5 Tips for Getting Started with Email Marketing

Email marketing can be a great tool for your organization to grow its donor base, recruit volunteers, and keep supporters up-to-date on news and upcoming events.  Many nonprofits are familiar with the practice of sending regular newsletters, but if you’ve never ventured into email marketing (or need a little refresher) here are a few tips to get you on your way:
Getting Started with Email Marketing

  1. Provide Value – The Foundation of Engagement
    Sometimes the gesture of a monthly/quarterly newsletter with some basic updates is enough, but before making any assumptions do a little research. What pages get the most traffic on your website? Which blog posts receive the most feedback (comments/trackbacks)? What content is most successful across social media channels?These questions will begin to give you an idea of what will be engaging to your email subscribers.  Then you can get started, and do some live testing!
  2. Choose an Email Provider
    There’s no shortage of email service providers (ESPs) out there – and many of them are decent. How do you decide which is right for your organization?  Here are a few points to consider:
    1. Usability – First and foremost, you’ll need to be comfortable using whichever ESP you choose.  Spend some time with a few before you commit or feel free to ask us for recommendations.
    2. Cost – Many ESPs offer free plans for nonprofits or small lists, but be sure you have room to grow and that any costs you may incur will be within budget.
    3. Website Integration – Minimally, you’ll most likely want to include a subscription form (for people to add themselves to your email newsletter list) on your website.  Many ESPs provide direct integration with common web platforms like WordPress; consider which providers will work best with yours, both for signups and performance tracking.
    4. Deliverability – Review the deliverability rates each ESP advertises and how they intend to continue improving and adapting.
    5. Customer Service – Issues arise from time to time.  How will the ESP handle technical issues?  What kind of knowledge bases and help forums do they have available?  Simple test: we call the vendor to see if we can get a human :)  It’s also a good idea to check out reviews online.
  3. Design Your Email
    Based on what you’ve found in your research on engaging content, design your email template to make the most of the content you’ll be sending. Consider including links to social media accounts, your blog, service pages, donation forms, volunteer signups, etc.
  4. Get Subscribers
    Include a signup page on your website, promote your newsletter in social media channels, and offer newsletter signup on donor and volunteer forms. Remember those engaging blog posts you identified? Let your blog readers know they can get even more by subscribing to your newsletter! There are a variety of options so be creative, but remember – spamming is never cool.  It will hurt your reputation, email deliverability, and annoy your audience.NOTE: As you start and grow your list, be sure you follow CAN-SPAM guidelines. These rules were established to protect consumers, but many are best practices regardless.
  5. Go for it!
    There’s a lot you can do to plan and prepare for a successful email campaign (this post is only scratching the surface), but in the end nothing is more valuable than getting started and testing live campaigns. If your ESP offers A/B testing, take advantage of it – test subject lines, featuring different content, and variations in content length.


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