Elizabeth McDonough

Create A+ Emails that Motivate Donors

Designing and writing an email can seem like a daunting task. And when there are a million things to do, it may not seem worth the time and energy. However, nonprofits just like any business or consumer brand can’t ignore the importance of email marketing. Whether you’re a small nonprofit just getting started or an established organization, you need a strong email strategy to engage with your supporter base.

Recently, we hosted the Nonprofit Academy Webinar, Email Marketing 101. We assembled a panel of Classy experts, with members from our account strategist, marketing, and design teams to discuss email content and design best practices. Nonprofit attendees also received live feedback on the emails they submitted for the team to review.

In the webinar, we covered a range of topics including:

• Industry leading email marketing and design best practices

• Key metrics that help you improve email performance over time

• How to create an effective campaign-specific email marketing strategy

For a quick glimpse into what was covered, check out these four key topics that can help your nonprofit create a sound email marketing strategy. Watch the full presentation through the link below.

1. Create a Strong Email Structure

Every email needs to have a solid foundation, which is why establishing the basic structure of an email is important. During the webinar, we share quick tips and suggestions on how your nonprofit can improve the six parts to a perfect email.

1. Subject Line: This should tie into the intent of the email and motivate your audience to open the message. When writing email subject lines remember to make it clear who the email is from, keep it short, be specific, include a call to action, and use questions.

2. Preheader: Use a distinguishable header that includes your brand logo and any relevant campaign hashtags or messaging.

3. Header Images: Quickly capture a reader’s attention using visual content. This is a great place to introduce your nonprofits brand and visually contribute to the email’s overall message.

4. Main Message: This is where the email’s copy lives. Don’t use too much text and try to break up the copy with section headlines and bullet points.

5. Call to Action: There should be an intent behind every email. Therefore, it’s important to always include a CTA. This makes the copy compelling and it reinforces the precise step a person should take after reading the email.

6. Footer: Every email should have a footer with a link to your website or blog. It’s also the place to add any related contact information and social icons.

2. Segment Your Email Communications

It’s been proven that creating unique content for a specific audience is more effective than sending a mass appeal to every contact within your database. Hubspot reported on some of the findings from the Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report and noted that 39 percent of marketers who segment their email lists experience higher open rates. This makes it incredibly important to know the core groups of people with whom you are communicating. In the webinar, we cover a few different ways email segmentation can be used to support campaigns and to interact with supporters. These include:

• Recurring giving campaigns

• Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns

• Fundraising events

• Organizational updates

3. Use Design Best Practices

An email’s design is important. It should look professional and include text and visual content that intrigues and informs the reader. On top of all this, there needs to be a balance between the images and text used within the email. Classy’s designers share a few pointers to keep in mind while creating emails.

• Always use appropriate font sizes. An email with text that’s too large can be offputting,
and if the text is too small some people won’t be able to read it. As a good rule of thumb, MailChimp recommends using 22px font for headlines and 16px font for body copy.

• It’s also important to use images strategically within an email. The pictures should
capture the audience’s attention while maintaining a balanced image to text ratio.

• One last thing to remember: 66 percent of emails are read on a mobile device. This means emails need to be formatted for smaller screens and have mobile responsive design.

4. Track Your Email’s Performance

To optimize and improve the performance of an email, it’s important to keep track of some key metrics. Rather than going into data overload, focus on a few things to start. In the webinar, we dive into what metrics you should consider tracking and how you can use this data to improve your email performance over time.

• Open Rate: Percentage of people who received an email and then opened it.

• Click-Through Rate: Percentage of people who clicked on a link within an email. This can help determine who is completing the desired intent of your email.

• Subscription Growth: This will indicate whether or not your list of supporters and donors is growing.

These metrics will help you establish a baseline of your nonprofit’s email performance. It will also allow you to make smart decisions on how to improve the content and design of your communications over time.

Watch the Full Presentation

Our webinar is packed with more expert advice on how to design and create A+ emails. Check out the entire presentation for more email tips and strategies to take your communications to the next level.

  • proactivecontent

    This hits on some nice points. As an email marketing nonprofit specialist, there are a couple things to note here:

    -images can be risky — many people have images disabled on their email, so an email sent out by a nonprofit that has content that relies on images to be understood will fall short in its effectiveness. Around HALF of people have images disabled. So up to half your audience will not see your images and graphics.

    This is also why your graphics should not be too large. If the opening graphic is so large that it takes up the whole screen, so that all the text is “below the fold,” you greatly increase the chances the person will just delete it.

    So, use graphics sparingly, and do not include essential messaging as part of them.

    -Also, your point about A/B testing is right on — but it also applies to length. It is a commonly held belief that emails that are too long will not be read. But is this always true? A compelling story and an engaging subject line will. So like everything, email length should be tested, and the idea that longer is bad should not be considered as fact.

    Dan Magill

    • Hi Dan! Thanks for the comment. These are all really good points. I often find images auto-disabled on my gmail account. I have to click “show images.” I still think they’re an important part of engaging storytelling through email, especially if readers come to expect that from your organization (For example, if your nonprofit is active on Medium or has a very visual blog or website). Having good alt tags is important too, just in case! 🙂 But you’re right, the image should enhance the experience and not be relied on to tell the entire story.

      Thanks for your valuable tips!

      Terri Harel

Where social entrepreneurs go to learn and grow

Join over 20,000 leaders just like you who get their weekly dose of technology, innovation, fundraising ideas, and the latest industry trends.

Subscribe to the Classy Blog