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Nonprofit guides

Email Marketing for Nonprofits - Top Tools and Best Practices in 2024

May 23, 2024

Despite the emergence of various marketing channels, email continues to be highly effective. For nonprofits, strategically crafting email campaigns is essential, as it significantly contributes to their success by engaging donors and amplifying their message.

Developing a solid email marketing program can establish a reliable fundraising source for nonprofits by keeping donors engaged with updates, offers, and new fundraising drives. 

This guide explains the striking benefits of email marketing for nonprofits, the best practices for launching email campaigns, and the best type of nonprofit emails. 

Table of Contents 

Why Does Email Work for Nonprofits?

Benefits of Email Marketing for Nonprofits

13 Types of Nonprofit Emails You Can Send

11 Email Marketing Best Practices for Nonprofits

Top 6 Email Marketing Software for Nonprofits

Why Does Email Work for Nonprofits?

Email offers the highest return on investment (ROI) in any outreach strategy. An email marketing campaign can generate an average ROI of 4200%, $42 for every $1 spent. 

As email channels offer the highest ROI, nonprofits can use them to reach potential donors cost-effectively.

Donors also prefer emails for communicating with nonprofit organizations. 48% of donors prefer hearing about updates and appeals through emails, and 26% of donors say emails inspire them the most to contribute.

Benefits of Email Marketing for Nonprofits

Nonprofits can enjoy several benefits through email campaigns, which all boil down to one specific goal - save funds and raise more. 

Here are the primary benefits nonprofits get for using emails:


Nonprofits usually operate with tight budgets and limited resources. Adopting traditional outreach methods like direct mail requires more time and money.

Most email marketing platforms come with a cost. Zeffy is a 100% free donor management software that allows you to send and track emails to your supporters.

Personalize Communication

Personalized email communication is a powerful way to connect with your supporters. 

  • Segment your email list based demographics, donor history, and engagement.
  • Create custom segments for first-time donors, recurring donors, and lapsed donors. 
  • Tailor your messages to resonate with each group, acknowledging their past support and highlighting events they attended or campaigns they participated in. 

By delivering relevant content to each segment, you can foster stronger relationships and continue raising money for your cause.

Boosts Donor Engagement

Email marketing is a highly effective tool for boosting donor engagement. By regularly communicating with your supporters, you can keep them informed about your nonprofit's activities, impact, and upcoming events. 

Email campaigns with clear calls-to-action encourage donors to take specific actions, such as making a donation, signing a petition, or volunteering. 

13 Types of Nonprofit Emails You Can Send

  1. Welcome Emails
  2. Newsletters
  3. Appeals: Call to Donate
  4. Advocacy: Call to Act
  5. Thank You and Update Emails
  6. Share a Success Story
  7. Holiday Emails
  8. Honor a Significant Day
  9. Automated Supporter Series
  10. Fundraising Email Campaigns
  11. Number and Statistic-Based Emails
  12. Matching Donation Emails
  13. Question and Survey Emails

1. Welcome Emails

Welcome email campaigns help introduce your organization and share your mission with people. They are also your nonprofit’s first impression. 

74% of subscribers expect a welcome email when they join a newsletter, so now is the perfect time to send one.

The series can be structured as follows:

  • Email 1 (sent immediately) 
    Introduction to your nonprofit, its mission, and the impact it creates. Explain what subscribers can expect from your emails and how their support makes a difference.
  • Email 2 (sent 2-3 days later)
    Dive deeper into your nonprofit's programs, highlighting specific initiatives and success stories. Encourage subscribers to explore your website and social media channels for more information.
  • Email 3 (sent 7-10 days later)
    Invite subscribers to take action, such as making their first donation, signing up for a volunteer opportunity, or sharing your mission with their networks. Emphasize the importance of their involvement in achieving your nonprofit's goals.

2. Newsletters

Newsletters are the most typical yet effective part of email marketing campaigns that can boost donor engagement. Here are five reasons why newsletters are so effective:

  • Help raise awareness
  • Provide resources to educate the subscribers
  • Update supporters on your programs and upcoming events
  • Share impact stories and valuable statistics
  • Spotlight a staff member, volunteer, or supporter’s effort

Since these are recurring emails with a consistent structure, sent at a specific time and date every month, you can create email templates to save time.

