{Video} Practical Guide to Email Nurturing for Your Nonprofit

Let’s talk about email nurturing and your nonprofit organization. In our previous post, we zeroed in on the numerous differences between email marketing and email nurturing. To reiterate, email nurturing is far more targeted, customized, and strategic than your basic email marketing campaign. After all, email marketing done right IS email nurturing. The challenge is: How can your nonprofit organization convert your current email marketing strategy into a dynamic email nurturing campaign? The key to building an email marketing strategy that drives results, you need to acknowledge the three factors holding your back.


Regarding your email nurturing toolset, a “one-size-fits-all” EMS won’t cut it. You need tools that specifically allow you to engage and nurture your leads.


We get it: Hitting the ‘Send’ button on your generic monthly email broadcast can fill you with an almost euphoric sense of accomplishment. However, one generic email sent to your supporters won’t drive the same results as personalized emails will.

Lack of a Plan

This one speaks for itself. Having no strategy leaves you completely directionless. You need plans tailored specifically for pushing your donors, supporters, volunteers, and leads into your sales funnel.

This one speaks for itself. Having no strategy leaves you completely directionless. You need plans tailored specifically for pushing your donors, supporters, volunteers, and leads into your sales funnel.

You know the challenge. You know the obstacles standing in your way. So, where do you go from here? Watch the video below for concise methods to help you break down and construct a brand spanking new email nurturing campaign. As a special bonus, we’ve included a screencast video showing step-by-step instructions on how to devise a plan for your email marketing campaign and ultimately get you cruising down the highway to lead-capturing victory. Have any questions/thoughts about email nurturing or the videos in general? We want to hear it! Give us your feedback in the comments section below.

Creating your plan is going to be really simple. We’re just going to draw this out. So use a piece of paper, use a whiteboard, use whatever you can. I like to use my mapping software because it’s just a great tool for helping you visualize everything that needs to happen, then you can go translate that into the various paths that will make up the execution of the strategy. On your piece of paper, white board or whatever, just draw yourself in the middle and we’ll go from here. The first bubble I’m going to have you draw is for your messages.

Here’s where I want you to write out every message you need to communicate to the various audiences you have. Let’s look at some examples. You may need to send out your annual report. You may have a call for volunteers, upcoming events, recent successes, or donor follow-up. Write up every message that your communication is or should be sending out to your various audiences. Just put each of those in a little bubble off to the side and then we’re going to match those messages up with the audiences. Draw another bubble of where going to expand into the various audiences you need to be communicating with.

Think about the clients or those that you helped, past event attendees, your board or other stakeholders, volunteers, and donors. Now write out every possible audience that you should be communicating with. Hopefully these audiences are already segmented into different lists, either in your email marketing database or email service provider. If that’s not the case, you know what your first task is. You’re going to have to segment the different context that you have if you want to be able to put together any kind of effective nurturing strategy for them.

The next part is really simple. All you have to do is start matching up the messages with the audiences that need to receive that particular message. There’s going to be a good bit of overlap here. That’s to be expected. You want to send recent successes. It should probably go to every one of those audiences but you need it to be tailored. You need the recent successes message that goes to your volunteers to include “Thank you for volunteering” and the cause of your involvement. Or for your donors you could say, “Look what we were able to do with your donation.”

Create a bubble for each of your audiences down below and then start writing out the different messages each of those should receive. If you’re membership driven, then definitely something they want to hear about. Your stakeholders and your board members, etc., are going to want the annual report. They should also be receiving email messages about your success stories. Let’s look at donors. Obviously, if you make a donation, that person should get a thank you message. I’m a big advocate of donor engagement campaigns where you show what you actually did with their donation, and how they have made an impact through your organization.

You also want to send that donor a list of your recent successes and news of things that have come up. You may want to invite them to events. We’ve looked at past event attendees. When someone attended the previous events, then send them information about upcoming events. If they attended an event, they’re obviously someone engaged with your cause. Then send out that recent success message. It should probably be a little bit tailored from what the donors or even the volunteers received. Request they share with a friend. Do something really specific. Send them an e-mail that says “We’re trying to grow our awareness, please take three minutes and like us on Facebook and share it with 10 of your friends.”

Now, you have a ton of emails that need sent. Don’t you just love how this short video multiplied your workload? The trick now is to layout a schedule that takes into account the timeliness of these different messages and when they need to go out. Then you’re going to have to prioritize this list since you obviously can’t create all these at the same time and get them out.

First, you need an editorial calendar you can use to put together all these different email messages that are going out in terms of prioritizing those and taking timeliness into account. For example, if you have an upcoming event, you should send three emails for the event. One to past volunteers thanking them, asking for volunteers, and encouraging them to share it on Facebook or forward to three people that they think would like to come.

Second email would be to past attendees letting them know about the event. You may even want to include a save the date if you have enough time.

The third email for the upcoming event would be to email your donors and tell them about the event. If it is a fundraiser, then tie the purpose back to what your organization will be able to accomplish if you’re successful. If you don’t have any events coming up then I’d recommend maybe you start with a donor engagement campaign. For anyone who’s donated in the last year, send an email and personalize it, saying something like, “This is what we did with your donation.” Use pictures and really tell them the story of how your organization was able to further your mission through their involvement and through their donation. That’s how you turn donors into thorough advocates.

For donors you haven’t heard from in over 12 months you can send an email that uses much of the same copy but change the code or action at the beginning and the end that you’re asking them to donate again and keep supporting the great work you’re doing. You see, I’m a really big supporter of repurposing as much of these messages that you create as you possibly can with minor tweaks so it seems really, really relevant to the audience. The more you can let each audience know through the content of your email that you understand who they are, what they’ve done in the past and sent them to do something in the future, the more effective they’re going to be.

Have you figured out how you’re going to prioritize these and which messages you want to start with first? Set up a calendar. Ideally a shared calendar that multiple people can access unless it’s just one person who’s going to be working on this and start putting those emails out there. I recommend having multiple dates for each email or message. You need time to write a copy, proof, revise and approve and then get it loaded in, turn it into HTML, then schedule it so they send on a specific date.

Here’s the last thing that I’ll leave you with. None of what I’ve talked today is hard by any means. It just takes time and the number one rule of maximizing your time is to work from a list. Get organized and you can get a lot more accomplished. Far too many organizations are reactive with email marketing. The executive director storms in when she realizes that no one has sent an email broadcast in the last 90 days. You scramble and then you shoot something out to your entire list. Get strategic about it. Plan for time to work on it and have an overarching plan to begin with.

The beauty of this is, for example, if you set up a series of three emails all donors get after 90 days of making a donation, that system will keep working for you without any interaction. Every donor will receive these three messages and have consistent engagement with your organization. I mean, why would you build single email blasts when you can build email nurturing systems that have long-term value. Don’t get me wrong, email newsletters are great but you are constantly having to make time and find something to say. Develop a nurturing strategy that sets these systems in place so you can automate as much as you can and really focus more on what you need to be doing day by day.

That is really the core of developing an effective email nurturing strategy. Good luck!