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Techniques to increase email engagement and monetary support that every nonprofit should use

By Lauren H. Dowdle

Nonprofits wouldn’t exist without the support from its volunteers—both with their time and monetary donations. That’s common knowledge. But knowing the best ways to engage people often leaves those in charge of the nonprofit’s marketing efforts scratching their heads. To help get you started, we’ve put together techniques to increase both email metrics and donations.

What email metrics to track

To improve the nonprofit’s email marketing metrics (and subsequently donations), you first need to know which metrics are the most important. There are several types—from delivery and bounce rates to unsubscribes—that can help you see if your campaigns and lists are properly performing.

With the goal of collecting more donations, here are some of the top metrics to measure:

  • Open rate: Percentage of people who opened the email
  • Click-through rate: Those who click on the links in the email
  • ROI/Conversion rate: Subscribers who complete the desired goal (ex. made a donation)

Nonprofits average a 26-percent open rate, 3-percent click-through rate, and 17-percent donation page conversion rate. These areas give you a concrete way to track engagement and also see where there might be issues in the campaign. 

For example, if you have a high open rate but low click-through, there could be an issue with your links, call to action (CTA), or overall message. Evaluate the data, and use A/B testing to see what components perform the best to reach your goals. 

How well the email campaign performs directly affects donations. The more people who open and engage with the email, the better the chance is that they will get involved and donate. Once you know what metrics to keep an eye on, it’s time to start implementing techniques that will improve those and donations.

Create mobile-friendly experience

Not only are about half of all emails viewed on mobile devices, but the majority of donors also prefer to give online. Email marketing campaigns should be easily opened and viewed on mobile devices. Test out emails before hitting send to ensure each component appears as intended on a phone.

Keeping subject lines short, including preview text, and adding a CTA that appears above the fold (seen without needing to scroll) are important components of creating a successful, mobile-friendly campaign. Also, make sure any landing page that is linked to in the email is mobile-friendly.

In this email from Help for Heroes, subscribers can tell who it’s from, easily see the CTA, and also view the focus of the email without needing to scroll on their device. Including photos of the people who their donations directly impact helps them connect to another person and the nonprofit’s mission, as well.

Get them involved

More than three-quarters of donations to nonprofits in the United States and Canada come from those who volunteer with the groups. That means your campaigns need to engage current volunteers, while also encouraging new subscribers to get involved. When people get involved with the nonprofit, donations will follow.

A great way to build that engagement—both with the nonprofit and the email—is to show how their support makes a difference. This email from Road Scholar highlights “Five Ways Your Donation Will Change Lives,” with a clear CTA right at the top.

That shows subscribers exactly what they will be supporting. By giving multiple reasons why they should donate, it’s more likely that at least one will resonate with them. The email also includes a “Learn more” CTA at the bottom if they want to find other ways to get involved.

Highlight one story

Sending a mix of content through the email campaigns is a good way to showcase all the nonprofit does—from updates and news to volunteer opportunities. But when you want to make a big impact that will drive metrics and donations, pick one story and CTA to feature in the email. This could be a specific event, cause, or group the nonprofit is raising money for.

Tell subscribers what the need or problem is, how your nonprofit can help solve it, and how their donation will give the organization the financial support it needs to help the problem. In this email from Charity: Water, they highlight one woman’s story and how the nonprofit helped change her life for the better. The email ends with a reminder that donations made all of that possible.

Don’t ask for donations

It might sound counterintuitive, but every email campaign doesn’t need to ask for donations. If each email has a similar CTA encouraging subscribers to donate, it loses its power. People also don’t want to be asked to give every time they open a message from your nonprofit. That’s why it’s important to provide a mix of content, instead of only sending emails aimed at converting.

Take the previous email example above from Charity: Water. Instead of directly asking for donations, the nonprofit gives a “Share This Update” CTA to reach a broader audience beyond its subscribers. It still gives the audience a way to engage, but there is no push for them to donate.

Heart of the email

From email marketing metrics to fundraising efforts, sending engaging campaigns can have a positive effect across the board. The best nonprofit emails are the ones that connect with the subscriber on a deeper level, instead of trying too hard to earn donations. 

The messaging needs to be genuine, convey the nonprofit’s values and mission, and include a clear CTA so they know what action to take next. When you successfully combine those elements with some of the above techniques, you’ll create a compelling email campaign that subscribers will want to engage with—both online and with donations.

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