3. Appeals: Call to Donate

Make an excellent appeal with stories in your appeal email campaigns. Make the emails more emotionally impactful to increase the chances of donation.

Instead of asking for funds to help kids, share a story about helping a 5-year-old boy in your community. Rather than "Donate," use "Feed the kids" to make it more compelling and encourage action. It allows supporters to know exactly how they are making an impact.

4. Advocacy: Call to Act

Nonprofits will always need supporters to further their mission and initiatives. Use advocacy emails to encourage passionate people to act on issues they care about.

Call to act

An advocacy email will include:

  • A concise explanation of the issues you are trying to eliminate
  • A clear CTA to tell supporters how they can help

5. Thank You and Update Emails

55% of donors in the US prefer to be thanked for their contribution through email. Sending thank you emails with a short appreciation note and updates on your program is a great way to boost donor retention

By subscribing to your emails, supporters convey that they want to receive information about your nonprofit. Keeping your supporters informed helps them stay engaged and encourages them to donate again.

It can help you secure recurring donations for your nonprofit. 

These emails may highlight:

  • Your nonprofit’s major milestones, like securing a specific amount or supporting a particular number of people
  • Anniversary celebrations of your organization
  • Your nonprofit’s latest programs, fundraising campaigns, or upcoming events

Check out our free thank-you letter templates and tips here →

6. Share a Success Story

Celebrate your nonprofit’s success with your supporters. It can help them realize their accomplishments and contributions to your cause.

Highlight specific stories that are proof of your nonprofit’s impact. It may include:

  • Testimonials
  • Smiling faces of people your organization has helped
  • Statistics and numbers from a fundraising goal

Sharing this information will make your nonprofit reliable and boost its credibility.

7. Holiday Emails

The frequency of charitable giving increases during the holiday season. Nonprofits raise around 1/4th of their annual revenue during the holiday season in December. 10% of the annual giving happens in the last three days of the year.

Capitalize on the season’s spirit and create holiday email campaigns to notify your supporters. Encourage them to donate to a good cause rather than giving materialistic gifts.

8. Honor a Significant Day

Target a significant day to encourage supporters and can help you raise substantial donations. 

Whether it's Volunteers Week, National Mental Health Awareness Month, or National Pet Month, people are likely to donate to support the cause. 

Find a significant day that aligns with your nonprofit’s mission and enrich your email marketing efforts to get more donations. Include content related to the celebrated day and how supporters can engage with your cause.

9. Automated Supporter Series

Email automation can help you save time and establish continued engagement with your donors. 

Divide the welcome email into a three-part series to introduce your nonprofit, its mission, and its impact. Automating ‘thank you’ emails for every milestone your donors achieve will showcase your appreciation for their support.

10. Fundraising Email Campaigns

Sometimes, your nonprofit emails are solely meant to request donations. These fundraising emails are crucial to encourage:

  • Annual giving
  • End-of-year donation
  • Support during emergencies like disaster relief
  • Donations through Giving Tuesday campaigns

Pro Tip: To create urgency, include countdowns or fundraising thermometers. This helps visualize your goals and invites more donors to contribute. 

11. Number and Statistic-Based Emails

Including numbers and statistics in your nonprofit email’s subject line can immediately grab subscribers’ attention and stand out in their inboxes. It also demonstrates the urgency of a situation.

For instance, your subject lines can include statistics like:

  • 1 out of 3 people worldwide live without access to clean drinking water,’ if your mission revolves around providing proper sanitation and safe drinking water.
  • 34 million people face food insecurity in the United States,’ if your nonprofit works toward eliminating this issue.
  • Share the impact or annual report of your nonprofit that shows how donations have made a difference in people's lives.

Build on these statistics in the email body and the preview text and prompt supporters to donate.

