5 Creative Ideas & Tips for Nonprofit Email Campaigns

April 24, 2023 0 Comments

Email is a major communication channel for many nonprofits. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to connect with your supporters and an essential part of most fundraising campaigns. But since emails are low-cost and easy to send, your supporters get a lot of them. Brands, nonprofits, and personal connections all clamor for their attention. 

How can you make your campaign stand out in overcrowded inboxes? Try these five creative ideas to get more out of your nonprofit email campaigns

1. Start With Gratitude

When was the last time you said “Thank you!” to your supporters? Make sure they’ve heard it before you launch your next fundraising or advocacy campaign. Touch base with your supporters to express gratitude and celebrate their generosity. 

There are a few reasons for this: 

  • It’s the right thing to do. Thanking people who support your organization with their time or money is non-negotiable. But there’s more to it than simple politeness. 
  • If you only email your supporters to ask for things, it’s going to be harder to get them to open your emails. Gratitude is important on its own, but it can also help you build the kind of donor experience that encourages supporters to stay connected and engaged. 
  • Your thank you message can serve as a “warm-up” to your campaign. It reminds them that they’ve supported you in the past and that they have a relationship with you. It may seem funny, but people often forget to make charitable donations.

Put gratitude at the top of your campaign schedule so your supporters associate good feelings with your emails and know you regard them as more than walking ATMs. 

2. Make It Omnichannel

These days, email is not standalone. It’s a channel that functions as part of your larger digital strategy. When email works together with your social media, direct mail, in-person activities, phone calls, and website, your supporters have many more opportunities to hear your message.

An omnichannel strategy brings all your communications into harmony, providing a cohesive donor experience. Whether they’re reading an email, watching a video, or scrolling through Facebook, your donors are having one conversation with you on all your channels.

In a marketing plan for your campaign, this might look like:

  1. You send a series of emails spread over a period of three weeks.
  2. At the top of that time period, you send a direct mail appeal.
  3. Then you send a postcard two weeks later. 
  4. Throughout the campaign, you post about the campaign on social media and publish content related to the campaign on your website. 
  5. You may add a pop-up prompt to donate to your homepage or create a landing page specific to the campaign. 

The campaign is about more than sending emails; it’s happening across all your channels. 

3. Ads + Email

If you have an email list of at least 2,500 addresses, you may be interested in supplementing your email campaigns with your digital advertising strategy. Email mapping allows you to link email addresses to IP addresses, serving targeted ads to specific people on your list. 

For example, imagine you’re a public radio station doing a membership drive. You could plan your email campaign to speak to two segments: existing members, and people who have never been members. Then, you could support those emails with an ad strategy targeting only the people who have never been members. The emails and ads work together to keep becoming a member top of mind and give them more chances to take action. 

Wondering how to connect with lapsed donors? Try an ad campaign, and see if you can move them to re-engage. 

4. Get Personal

Which email are you more likely to open?

  • Email A: Support Organization XYZ!
  • Email B: Joseph, will you support Organization XYZ?

If you’re Joseph, Email B will automatically catch your attention, if only for a moment. It’s natural to notice things that seem to be directed specifically at you.

Personalizing your email with the recipient’s name is just the beginning. Segmenting your email list by the recipients’ interests or involvement with your organization allows you to personalize the content further by speaking directly to the things that matter most to them. 

If you want to build authentic relationships with your supporters, your organization must get personal, too. It’s hard to connect with an institution, so a message from “info@XYZ.org” is not very compelling. Make sure your email comes from an individual. While this person will often be the executive or development director, don’t be afraid to mix it up. A message from a program staff member, beneficiary of your services, volunteer, or board member can be even more powerful. 

Finally, think carefully about the tone you use in your emails. An overly formal tone can be distancing for supporters. This doesn’t mean you need to take on a casual or wacky style that doesn’t suit your organization but aim to be friendly and warm. 

5. Give As Well As Ask

We ask a lot of our supporters. We ask for money, time, attention, and trust. What are you giving back to them? Often, the answer is intangible. Supporters receive good feelings, a sense of purpose, and hope from giving to nonprofits. 

To provide more for your supporters and strengthen relationships, look for opportunities to use email to give something to your supporters, like knowledge, insight, or inspiration. Consider these ideas:

  • Tell stories of the impact your nonprofit has made, giving them insight into your work and the difference they’re helping to make. 
  • Share a video explaining more about your cause. 
  • Send out a favorite recipe from your community kitchen, or instructions for the most popular craft project at your afterschool program. 

An email campaign that is only asking is missing an opportunity for connection and relationship building. Instead of sending a series of appeals, make storytelling and impact reporting part of your content strategy.

Stand Out With Email

If implementing all five of these ideas at once seems overwhelming, start small. Add a thank you message to kick off your next campaign, choose a personal sender for your next email, or add one storytelling email to your series. Even small steps can make a big difference.

The emails you send your supporters don’t have to be dry or routine. Email can be a channel for expressing gratitude, connecting personally, building your relationships with your supporters, and growing your organization