The 5 Nonprofit Email Marketing Rules Every Organization Should Follow

Nonprofit email marketing can be an extremely effective medium for promoting your organization when it’s done correctly. Most email marketing mistakes are an easy fix when you follow the right guidelines. When drafting you’re next email blast, make sure you follow these five essential rules for nonprofit email marketing success.

1. Don’t Ignore Mobile Users

The statistics speak for themselves. In 2012, 41% of commercial emails were opened on a mobile device, and this year, mobile email usage is expected to exceed desktop email for the first time ever. If your emails aren’t formatted to be read on a mobile device, you could be alienating more than half of your current subscribers.


Before you send out your next email blast, make sure you test it out on your smartphone or tablet. Links that don’t work on mobile or images that take forever to download through a 3G or 4G network will almost always trigger mobile users to delete your message on the spot.

2. Don’t Be a Salesman

Nobody wants to be sold to, and that’s especially true for email marketing. Avoid the infomercial terminology and “salesy” language and focus on making your email sound genuine, informative and personal.

If your selling tickets to an event or reaching out for fundraising purposes, try to avoid making your email all about closing the sale.  Avoid trigger words like “free” or “discount” to ensure your email doesn’t get caught in the spam filter.

3. Personalize Your Emails

When it comes to nonprofit email marketing, the more targeted and personalized you can get, the better. Greeting your subscribers with generic salutations like “Dear Subscriber” can make your message sound more like spam and less like a genuine, important communication. Adding a personalized greeting like “Dear James” or “Hi Stephanie,” will change the tone of your email for the better.

4. Keep it Simple

How much time do you typically spend reading an email? If it’s a non-important email or marketing message you may spend a few seconds scanning it over before it’s sent to the trash folder, never to be read again.

Start the body text of the email with all the important who, what, when, where and why information, and try to make your call to action stand out in the top part of the message. Don’t bury the main point you are trying to communicate under multiple paragraphs of text. Make sure your reader knows exactly what the email is about within the first 100 words.

5. Don’t Badger Your Subscribers

220px-Honey_badgerWhile there’s no golden rule for how often you should send out emails, one email per month is generally the minimum, and more than one per week may be overkill. Email frequency may vary depending on your organization’s niche, and in some cases, more than once per week may be necessary. Try experimenting with your email frequency, and see what works best for your organization.

Also, make sure to keep your subscriber list fresh and up-to-date. There’s nothing more frustrating then having emails bounce back or sent to people who are no longer interested in receiving messages from your organization.

2 replies
  1. Cher
    Cher says:

    Your article is packed with great tips and it got straight to the point. Just like I should when I’m sending out a bulk email to my list. What is the best way you have found to keep you email list fresh and up to date?

    • Stephanie Reynolds
      Stephanie Reynolds says:

      Hi Cher,

      Here are some quick tips to help keep your list happy and healthy:

      1. Always use a double opt-in service, single opt-ins leave room for error when folks opt out and you don’t want your broadcasts to get marked as spam.
      2. Offer a resource such as an eBook or other free digital deliverable to entice your audience to join your list.
      3. Use one single list and segment that list vs. having multiple lists in one email marketing service. For instance, Mailchimp and Infusionsoft allow you to tag contacts and then just send to those. With multiple lists, you stand the chance of adding contacts several times then sending out multiple copies of the same email.
      4. Most importantly, look back at your analytics to see which emails get the most traction. You can even A/B test different subject lines to fine tune your content. By making sure you are providing the information they want to receive, you will continue to retain the most loyal audience to offer your products and services to in the future.

      Hope that helps!
      All the best!

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