12. Matching Donation Emails

84% of donors are more likely to contribute if offered a match, and 1 out of 3 donors will give larger gifts if matching is applied to their donations.

Although matching gift promotions are less frequent than other fundraising campaigns, they can generate significant revenue. The idea of doubling the contribution’s impact makes matching gift emails an effective fundraising tactic.

To drive contributions, especially during holidays, include a matching donation form like the one below in your emails.

13. Question and Survey Emails

Including surveys and question-based messages can make your nonprofit’s email marketing campaigns more interactive. They can help you learn more about your supporters to improve email list segmentation.

It creates a window for readers to express their opinions, which can be a distinguishing factor between you and your competitors. Surveys also help you send customized emails with relevant content. 

11 Email Marketing Best Practices for Nonprofits

  1. Build a Healthy Email List
  2. Get Consent to Email Your Supporters
  3. Be Regular with Your Emails
  4. Focus on Targeted Messaging
  5. Adopt a Mobile-First Email Design
  6. Create Personalized Campaigns
  7. Include a Call-to-Action
  8. Automate Your Nonprofit Email Marketing Campaign
  9. Segment Your Donor Database
  10. Optimize Your Email Marketing Campaign
  11. Monitor Your Email Campaign’s Performance

1. Build a Healthy Email List

You spend so much time and resources crafting your fundraising campaigns. These messages must reach the right inboxes. Building a solid email list is crucial for starting your nonprofit's email campaign and maximizing ROI.

Here are some tips to create an email list:

  • Ask attendees for their emails regularly by having an email signup list available at all nonprofit events. With Zeffy, you can easily create email signup forms to get more subscribers.
  • Promote your landing page across all channels and ensure the process is simple. A pop-up signup form can help.

2. Get Consent to Email Your Supporters

Emailing uninterested individuals in your mission can impact your nonprofit email marketing campaign’s engagement rates. That’s why getting people’s consent before emailing them is essential.

Sending emails without consent also violates data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Breaching GDPR can result in a fine of 2%- 4% of your revenue.

Getting consent also protects your emails from ending up in the spam folders.

3. Be Regular with Your Emails

Schedule your email content to stay organized and engage with your donors more often.

Maintain a consistent email schedule rather than bombarding your list with continuous emails, even when your nonprofit email marketing campaign is inactive.

Consistency in email frequency will help you nurture your supporters and build long-term relationships with them.

Note: Ensure that your emails contain valuable and relevant information.

4. Focus on Targeted Messaging

A one-size-fits-all approach does not work with nonprofit email marketing. Rather than sending the same email to all your donors, segment them according to their preferences.

Most email marketing platforms let you segment your list to create targeted email campaigns. Add custom questions to your signup form to learn about your new donor’s preferences. 

Send survey emails to understand the preferences of existing donors.

5. Adopt a Mobile-First Email Design

55% of emails are opened on a mobile device. Your email campaigns must focus on a mobile-friendly design for better accessibility on smartphones and tablets. No matter how good the email content is, the receiver may not read it or may even unsubscribe, if it is not readable. 

Most email marketing services provide responsive templates that adapt to mobile devices and desktops. 

6. Create Personalized Campaigns

Personalized campaigns allow your emails to blend in with emails from family, friends, or co-workers.  Personalized emails have an average open rate of 82% higher than generic emails.

Try personalization tactics, such as referring to past interactions or donations made by the recipient. You can also tailor the content based on their interests or preferences. Ensure the email has a minimal design and is free of numerous animations and external links.

7. Include a Call-to-Action

What do you want your subscriber to do next? Do you want them to donate to your cause or register for an upcoming fundraiser? Be direct with your CTAs to help reduce the time a receiver takes to figure out what you want.

A CTA in your emails prompts the reader to take the desirable action. It accompanies a button or a link to landing pages, donation forms, or event registration forms.

8. Automate Your Nonprofit Email Marketing Campaign

Nonprofits often need to manage several tasks, from administrative to promotions and program-related. Sparing time to send emails regularly can become challenging.

Email marketing automation helps you keep your audience engaged while you manage other tasks. 

