7 Ways to Increase Donations with Non-Boring Emails and Your Email List

Before any organization—especially a nonprofit—attempts to engage their contact list with email marketing, they must stop and think, “What’s in it for them?” And by “them,” we mean the person (a potential donor!) who will receive the email, not the organization. 

Sending self-focused emails is the biggest mistake most non-profits make. They focus too much on asking for donations and talking about their needs and not enough on why a person should be compelled to donate in the first place. 

In order to engage a non-profit email list and compel potential donors to give, the email content must first and foremost provide value to the reader. People are too busy and too inundated with other emails to care. If the content doesn’t cut through the clutter and stand out from the rest, it will be sent to the trash bin faster than you can say delete.  

As you strategize your next email campaign, ask yourself these seven questions to enhance your emails’ content, and ultimately increase donations to your organization. 

  1. How are your contacts interacting with you? Whether you’re using Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, or HubSpot (we are a HubSpot Platinum Partner), take a look at your current email metrics first to see how they are performing and where you can make improvements. Capture this information and use it as your baseline data. At the bare minimum, you should focus on measuring these five metrics:
    1. Open Rate: Percentage of subscribers who opened the email.
    2. Clickthrough Rate: Percentage of subscribers who clicked on one or more links inside the email.
    3. Conversion Rate: Percentage of subscribers who clicked on a link and completed a desired call-to-action like a “contact us” or “donate now” button.
    4. Bounce Rate: Percentage of your emails that could not be successfully delivered to the recipient's inbox.
    5. Unsubscribe Rate: Percentage of subscribers who unsubscribed from your send list after opening a given email.

  2. Are you personalizing the email? It is estimated that more than 121 business emails are sent and received each day. Given that number, you can imagine how little time most people have to read marketing emails sent by companies trying to compel them to make a purchase or by non-profits soliciting donations. But by personalizing your emails with the contact’s name, you can drastically improve your open rates. In fact, some sources say personalization can increase open rates by 26%.

  3. Is the email mobile-friendly? In 2021, this should be a given, but you would be surprised by how many non-profits are still sending unresponsive email designs—not to mention those still sending donors to unresponsive website designs. If your email (and website) are not optimized for mobile devices, this is a form of self-sabotage, but not to worry, this can easily be fixed! Opening an email that has to be blown up with two fingers so the donor can read it on their mobile phone is one of the quickest ways to ensure your email will go to the trash bin.

  4. Is it clear how the donor can make an impact? Asking donors to give your organization money out of the kindness of their heart is a big ask, especially in these uncertain economic times. Non-profits have to do an excellent job of showing the donors where their money is going. Appeal to your donors’ egos and make them the center of the story. Show them how much of an impact they are making on your cause and thank them profusely for their generosity.

  5. What are they getting out of it? Once a donor has made a contribution, do you forget about them, or do you nurture them and keep them engaged even when you don’t need their contribution? Give your donors something in return. A simple “thank you” email, a physical gift mailed to their home, or even exclusive access to an event or digital content can go a long way. Gratitude in any form and on any budget can ensure donations for years to come.

  6. Are you entertaining them or putting them to sleep? Put yourself in their shoes. Would you like the email content you are sending, or would you be bored by it? See number 2. Most people are inundated with emails and would welcome content that inspires and amuses them. Try holding a focus group or conducting an online survey to find out exactly what your donors want to see and what they would find to be helpful, useful, and relevant.

  7. Are you correctly capturing and interpreting the data? Go back to number 1. It’s not enough to just measure the data. You have to interpret what it means. If an email doesn’t seem to be working, try some AB tests of subject lines or images. Or visit one of our favorite sites, Really Good Emails, to get some inspiration. If your email engagement isn’t increasing, find out why. Continually evaluate your data and pivot your strategy if need be. 

To see how we have used engaging emails to help our clients, check out our portfolio, or contact us. You can also see more advice on Smart Marketing for Non-Profits on our blog.