Expand Your Reach with Effective Nonprofit Email Marketing

  • by Christine Batta
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With tools for quickly designing and distributing email campaigns readily available, nonprofits of all sizes are exploring what roles email blasts and newsletters play in their marketing. Email communication is a unique tool for reaching out to your audience and connecting with them in their day-to-day life with much more depth than your 140 Twitter characters.

Mastering a polished and compelling email presence demands a purposeful balance between enticement and delivery. We can all relate to how quickly you can lose interest in an email, and thus the sender. Don't take this one-page opportunity for granted because an ill-conceived or underwhelming email can do more damage than good. To advise you on your path toward email excellence, we've gathered our top 3 elements to consider when designing or refining your HTML email design.


The graphic styling of your HTML email can significantly affect its accessibility. This applies both figuratively—you'll want to employ the design to make your brand personality accessible—and literally. Email readers have different restrictions than web browsers. The coding for this specific purpose is more limited than the capabilities you have on a full website.

Your primary goal for the design should be to make it viewable for all recipients. Background images will not display correctly or at all, so a layout with a clean background is a good starting point. You'll also want to avoid embedding text in images and instead use live text because you want to account for contexts in which the reader may not be able to view the image parts of the email. Lastly, you will have to leave out any animation functions, with the exception of animated GIFs, because JavaScript and Flash are incompatible.


You don't need to feel like the design of your HTML email is a lost cause without all the bells and whistles. Here is where the brightness of your messaging shines through. Your organization's branding is so much bigger than the graphic language. It includes the voice through which you address your audience. Your HTML email blast or newsletter is a time to stretch your muscles for these skills.

A great example of using a branded voice in your email messaging is TOMs Shoes. They pay careful attention even to the language used when you sign up for their email alerts. When their website thanks you for signing up, you see an encouraging "You're All Set!" line of text which implies that you are ready for the good things that are on the horizon through this connection. In the email you receive, TOMs addresses you with "Welcome to Our Movement!" In just these two phrases, or 7 words, TOMs shows you how they feel about your participation in their passionate, welcoming brand. As nonprofits you should strive for the same effectiveness.


Once you have the look and intention of your email outreach established, you'll need to make sure you don't let that foundation go to waste. Your nonprofit will need a clear plan for who will maintain the email campaigns' content and scheduling. You do not want your recipients to be unable to remember when they signed up for your email blast when they hear from you. For example, here at SW Creatives we read an email series called Sidebar which is delivered daily. I find I am more likely to open emails that I read on a routine basis and therefore look forward to finding in my inbox.

An email that your audience can anticipate with excitement has a power that an email that catches someone off guard does not. Consistent email updates reflect the strength and effectiveness of the work you do with your audience's donation, time and attention. If we only hear from you when you're having a fundraiser or need help, too many questions arise as to what efforts that contribution is really benefiting.

Partnering with our nonprofit clients, we know how crucial it is to be efficient with your time and resources. Take our experienced tips into consideration and don't let your email presence go to waste.