7 Tips to Writing Killer Email Campaigns for the Not-For-Profit Sector

Working in the not-for-profit sector, it is not uncommon to be working with limited funds and resources, meaning that every dollar you spend needs to make a return. In the world of marketing, this can provide a number of challenges when reaching out to potential supporters.

While there are many ways for a not-for-profit to expand their network and increase fundraising activities, one tried, tested and successful approaches is email marketing. However, when not done properly, using this approach can be fraught with danger.

To help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls, there are 7 common mistakes that are often made when searching for new donors, partners, and volunteers. By understanding these, email marketing can be a highly successful strategy for not-for-profit organisations, even on a tight budget.

  1. Lack of personalisation and segmentation will destroy your email marketing strategy!
  2. One of the biggest faux pas in email marketing is sending a standard generic message to everyone on your email list, regardless of who they are, the relationship you have with them, or the role you might want them to play.

    Personalising the message and segmenting your database will make the recipient feel engaged and that they are being spoken to directly. Personalisation has been proved to yield more results as people are more likely to feel valued, the email is less likely to go to spam. Furthermore, the reader is more likely to feel a connection with your cause and have a higher level of interest, thus increasing opening and click through rates.

    Spend time researching your prospective contributors, learning about their work, their organisation and the role they play, and segment based on psychometric data. By segmenting your database, you are able to deliver relevant information and messaging to different people at the right time.

    The more personal you can make the messaging and better segmented your database, the better the results as the chances of positive engagement are increased significantly.

  3. Do you know that often less is more?
  4. Another common mistake with cold emails is length.

    While it’s important to identify the purpose of the communication and include relevant information, sending an email that is too long, contains irrelevant information and ‘waffles’ on too much, can yield very poor results.

    So, keep it short and simple making it easy for the reader to digest the information and consider taking action.

    Tips to avoid this include, setting a strategy for your not-for-profit, ensure that your message is clear, concise, and straight to the point. Avoid using overly complicated language and industry jargon and consider breaking large blocks of text up with bullet points or numbered lists.

    Also keep paragraphs short, broken down into digestible chunks. If additional information is required, provide a clear call to action such as a link to a website or the download of a brochure. This way you are more likely to increase engagement rates and warm recipients up towards asking for a contribution.

  5. Have you ever wondered what some emails are about?
  6. How many times have you wondered why you have received an email?

    Clarity is key when reaching out to someone via cold email.

    A key to success here, is to set the context and be transparent about what are hoping for. This way you are directing the reader towards the kind of action you would like them to take e.g., make a donation, volunteer time, or participate in a survey.

    Be explicit in what you are expecting and in return you are more likely to achieve a higher response rate.

    And make sure your ‘donate here’ button is front and centre of any design.

  7. Why do you need to keep it simple?
  8. As you would be aware, most organisations have a wide range of industry specific terminology, acronyms, and jargon they may use on a daily basis.

    The problem here is that, while it makes perfect sense to you, it can sound like ‘gobblygook’ to others. Keep in mind that not everyone will be familiar with industry specific terminology and using too much of this, create a disconnect with the reader, and will result in confusion and disinterest.

    Use language that is easily understood by all, avoid industry specific terms, unless targeting a specific audience that understands the terms and avoid using acronyms with no explanation.

    Keeping your message simple will increase engagement, readability and click through rates.

    Also ensure that you have crafted a clever subject line that is not too long. Often here, posing a problem as a question works well and can create a bit of ‘click bait.’

  9. Develop a regular cadence and it’s OK to follow up!
  10. How often have you lost emails or filed them planning on coming back to them at a later date?

    Failing to follow up is a common mistake made by many not-for-profits when using cold email. It is acceptable practice to follow up after a few days or a week, reminding them about your initial email in a friendly tone of voice. Ask enquiry questions and stimulate an open-ended thought process. This can be done a couple of times, to gently warm prospects up. Gently following up, demonstrates interest and the desire to develop a relationship and over time, done well, can be highly positive.

    If you are adopting a full strategic email marketing campaign, failing to develop a regular cadence with email marketing, means that you are missing out on a valuable opportunity to connect with a potential donor, volunteer, or partner.

    Having a regular cadence means you are maximising opportunities to engage new subscribers and re-engage others. If you have a large unengaged subscriber base, you will need to reconsider your content strategy, as this is an indicator that the information you are presenting is not resonating with your audience.

  11. Please, tell me what to do!
  12. You might not want to believe it, but using an email marketing strategy is probably the only time someone wants to be told what to do!

    Having a very clear call to action (CTA) is critical when sending a cold email or running an email campaign. Having a clear and direct CTA specifying exactly what you want someone to do will significantly improve your results. Be precise about whether you would like someone to make a donation, volunteer time, connect, complete or download.

    Refrain from using ambiguous or non-specific language and CTA’s such as: ‘any support you can offer’ or ‘make a donation of your time’. Instead, be specific about what you would like someone to do such as ‘donate $50 to support eye research’ or ‘send a child to school by donating $20 per month today’.

    By doing so, you increase the chances of your someone taking the desired action.

  13. Do you know the power of a ‘thank you’ and a good story?
  14. Everyone loves a good story and acknowledgement. Telling a good story with authenticity and empathy is sure to connect with your audience and will result in a greater level of engagement.

    Many successful email campaigns have story telling at the core of their strategy. Prospective donors like to know that their contributions are going directly to change someone’s life in a positive way. So, ensure that you set the context, identify the challenges faced and how their contribution will solve the problem and make a difference.

    At each step of the way, also remember to say ‘thanks’. This can be done in a variety of ways and demonstrates a level of gratitude and appreciation around the contribution someone might be making.

    To sum up, if you are in the not-for-profit sector, embarking upon a cold email strategy and email marketing campaigns needs to be done carefully and with thought. Make messages meaningful, to the point, engaging, simple to read and understand, and tell a great story with a big thank you! This way you are more likely to improve readability, click through rates and achieve your goals with stronger relationships from potential donors who are passionate and willing to support your cause.

    Want more marketing insights?

    Read here:

    “7 Epic Graphic Design Fails to Avoid”
    “7 Must know Marketing Trends for 2023”
    “5 reasons graphic design converts prospects into paying customers”


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