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Why Nonprofit Emails Are a Powerful Promotional Tool: FAQs

Nonprofit emails are a powerful tool in getting the word out about your cause and your needs.

Nonprofit email is a powerful tool with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

Case in point: in the days following Hurricane Katrina, my email inbox was flooded with messages from dozens of nonprofit organizations. Each campaign explained how their nonprofit set up shelters or distributed water, food, and supplies to victims. I read stories of heroic rescues. Charities requested emergency support.

Like me, supporters across the nation were inundated with powerful Katrina messages. Soon nonprofit organizations nationwide reported record giving. More than half came from online donations. According to Ryland Dodge of the American Red Cross in The NonProfit Times, “It’s greater than any response we’ve had in memory.” Overflow traffic from the Red Cross to a Yahoo.com portal accepted $32 million in donations during the first four days after the hurricane, besting the $30 million collected in over two weeks after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

There’s no doubt about it: online giving is clicking charitable contributions upward at a steady pace. Nonprofit emails have become a big contributor to that success.

What is your organizations email marketing strategy? Read on to find answers to some of your most frequently asked questions about nonprofit emails.

FAQs: Nonprofit emails, electronic communications, and your organization

Q: We’ve got a website. Isn’t that enough of an online presence?
A: Keep the website and keep updating it. But add regular email campaigns to your online mix. These days, electronic communications are an expectation in nonprofit promotion. Here’s a good analogy: in print, you distribute a catalog and send regular updates and promotions. Online, you maintain your website and send regular emails.

Q: I’ve always used snail mail. Do I really need to add an email mailing list?
A: Yes – for several reasons:

  • Convenience. You can get a message out to your entire constituency simply by hitting “send.”
  • Cost. It’s significantly less expensive to send email campaigns than it is to send via USPS.
  • Frequency. You can afford to send to your list more often. Voila, more exposure to your market!
  • Audience. Readers among Gen-X and younger are very comfortable with technology. You’ll hit a different segment of your target audience if you maintain a house email list.

Q: In practical terms, how do nonprofit emails differ from print?
A: Email is brief and targeted. Readers scan your message rather than digesting every word. Plus, readers forward interesting email to their friends and post it on their social media sites, extending your reach to people who might otherwise never hear about you or your cause. This viral nature of email and social media means free publicity for you.

Q: Is there any easy way to do this? I don’t have time to monitor a zillion emails.
A: Who does? That’s why companies called “email list managers” provide campaign templates, send your nonprofit emails at a scheduled time, collect your bounces, and give you a report on each campaign.

Q: Uh, oh. Sounds expensive. Is it?
A: Nope. Email list manager support costs are reasonable, especially for small organizations. Nonprofit organizations can get discounts of up to 30%. Lots of companies offer free trials.

Q: I’m a techno-phobe. Is there an easy way to get some help with email message construction?
A: Most email list managers offer campaign templates, message construction tips, and customer support. (In fact, don’t sign on with an email marketing service that doesn’t). You can also hire a freelance writer to help you construct email campaigns.

Q: I don’t do a whole lot of promotion. Do I really need an email mailing list?
A: Yes. If you have more than zero clients with whom you’d regularly like to communicate with, then nonprofit emails are a great way to go. It’s fast, especially if you outsource help. It’s easy. It’s inexpensive. And it’s the norm today.

Q: I don’t have some of my clients’ email addresses. What should I do?
A: Here are some first steps to take.

  • Start with the email addresses you’ve got already.
  • Use one of your print promotions to invite readers to send you their email addresses, either on a response device or online.
  • Add an opt-in link on your website and offer a free report or gift to visitors as a thank-you for signing up.
  • Place all new customers on your email list as well as your regular mailing list.
  • Make sure any new print mailings contain a response device with a spot for email addresses.

Q: What kinds of email campaigns are most common?
A: Newsletters are sent at regular intervals (monthly, bi-weekly, weekly) and can include beneficiary stories, testimonials, information about upcoming events, and news about trends in your cause. Promotions, special offers, coupons and announcements are for quick communications to your clients – as in an emergency, like Hurricane Katrina. With all email campaigns, the main idea is to keep your name, cause and product in front of readers regularly and give them good information.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge in sending an effective email campaign?
A: Getting readers to open it. The sender line and the subject line make a huge difference in what gets opened and what gets deleted. Make sure those on your list have opted in to your mailings – name recognition assures them of a level of protection from viruses. And your subject line should arouse the reader’s interest so much that he can’t resist clicking “open.”

Q: Should I convert everything to email and eliminate all my USPS mailings?
A: No. Some prospects aren’t online and need to receive your materials by the traditional route. But increasingly more prospects and partners are comfortable with and even prefer email and social media. Cross-promotion – using as many different kinds of marketing as possible – lets you get in front of a bigger and bigger audience all the time. Use as many methods as you can.


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