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10 steps to turn your nonprofit email marketing into a year-round fundraising machine

Nonprofit Email Marketing

Does your nonprofit email marketing bring in donations year-round?

I don’t just mean during your semi-annual fundraising push. I mean year-round.

And I don’t mean during your year-end fundraising campaign. I mean year-round, as in non-stop.

I mean having donations come in from your email marketing every week, if not every day, of the year.

Sound impossible? Sound too good to be true?

It’s not.

I help nonprofits set up exactly this type of year-round, non-stop, email marketing system that results in donations coming in multiple times a week, every week, all year long.

Below are the 10 steps I follow to develop and implement this system.

#1: Understand your audience

To better serve your community of support over email you must first understand what they want to receive from your email communication.

Email marketing is a lot less about asking for what you want and a lot more about giving your subscribers what they want.

Understand your audience and give them what they are looking for first. Then, after you’ve established a relationship of trust and mutual respect, ask for their support.

Now they’re ready to give.

#2: Learn how to automate your email marketing

You cannot create a year-round donation generating email marketing system without automation. Check out this post to learn more about why you need to automate your email marketing.

In short, automation will save you time, it will allow you to better control your messaging, and it will allow you to communicate with people about what they want to know when they want to know it.

Oh, and once you’ve set up your email messages in the automation software, you can sit back and watch your emails get sent out without you having to lift a finger. Think there is something else you can do with all this free time?

#3: Create your introduction autoresponder

If someone came up to you and said they were interested in learning more about your nonprofit, would you completely ignore them? Would you turn around and walk away?

Because this is basically what nonprofits are doing whenever someone subscribes to their email newsletter.

Here’s what I mean.

What happens immediately after someone signs up for your email newsletter?

Nothing. Nothing happens.

Someone found your website, read up on your organization, and got excited to learn more about what you do and how they can help.

So they signed up to your email newsletter because they wanted more information from you.

And then they hear nothing from you.  You’ve basically just ignored them.

You had their attention, you had their interest, but you didn’t take advantage of it.

A lot of people won’t hear from you until you send out your next e-newsletter bomb. This means it could be weeks or even months before you communicate with them.

Talk about ignoring people. No wonder they unsubscribe as soon as you do email them. They probably don’t even remember signing up to receive your emails in the first place.

As soon as you learn how to automate your email messages set up an introductory autoresponder.

An autoresponder is a series of emails, pre-loaded into your email marketing software (EMS) and then automatically sent out every time someone subscribes to your email newsletter.

By having this in place you will no longer be ignoring those who are interested in hearing more from you and you’ll be able to start building a genuine relationship with them from day one.

#4: Build your email list

Now that you have an automated introductory email series in place you can focus on list building. You are now ready to be proactive in getting people to sign up for your email list.

Make sure your sign up form is front and center on your website. Give it a background color that pops so people will see it. Do not be bashful about asking for people to sign up to your email list. Be up front and honest about the fact that you’d love to be able to tell them more about what you do over email.

Develop a lead magnet, something that will make them WANT to sign up for your email list. This can vary depending on your organization.

It could promise exclusive discounts on services or an electronic copy of your annual report. You could send them digital downloads or opportunities to receive insider information.

Be creative here, but also make sure you are offering something your audience would actually want.

#5: Develop an annual communication plan

The next thing you should do is develop an annual communication plan.

You now communicate with everyone immediately after they sign up, but how long do they have to wait before they hear from you again?

And when they do hear from you what are you going to tell them? Will the information be valuable to them? Or are you only going to ask them for money (hint: this is not the right answer)?

Define what content you want to share with them and how often will you send an email. Then get to work writing the great stories you will tell in your email messages. No reason to wait. You are now going to automate the entire system.

Write your emails, schedule when they will be sent out and then move on to other pressing issues.

#6: Map your donor journey

Mapping your donor journey is a key exercise that will help you better understand how to structure and segment your email list. Read more here: Mapping your donor journey.

#7: Segment your list

Now that you fully understand your donor journey you can segment your list based on their past actions and current interest in your organization.

As a starting point, consider:

A segment for those that have just signed up for your email list.
A segment for those that have volunteered their time.
A segment for those who have made one donation.
A segment for those that have made multiple donations.
A segment for your BIG MONEY donors.
A segment for your most active subscribers.

You segments will depend a lot on your organization and the donor journey map you’ve created


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#8: Write an automated email series for each segment of your list

Much like your introduction autoresponder, create a series of emails for each segment of your list with the intention of moving them further down the donor journey.

For example, say you have a list of people who have volunteered their time, but now you want to ask them to make a donation. Create an automated series of emails that will be sent only to this group of people.

The email series should tell them stories of people who made the decision to make their first donation and how that decision affected their life and how it made a difference.

Tell these story well and suddenly your volunteers will be opening up their wallets, too.

#9: Set up and monitor your metrics

Once you’ve written, scheduled, and automated all of your emails, be sure to check back in from time to time to monitor your metrics.

How are the open rates? How are the click-through rates? How many people have replied to your emails? How many people made a donation or signed up to volunteer?

Track your metrics and learn which stories work best and which emails are not converting.

#10: Test new stories

You will want to replace low performing stories with new ones.

Be on the lookout for new heros and great stories and test them with your audience. Send them to your active supporters first and ask for their feedback. Swap out stories that aren’t working and see if the new stories are converting better.

You are now on autopilot

Once you complete these 10 steps your nonprofit will have a functioning, automated, year-round, non-stop email marketing system that brings in donations multiple times a week, if not every day.

Be sure to sign up for my email list for additional insights on how to make this a reality for your nonprofit or email me directly if you want to learn more about how I can help you put this  system in place.

Keep doing good work,
Jeremy Signature



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