Automated emails can generate 320% higher revenue compared to non-automated emails.

Emails that you can automate easily include:

  • Welcome emails
  • Thank you emails
  • Donor retention emails

Ensure you add links to your social media platforms in the email to help subscribers stay updated with your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram profiles. 

9. Segment Your Donor Database

Segmenting the email list ensures you send the correct email to the right person at the precise moment.

Each individual in your donor database is at a different stage of their journey with your nonprofit. The emails you send them should align with their position. 

Create segments based on:

  • Donation amount
  • Events attended
  • Actions taken on your website
  • Actions on your social channels

10. Optimize Your Email Marketing Campaign

Apart from the email body, you must consider other aspects like subject line, fonts, etc.

Ensure the subject line is concise and completely visible from a computer and phone screen. The messages should also be eye-catching with:

  • Enough spacing
  • Breaks in text
  • Images
  • Link buttons

Most email marketing software offers pre-set design and build options that can help optimize your emails to increase engagement rates.

11. Monitor Your Email Campaign’s Performance

Insights on your email marketing are crucial to create an effective strategy. Using email marketing software lets you access metrics like:

  • Open rates 
  • Click-through rates (CTR)
  • Day and time when your emails are opened

If one group clicks through your emails on Thursday mornings and another on Tuesday mornings, you can send emails to these groups separately during their preferred timings. 

Top 6 Email Marketing Software for Nonprofits

  1. Zeffy 
  2. Mailchimp
  3. Salesforce
  4. Constant Contact
  5. Campaign Monitor
  6. HubSpot Email Marketing Software

1. Zeffy 

GetApp rating: 4.8/5

Zeffy is a one-stop fundraising solution that offers nonprofits a comprehensive set of tools that are 100% free of cost. The platform offers an email marketing tool that helps you send targeted and personalized emails without any platform fee. Unlike most email marketing tools, Zeffy lets you send unlimited emails and set up email automation.

Use Zeffy's in-built donor management tool to store updated donor data for easy segmentation. The tool enables nonprofits to:

  • Create custom email lists
  • Access email marketing insights like open rates, click-throughs, and unsubscribes 
  • Set up email automation
  • Add links to pre-filled donation forms in emails

2. Mailchimp

GetApp Rating: 4.5/5

Mailchimp is a user-friendly email marketing platform that offers powerful tools to design, send, and track email campaigns effectively. This tool offers easy email segmentation and automation features.

You can email your donors, staff, and volunteers separately and schedule your emails. Mailchimp also integrates easily with other nonprofit tech tools like CRMs and online donation platforms.

The email marketing software also offers features like:

  • Easy drag-and-drop editor
  • Data insights
  • Lead capture landing pages
  • A/B testing
  • Autoresponder templates

Mailchimp offers a 15% discount to verified nonprofits. It also offers a free plan, but it is restricted to 1 user, 1000 emails/month, and 30 days of email support. You cannot access customization or segmentation features with the free plan.

→ 8 Best MailChimp Alternatives for Nonprofits (Free and Paid)

3. Salesforce Marketing Cloud

GetApp Rating: 4.4/5

Salesforce Marketing Cloud is a comprehensive digital marketing platform that offers robust email marketing capabilities. Being a cloud-based CRM, you can launch targeted emails via Salesforce. 

It provides a wide range of features, including:

  • Drag-and-drop email builder
  • Advanced segmentation and personalization
  • A/B testing and optimization
  • Automated customer journeys
  • Predictive analytics and AI-powered insights
  • Integration with Salesforce CRM

While Salesforce for nonprofits offers 10 free licenses if they are accepted into the Power of Us Program, it is still an expensive option. Once your free licenses are used, you will have to pay $60-100 based on the plan you choose. 

→ Read our complete guide to Salesforce for nonprofits

4. Constant Contact

GetApp Rating: 4.3/ 5

Another well-known email marketing software, Constant Contact, offers user-friendly tools for nonprofits to build, send, and monitor engaging email campaigns.

