Access Your Free Nonprofit Email Checklist!

Discover the 12 essential elements for every nonprofit email.

Bonus: Get FREE access to my Introduction to Nonprofit Email Marketing course and discounts on my other courses!

7 Deadly Sins of Nonprofit Email Marketing

Nonprofit Email Marketing

You know the 7 deadly sins, right?

They’re considered the most dangerous moral pitfalls. By avoiding them you can stay on the path to an ethical and honest life.

But, get caught up in these sins and you may find yourself spiraling down into moral depravity.

That’s why they’re called deadly.

Well, as it turns out, there are 7 deadly sins of nonprofit email marketing.

If you are guilty of any of these 7 deadly nonprofit email marketing sins then you are surely off the path of righteous (i.e., effective) email marketing.

Below I’ll explain these 7 deadly sins and why they are so detrimental to the effectiveness of your nonprofit email marketing. I’ll also provide some tips on how to avoid them.

Sin #1: Not having a welcome email autoresponder series

The worst thing a nonprofit can do when it comes to expanding their community of support is ignore people who have expressed interest in the organization and its work.

Yet, thousands of nonprofits do this every single day by not having an automated welcome email series.

When people sign up to your email list you have their full attention. They’ve just “raised” their hand and said, “email me.”

If you don’t email them right away, or even within 24 hours, they will start to feel ignored.

They will think they are not actually that important to you since you didn’t even bother to email them after you asked them to sign up to your email list.

I am finalizing a video training on how to set up an autoresponder welcome series that will give you the perfect welcome email series formula. Sign up to my email list to get access to the video training as soon as it is available.

Sign up to my email list to get access to the video training as soon as it is available.

Sin #2: Not sending enough email

Ignoring people is a deadly practice. Being forgotten is equally deadly.

Nonprofits need to send more email. Recent statistics suggest 80% of nonprofits send email no more than once per month.

If you are only communicating with your list 12 times a year, then how many days of the year do you think your readers spend thinking about your organization?

That’s right. 12 days…out of 365.

What are they thinking about the other 353 days of the year? Who knows! But it’s not you.

Sin #3: Not giving a compelling reason to subscribe

Let’s be honest, no one wants to “subscribe for updates.”

One of the most important things you can achieve with your website is to get email addresses.

But, in order to do that, you have to actually give people a compelling reason to subscribe.

And “staying in touch” is not a compelling reason.

Spend some time really thinking about what matters to your ideal prospect. What can you offer them in your email messeges that will get them excited to subscribe?

It’s not that hard to come up with great reasons it’s just that most nonprofits don’t take the time.

Sin #4: Sending nonprofit e-newsletter bombs

Sending more email does not mean sending more nonprofit e-newsletters.

As you may know, I am not a fan of the nonprofit email newsletters. Print newsletters, fine. E-newsletters? Awful.

There is a much better way. And not just better for your readers, it is much better for you, too. It takes a lot less time and can be fully automated.

Oh, and when done well, your readers will hang on every word and actually look forward to receiving your next email.

How is this possible?

I lay it all out for you, completely free, when you sign up for my email list.

Sin #5: Having too many calls to action

Nonprofits have a tendency to put way too many calls to action in their emails. This is partly due to the dominance of email newsletters in the nonprofit sector (ugh).

Every email should have only one call to action.

Each email should be designed to move the reader to do one thing, no matter how small, that will help deepen your relationship with them and further your cause.

The problem is Nonprofits want their readers to like their Facebook page, follow them on Instagram, tweet this, tell a friend, attend an event, become a member, read more on their website, and make a donation.

Phew! Just thinking about all the things they are asked to do in one email is exhausting.

And since they only email 12 times a year or less, they have to cram all of those calls to action in every email.

It is far better to email them more often with only one call to action in each email.

Sin #6: Writing boring email content

Email inboxes are crowded places.

You have to earn your readers attention.

There is a lot of information out there about the importance of subject lines in getting your email opened.

But what is much less often discussed is the role the content of past email has on open rates.

If your email messages are boring, then you will be completely dependent on your ability to come up with creative, catchy subject lines to ensure people open your emails.

But, if you deliver consistently high-quality email messages to your readers, they will open your email regardless of subject line because they know they will benefit from reading your content.

Tell great stories that make the reader feel something and leave them wanting more. Do this well and you will have an engaged readership ready to take action.

Sin #7: Not designing your emails for mobile

Litmus reported that in February 2016, 55% of email messages were opened on a mobile phone.

That is massively important for any nonprofit that communicates over email.

Over half of your audience will read your email on their mobile phone. If your emails are not designed to be read on a mobile phone, then you are preventing 55% of your audience from engaging with your content.

Can you afford to do that? No way.


  1. Avoid these 7 deadly sins to ensure you stay on the righteous (i.e., effective) path of nonprofit email marketing
  2. Sign up for my email list to learn how to get away from the sin of the nonprofit email newsletter bomb

Keep doing good work,
Jeremy Signature



2 comments… add one
  • Elissa Cascio

    Spot on with a great list! I’ve read a lot about the importance of subject lines and models for market testing them. Can you comment on subject lines?

    • Jeremy

      Hi Elissa, Glad you enjoyed the article. Subject lines are important because they help your email get noticed and opened…but they are not the only things that gets your emails open and read. Your content needs to be high quality and relevant to your reader. If you consistently deliver great email to your subscribers then they’ll want to open your email every time, regardless of subject line. On the other hand, if you use tricks and gimmicks to get them to open your email but then they feel disappointed or annoyed by the content of your email they’ll learn quickly to ignore everything you send. So yes, important, but not necessarily the MOST important thing.

Leave a Comment