sending emails to subscribers who are located in a specific city and “localizing” your content. You can collect birthdays and send a special birthday or anniversary message every year, or even use birthdays to drive fundraising campaigns like Charity Water has done.
- Segment Your List
Another way to personalize your messaging and create a better customer experience is to make the content as relevant as possible for your audience. While it’s not feasible to send individual emails to each person, you can segment your readership into large buckets according to their interests. Segmentation can help improve open rates and decrease unsubscribes/spam reports because you’re giving subscribers content that’s more targeted toward their specific interests.
Most email marketing services will allow you to segment your master list into smaller, more targeted lists, usually by “tagging” recipients with keywords such as “donor” or “volunteer.” In this way, you can send content that is highly relevant to one part of your audience and avoid spamming readers who wouldn’t care about that information at all.
At Good360, we work with tens of thousands of nonprofits that are engaged in countless different causes. So we allow readers of our product update emails to self-select the product categories that they’re most interested in hearing about. Nonprofits that focus on building homes won’t likely get the same emails as organizations that deal with pets, for instance.
- Tap Into Visual Storytelling
A common mistake that nonprofits make in email marketing is trying to jam as much information into every email send as possible. With email, less is often more. Since most of us get too many messages already, we’re not likely spend a lot of time reading any single email.
You really only have a second or two to make a big impression. Instead of cramming a ton of text into your email, try using a single, powerful image to tell the same story. Or try using other visual elements such as a video, an animated GIF, or an infographic.
Look at these excellent email marketing examples from Charity Water. They’re driven primarily by beautiful photography and include one or two lines of text at most. You don’t need to say a lot when a great image does the work for you.
- Be Constantly Testing
One of the reasons that email marketing is so powerful is the ability to get data on how your readers are responding to and consuming your content. If you’re not tracking important metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribes, and list growth, then you’re not fully optimizing your email marketing — and likely leaving fundraising money on the table as a result.
At Good360, we’re continually A/B testing our subject lines to understand what type of approach works best for our audience. Most email providers will allow you to test 2 or 3 different subject lines with a small percent of your audience, and then send the “winning” version to your larger list. Track the performance of your subject lines and use the data to understand what resonates most with your audience.
You can test different versions of the same email by changing the messaging or the design template. Some services will even give you the ability to swap out content blocks in the body of the email so you can hone in on the exact messaging that works best.
The larger point here is that you should be constantly learning more about your audience by looking at your analytics. What do they like to read? What type of content leads to more unsubscribes? What time of day works best?
- Use Clear Calls-to-Action
Your readers should know exactly what you want them to do with every email you send. Do you want them to donate money? Sign up to volunteer? Read more? Share with their friends? Make it clear and simple.
The best practice is to stick to one clear call-to-action (CTA) per email. That way you’re making the choice very obvious to your readers. Given too many options, studies show, people often choose the path of least resistance, which is to do nothing.
You should also call out your CTAs with highly visual buttons. These are usually rectangular or rounded, employ a high-impact color such as green or red, and include compelling copy that says exactly what you want your reader to do (Donate Now, Read More, Share on Facebook, etc.).
Here are six characteristics of high-converting CTA buttons that you should know.
Leverage Automated Workflows
You know those emails you’re constantly getting from from your favorite retailers? Those are automated email sequences, and you should be doing the same for your nonprofit to nurture your audience in a similar fashion.
An email sequence is a series of related emailsthat you “drip out” over time to stay in constant touch with your audience and feed them relevant information about your organization, a particular campaign, a product, or service. A common type of email sequence is a “welcome” sequence that “onboards” new subscribers to your list and introduces them to your nonprofit.
At Good360, we send a series of 4-5 automated emails to encourage new subscribers to register as members of our nonprofit network. Each email message reinforces the benefits of becoming a Good360 member. Because we use our email service’s automated workflow system, we only need to create these emails once and we can be in touch with every new subscriber with very little extra effort.
Your email marketing service likely offers a way to automate these “drip emails.” Take advantage of it to communicate with your audience without having to craft every individual email.