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How to create the perfect nonprofit welcome series email autoresponder

Nonprofit Email Marketing

Don’t you just hate being ignored?

I was at a restaurant the other day with my wife and I swear the waiter was trying NOT to look in our direction.

I don’t mean to complain, but it really drives me crazy when I’m raising my hand, trying to get their attention and they never even look in my direction.

It makes me feel ignored. It makes me feel like they don’t care about me or the money I want to give them for their service.

It’s frustrating.

And it got me thinking…

How often do nonprofits ignore people who want to give them money?

Are we guilty of making people feel neglected?

Do we treat them like we don’t care about the money they want to offer us for our services?

And then it dawned on me…

Nonprofits do this all the time.

Case in point, every time someone signs up to your email list.

Think about it.

When someone signs up for an email list, they are in effect raising their hand and saying:

“Look at me! Tell me more. You have my attention so take advantage of it!”

But how often do we take advantage of their attention at that moment?

I sign up for a lot of nonprofit email lists. It is part of my job. And I am almost always ignored.

I put in my name and email address. I agree to let them email me, and then I wait…

For days…


Sometimes months…

Before they drop a nonprofit email newsletter bomb on my inbox.

Nonprofits are missing out on a huge opportunity to engage people when they have their attention.

Let’s stop ignoring our subscribers and start engaging them the minute they sign up.

Here’s how…

The nonprofit email welcome series autoresponder

Pretty much all email marketing software available today offers the ability to set up an autoresponder email sequence.

An autoresponder is a series of emails that are pre-loaded into your email marketing software and then sent once a desired action is taken.

In the case of a nonprofit welcome series it would be triggered every time someone signs up to your email list.

Not only does this give you the ability to email someone as soon as they subscribe, but you can load a series of emails that will be delivered according to the schedule you desire.

Here is how this might look:

Nonprofit welcome series email autoresponder

In this example, the first email is sent as soon as they subscribe. This series continues for five days with one email automatically being sent out every day.

“EVERY DAY!!!!!!! That is Crazy!”

Actually, it’s not.

But you have to know what you are doing.

You can’t just send them 8,000-word emails every day that droll on and on and on about your technical approach and your mission statement.

Instead, you have to craft emails that give the reader the information and the experience they are looking for.

There are four things your welcome series needs to achieve with each email:

  1. You have to GIVE them the information they want
  2. You have to write emails that make them FEEL something
  3. You have to ask them to take ONE action
  4. You have to write email that makes them WANT to hear from you again soon

Now, you do not have to email every day, and it doesn’t have to be a 5 email welcome series. This is just an example.

But, you do want to engage them as much as possible while you have their attention.

Once you disappear from their inbox for weeks or months, you have completely lost their attention.

You could also develop an email welcome series that emails them every other day, but I strongly recommend emailing them at least 3 times in the first 7 days.

Remember, engage them while you have their attention.

What information do your readers want in your email welcome series?

I will give you some ideas and insights into what your readers are looking for when they sign up to your email list, but it’s important that you do your homework and really dive into what people want to learn about your organization.

Here are some common things that new subscribers are looking for:

  1. What do you do?
  2. Who do you help?
  3. What is your impact?
  4. Are you financially transparent?
  5. How can they get involved?

How to write a welcome series that will make your readers FEEL something

After seeing the above list you may be tempted to start writing a 5-day email series that addresses each one of these issues.

That’s fine, but before you get started, remember this:

You have to make your readers FEEL something when they read your email.

And the best way to do this is by telling the story of one person.

The worst thing you could do in your welcome series is to take each of these 5 common questions new subscribers want answered and just start explaining your answer with technical jargon and statistics.

This will do nothing for you.

Numbers do not make you feel anything.

Technical jargon and statistics are emotionless.

Instead, answer these 5 questions by telling an emotional story of one person.

There are quite a few options of who should be the hero at the center of your first story, but I’d recommend telling the story of one of your beneficiaries.

Tell the story of one person your organization has helped.

Give all the details about how your organizations work had a tremendous impact on that person’s life.

Include lots of context so the readers understand what life was like for that person before your organization got involved.

Be explicit about the emotions the person was feeling at various stages of the story.

By telling this story well, you can easily answer the first three questions above without having to rely on statistics and pedantic speak about your technical approach.

And most importantly, you will have helped your readers develop an emotional connection to the people that your organization serves.

That is pretty powerful. That makes you quite remarkable.

Ask them to do one thing

This is extremely important because you want to generate engagement momentum.

The more people engage with you the more they will be willing to do for you.

The more time and energy people invest into something, the more willing they are to invest time and energy in the future.

You can benefit from this by making small asks when people first sign up to your email list.

You might want to start by asking them to “like” your Facebook page or “follow” you on Twitter. You might want to ask them to “hit reply” and give you feedback or ask you a question.

The key here is NOT to ask them to choose between many things.

Give them only ONE thing you want them to do.

By eliminating choice you will get a higher number of people taking action.

Then, in the next email you ask them to do something different.

If it was “like our Facebook page” before, then this time ask them to share your website on their wall (include a link that makes this a one-click request).

Then, in the next email ask them to hit reply and tell you what they are most interested in about your organization.

You are building engagement momentum.

By the time the welcome series is finished you can build up quite a bit of engagement momentum.

That might be a good time to drop a link to your donation page (hint, hint).

Leave people wanting more

If you’ve done a good job of telling an emotion-filled story of one of your beneficiaries then you will have already made this new subscriber much more interested in your organization.


Now, make sure you leave them wanting more.

Let them know that you have more great stories to tell and that you’ll be in touch again soon.

You could even tease the next story in the p.s. of your last email…

“P.S. next week we want to introduce you to Kimberly. She was able to make a huge difference in Jane’s life and was a big part of her success in our program. At first, Kimberly didn’t want us to share this story, but we convinced her it would be a big help. We’ll introduce you to her in our next email.”

Then in the next email you tell the story of Kimberly (i.e., one of your donors) and how her donation was used to support Jane (i.e., the beneficiary in your first story).

This story address the last two questions by giving them an example of how Kimberly helped (i.e., by making a donation) and how you used that donation to support Jane.

Then, of course, hint at the end of that email about another story you want to share about a volunteer, or a member, or an employee, etc., etc., etc.

The nonprofit email welcome series is just the beginning

By setting up your email engagement in this way from the very beginning you are letting your audience know how you will be communicating with them moving forward.

As long as you continue to provide value in your emails (e.g., tell great stories, make them feel something, give them the information they want) they will continue to read every email you send.

The welcome series can eventually evolve into a monthly series of email stories, all pre-loaded into your email marketing software, scheduled and delivered multiple times a month, allowing you to stay top-of-mind to the people on your list.

And best of all, you are engaging people when you have their attention and when they are most interested in hearing from you.

You are no longer ignoring people when they sign up to your email list.

Instead, you build their engagement momentum and deepen their relationship with your organization.

Keep doing good work,
Jeremy Signature



P.S. I’ve just completed a FREE video training that walks you through this process step-by-step. Sign up to my email list to be the first to access the training.

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