Email Best Practices

Communication is a key factor in the success of any organization, especially nonprofits. Knowing the best way to communicate with your supporters, volunteers, donors, and the community is critical to your mission’s success. Knowing how to garner support through email marketing also increases your support from foundations. The following are email best practices to assist you in your nonprofit’s efforts.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is used to inform, engage, inspire, and educate the recipient. This can be used to garner strong volunteer support, donor support, fundraising campaigns, and updates for your supporters to stay engaged and involved. It is also an easy way to get others to share your campaigns and efforts with their own networks outside of social media. 

The primary reasons to use email marketing include:

  • Donor Development and Appeals
  • Fundraising Campaigns
  • Volunteer Recruitment
  • Event Planning, Invitations and Announcements
  • Ticket Sales
  • Organization Updates and Changes
  • Human Resource Recruitment
  • Community Networking and Development
  • Newsletters
  • Thank You emails
  • Retention emails

The following strategies will assist you in improving your email communications to support whatever area in nonprofit management you are addressing. Focus areas include nonprofit email strategy, design, data, content, and reporting.

Email Strategies

Data Collection

The most efficient and cost effective way to collect and manage your data is to use a Donor Management System. This is your surefire data collection, management, marketing, communication, and donor development powerhouse tool. Save manpower by being more effective. This software can also help collect data for your fundraising events, track donor contributions over time, design communications to your entire database or select segments of your database. It can also offer fundraising webpages that simultaneously collect donor data.

Deliver customized communication most relevant to each person you communicate with. A customizable Donor Management System allows you to determine specific factors relevant to each group segment in your database. Don’t communicate broadly en masse. Communicate thoughtfully and strategically to each target group in a way that will impact them the most. This will keep them engaged and improve their involvement with your organization’s efforts.

Personalized content works. A good Donor Management System offers the ability to allow subscribers or new registrants to opt-in to various categories for future communication, while managing those integrations for you. It also tracks their attendance in your various events and functions. This provides you and your board a strong foundation from which you can make critical strategic planning.

This strategy will also improve your donations and overall reader engagement.

Donor Base Growth

The first aspect to consider is how easily signing up to your email list is. This is critical to garner the highest possible self-guided sign-up behavior. Places to consider:

  • Website Footer
  • Website pages with high traffic volume
  • Website “About” page
  • Social media pages
  • Email campaigns
  • Website pop-up form
  • Event registration forms
  • Event tables

You can include your sign-up with shared campaigns with other nonprofits, sponsor marketing efforts, and any other community networking platform that is interested in supporting your organization. It is also critical to remember GDPR compliance in all of your sign-up forms.

A good Donor Management Software will help you meet all of these opportunities and requirements while also ensuring you gather permission from your sign-up inquiries. This will ensure that those who sign up are genuinely interested and not just database fillers with no intention of ever following-through on any request or information provided. A good Donor Management Software also provides templates that you can use for your forms and email campaigns. So, if you are new to this, they take the hard part out of the way and provide a smooth plug and play interface from which you can work with ease. Short and sweet is often the best mantra to remember with any email or sign-up form.

Compelling Message

Are you writing about something important to your organization? Then make sure that it demonstrates this by providing a message that reinforces the importance of your mission and how important this is to your donors and supporters.


The most important word in your message is the word, “you.” Make sure that the language approaches the topic through the specific interests of your donors. This personalization ensures a more engaging emotional response, which is the first step to triggering an action behavior. This also means you should send different messages to different segments of your database.

Workflow Automation

Workflow automation is new to many organizations and nonprofits can benefit substantially from having software that automates much of the remedial tasks that used to be delegated to interns and volunteers. This can come in many forms.

Sign-Up Email Response Series

A good Donor Management Software allows you to set up sign-up triggered and customized email templates to welcome or thank them for their interest, otherwise known as a welcome series. This can subsequently trigger further customized email templates inviting them further engagement opportunities with your organization.

Schedule Blog or Event Emails

It is easier to write a series of emails relating to one topic if they can be written at once, but delivered separately at carefully scheduled intervals to ensure the highest response rate. Automate the journey you want your donors and supporters to experience. This is a one time action that will carry forward for months or years without having to be addressed every single time you receive a new donor or supporter. 

Do’s and Don’ts


  1. Use templates with imagery and appealing design style to ensure your recipient finds the email appealing and engaging.
  2. Use an uncluttered layout in order to promote a reader-friendly experience
  3. Use a compelling headline
  4. Use subheadings or bullets to ease the reader through the email
  5. Provide a call to action button
  6. Use compelling imagery


  1. Don’t forget to tell the reader what to expect in regard to the frequency of communication they will receive
  2. Don’t deceive or use exaggeration in subject lines
  3. Don’t misuse personalization and be sure that the person entered their information correctly when signing up or donating
  4. Don’t forget to segment your mailing list. Failure to do so may lead to followers unsubscribing from all communications.
  5. Don’t forget to test your emails before sending
  6. Don’t focus on donations more than content
  7. Don’t omit your Call to Action
  8. Click here
  9. Volunteer
  10. Donate Now
  11. Learn More (How You Can Help)
  12. Don’t forget to proofread
  13. Don’t forget the Opt-In, GDPR Compliance, and Unsubscribe options
  14. Don’t forget to ask for help when needed


Set a schedule to check how your email campaigns are doing so that you can correct course effectively and as needed. Look at the following:

  • Open Rates
  • Click-Through Rates
  • Email Conversions
  • Unsubscribe Rate
  • Donation Tracking

Why It Matters

Email marketing is a critical component for any nonprofit organization who desires to have the highest possible engagement in today’s technology-driven society. It provides opportunity for supporters to share the emails they receive with other potential supporters. It’s easy to automate, easy to generate with beautiful templates, easy to track, and easy to gather data about recipients and their engagement levels. It’s also a great way to build and sustain relationships with your donors and supporters.