Users can access valuable features like:

  • Drag-and-drop email editor
  • Email automation
  • Mobile-optimized email templates
  • Email list segmentation
  • Integration with CRM platforms
  • Real-time insights
  • Lead capturing landing pages

Constant Contact also lets you add drag-and-drop donation action blocks to your emails.

The email service provider does not offer a free plan, but nonprofits get a 20% discount on a 6-month prepay and 30% on a 12-month prepay plan.

5. Campaign Monitor

GetApp Rating: 4.6/5

Campaign Monitor is another email marketing tool known for its analytics dashboards, which help you analyze your email campaign’s success.

The platform also offers a user-friendly interface along with:

  • Customizable email templates
  • Segmentation and personalization features
  • Spam testing feature

As one of the best email marketing platforms, Campaign Monitor provides affordable plans starting at just $11/month. Nonprofits also get an additional discount of 15%.

6. HubSpot Email Marketing Software

GetApp Rating: 4.5/5

HubSpot offers an all-in-one email marketing service that also provides tools for:

  • Sales
  • Customer service
  • CRM
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Management System

Nonprofits can create campaigns and access landing pages, forms, Facebook, Google, Instagram, and LinkedIn ads, templates, etc.

The platform also offers live chat capabilities, advanced analytics, and reporting features.

HubSpot can be expensive, as the free plan restricts the number of users, analytical tools, and emails per month. Yet, through the HubSpot for Nonprofits program, nonprofits can access a 40% discount.

How Did UQROP Save Over $9000 on Online Fundraising and Donor Communication Through Zeffy?

UQROP is a nonprofit organization committed to rehabilitating injured and sick birds of prey and educating people of all ages. With donations from the public, the organization helps around 400 birds on average each year. 

One thing UQROP struggled with was its limited team members performing various responsibilities. The organization wanted an online donation system that could help them automate manual tasks, including:

  • Donor Communications
  • Event Ticketing
  • Fundraising 

UQROP now uses Zeffy for daily ticketing admissions to its facility and annual events. Zeffy has also streamlined UQROP’s donor management process to:

  • Generate automatic tax receipts
  • Monitor and automate emails
  • Manage multiple users under one admin account

Using Zeffy’s online ticketing, donations, and donor management system, the organization has raised over $230,000 and saved more than $9,000 in platform and transaction fees.

Final Thoughts on Email Marketing for Nonprofits

Committed donors are the backbone of any nonprofit organization. A solid nonprofit email marketing strategy can help convert potential supporters into loyal donors. It enables you to drive more donations for your organization. 

Diversify your email strategy with these ten types of emails and follow the best practices to achieve your nonprofit goals.

Boost conversions with Zeffy’s 100% free fundraising and donor management tool. Set targeted campaigns to engage your community and use advanced features for free to acquire new donors. 

FAQs on Email Marketing for Nonprofits

What is the best email marketing platform for nonprofits?

When choosing an email marketing platform for your nonprofit, consider one that offers a range of features specifically designed to meet the needs of charitable organizations. 

Look for a platform with:

  • Easy-to-use email creation tools
  • Robust segmentation and personalization capabilities
  • Detailed analytics to track the performance of your campaigns

Consider a platform that integrates with your existing donor management system and provides dedicated support for nonprofits. 

While many email marketing platforms are available, Zeffy stands out as a comprehensive fundraising solution that offers email marketing alongside other essential tools for nonprofits, all at no cost.

How often should nonprofits send out emails?

Nonprofits can send emails anywhere from 1 to 3 times per week, depending on their specific audience and content strategy. 

Sending emails once or twice a week allows you to be consistent without bombarding the recipients. It is also important to adjust your frequency based on your audience's response. 

What are the key components of a successful email marketing campaign for nonprofits?

Successful email marketing campaigns for nonprofits hinge on several crucial elements: 

  • Clear and compelling content that resonates with the audience
  • A strong call to action (CTA) 
  • Strategic segmentation of email lists 
  • Incorporating storytelling to boost engagement 

Using an effective email platform like Zeffy, which allows for deep customization and analytics, can enhance these efforts by ensuring that each campaign is optimized for performance and donor engagement.

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