5 Tips for a Winning Email Marketing Strategy

By Guest Author | July 8, 2021 | , | Nonprofit

By: Jas Finnell, Digital Strategy Manager at Riley Children’s Foundation

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels, enabling you to talk directly to your past, current, and potential donors. An added benefit of email marketing strategies is that you can analyze performance and optimize those conversations in real-time.

This post offers five ways you can optimize your fundraising campaign and create winning emails as we all prepare for the biggest season for nonprofit fundraising — end-of-year giving.

Employees talking in the workplace
Email marketing is a cost-effective way to connect directly with past, current, and prospective donors alike.

1. Understand Your Audience

Take a look at those in your target audience. Where do they live? How are they affiliated with your organization? Which programs are they most interested in? Why were they motivated to give? What is their giving history? Where are they in their lifecycle? How have they engaged with past email campaigns? Are certain email sender names resonating more than others? How are the answers to these questions impacting your fundraising?

From there, identify and align variables like stories, voices, ask ladders, donation form appeals, and aesthetics that align best with each segment of your target audience. Some segments may share similar qualities while others may require a much more personalized approach.

Screenshot of marketing campaign
The stories of Riley kids, Caiden, Caroline and Harry (featured above) were shared across digital channels, resulting in a 19% increase in campaign performance.

2. Uplift Voices in Your Community

The most successful sender names are trustworthy, easily recognized, and consistent. Using your organization’s name helps subscribers easily recognize who you are. However, take time to identify well-known key stakeholders and brand advocates who have an influence in your community, like your CEO, local celebrities, and those impacted by your mission. Share their why.

Keep in mind the importance of monitoring metrics related to engagement and spam complaints, as these directly correlate to the effectiveness of the sender name.

3. Keep it Short and Sweet

It takes a mere seven seconds to make a first impression. Your subject line is one of your very first impressions for each email. Strong subject lines strive to spark a sense of curiosity and urgency to act.

Pose a question, tease a story, or make an offer like a matching donation campaign. Try using less than 50 characters, and starting with the most impactful words at the beginning of your subject line to increase the chances of an email open. Ultimately, when it comes to subject lines, less is more.

4. Eat. Sleep. Optimize.

Testing isn’t just about answering one-off questions or settling a disagreement. Take the guesswork out of optimization with consistent A/B testing of different iterations of an email campaign. What questions does your team have about donor behavior and your content? Construct a hypothesis and learn how and why certain elements of your email experiences are impacting user behavior. Actively A/B test different elements while running your smaller campaigns throughout the year and apply those learnings to your larger fundraising campaigns.

5. Embrace Storytelling

Your ability to tell stories is your superpower. Storytelling requires creativity, vision, skill, and practice. Stories simplify a complex message. Stories inspire and motivate. Weave stories of impact into your donation appeal and use compelling imagery to help carry your message. Take your campaign to the next level by telling that same story of impact across channels, including direct mail.

Your support of Riley Children’s Foundation helps heal sick and injured children who need life-saving care. Please consider donating today.

Learn more about how you can optimize your end-of-year giving campaigns: Three Things You Can Do Right Now to Prep for End-of-Year Giving and 5 Ways to Weave Digital Into End-of-Year Giving.


About the Author

Jas Finnell, Digital Strategy Manager at Riley Children’s Foundation
Jas Finnell
Digital Strategy Manager at Riley Children’s Foundation
Jas Finnell is driven by curiosity, continuous learning and innovation. She takes pride in transforming concepts into valuable content to reach and convert leads into customers. As the manager of digital strategy at Riley Children’s Foundation, her goal is to serve the right message to the right audience at the right time to increase brand loyalty and grow the donor pipeline. Connect with her on LinkedIn.