Your donor list includes donors of all shapes and sizes: donors who gave once, twice or thrice mixed together with potential donors who have expressed interest but have never actually given money. If you want to successfully move donors from point A (thinking about giving) to point B (giving monthly) you are going to have to give them a gentle push. This push comes in the form of nonprofit email marketing.

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7 Best Email Marketing Tools

Step 1: Identify and Segment Your Donor Groups

You might have your list of donors and potential donors all together in some excel or Google sheet. Not all of those donors are the same, and separating them using some important criteria will make the impact of your email marketing tools much more effective.

Your first group to identify consists of your potential donors. These folks have expressed interest in donating in a few ways. Perhaps they have volunteered in the past, come to an event or literally said, “Hey, I might be interested.” 

Your second group is your “gave once 2 years ago donors”. These lovely people are hanging around the edges waiting to be convinced again that your organization is great and that giving to it is basically the best decision ever. They gave once or twice, maybe to a crowdfunding or peer-to-peer campaign and you just have to re-engage them to secure consistent donations!

Your next group is your consistent small gift donors. These folks make up your awesome base that just love your organization and all that you do. They may not have a ton to give but they love being involved in all that your nonprofit is doing but you need to maintain them (cough, email marketing, cough). We heart these donors.

Finally your last group are your unicorns and I’m not going to spend a ton of time on them because I don’t actually think they should be included in your email marketing strategy. You might disagree, as I’m sure many will, but these folks are your consistent major gift donors. While they might be subscribed to your newsletter, you should not be using email marketing to solicit donations from them. They are the personal email, handwritten letter, phone call and pretty-fruit-basket donor.

Now any good email marketing tool will allow you to create segmented lists. Each of these donor groups should be put in a separate list so that you can send emails specifically to those groups. Now, here’s where I add that you might well have other donor groups and that’s awesome! Segment how you see fit because you know your organization better than we do!

Now that you’ve got your donors in their proper lists, we’ll take a look at how to take full advantage of this personalization.


Step 2: Automated Workflows and Content

Email and workflow creation time. Now it’s time to take those donor groups and create specialized email campaigns for each of them. These campaigns will be automated and set up how you see fit. We (obviously) have a few recommendations however.

Keep it light. Make sure that your emails are easy to read and that they follow the logical path set up by the previous email in the sequence.

Think specifically about the user groups in each of your segmented lists and ask “what information would they need to move to donate?” Your potential donors might need a lot of numbers. They have never given before. Maybe they need impact statistics or your annual report. Your consistent donors probably don’t need quite as much information, they want to see some nice photos of recent events and maybe a testimonial or two! Always think about it from their point of view. They are after all the ones giving.

Step 3: Analyze

This is the often-forgotten but extremely important part of the process. You need to analyze your campaigns. Look not only at open and and click-through rates but also where you might be losing people. Do you have everyone opening email one and then lose them completely on email two? Or are people opening all of them and still not donating at the end? Whatever the case, look at those statistics and make small changes to grow your conversions.

As a general bit of email marketing for nonprofits advice, your subject line is the most important thing. Think about your donor group and what’s going to make them open your email. Because if they don’t even open it, you’ve done a ton of work for nothing.


Having a nice looking email template makes a huge difference. If you need to spend a little to make sure your email templates are still displaying correctly on new devices and in the latest version of an email provider, this is a worthwhile investment. In the case of email marketing, looks matter.


If you approach it strategically, moving your donors through your email marketing funnel is fun work. Identify your donors, segment lists and create content for each group. The effort will pay off. If you’d like to know more about our email template services, you can download pricing here. We love email marketing and can’t wait to work on your next design with you!

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How to Grow Your Nonprofit Email List

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