8 Rookie Email Marketing Mistakes from Nonprofits

Hillary Skeffington October 19, 2015, by Hillary Skeffington

1. No Consent

If you’re wary whether or not you have consent to Signs you don’t have customer consent, ask yourself these 2 important questions:

  1. Did you buy the list?
  2. Did you obtain the contacts through an unsolicited list?

There’s no better way to get a bad reputation for your nonprofit then sending newsletters and email campaigns to someone who hasn’t willingly subscribed to your email list. Stick the people interested in your nonprofit, and your newsletter list will grow organically.

2. No List Segmentation

A no brainer for those who have kept up with our blog, but a continuous problem for many nonprofits is segmenting your email list. Segmenting your newsletter email list allows you to curate and send content to your audience based on their interest in your nonprofit. Do they want to learn about volunteering? Are they potential donors wanting to learn more about your cause and its impacts?  More often than not, you’re creating newsletter content that is valuable to one interest group, and not as valuable for the next. A few suggestions for getting you started on segmenting your list could be;

  • Recurring donors
  • Potential donors and supporters
  • Volunteers
  • Community  business that support the nonprofit

Start with these and few of your own and begin creating newsletter and blog content specific to these subject lists.

3. Poor Subject Lines

In attempt to not sound like a broken-down record in regards to the importance of great subject lines, here’s a quick list of some of the best and worst performing words to use in nonprofit subject lines. Test them out for yourself and discover what works best for your audience.

The Best

  • You
  • Amazing
  • Snapshot
  • Today

The Worst

  • Free
  • Buy
  • Price
  • Urgent

4. Poorer Content

A bloated nonprofit newsletter can overwhelm your audience and distract them from taking away the most important part of your newsletter. Long winded messages that require scrolling down to read the entire email will deter your readers from completing the message. A good rule of thumb is not always cut your email in half before sending it. With efficient editing, you’ll be able to cut down the content to the most important part of the email, the call-to-action which could be a “donate now” plug, asking for their support, inviting them to a fundraiser, etc. Identify the purpose of the email and communicate it in the most efficient and succinct manner possible.

5. Not Mobile-Friendly

Did you know that approximately ½ emails are read on mobile devices? Today’s donors are opening emails on their phones, in their homes, and on their daily commute expecting immediate value. Optimizing your nonprofit’s newsletter will help in building a reliable relationship with your audience sparking higher open and click rates. Achieve this by using responsive images in your email content, employing font sizes and headers that convert to multiple screen sizes, and using a single-scroll template design.

6. Not Using An Email Server

If you already have a reliable list of email subscribers are looking to expand and build more, than enlisting in an email marketing server is a must. Not only do email servers such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact make it easy to send mass emails, segment email lists, and test how your campaigns are performing, but they safeguard your own email from getting blacklisted in SPAM from your audience.

7. Ignoring Statistics

If you’re already using an email marketing service, then you are probably familiar with a few analytics tools. While taking the time to understand these tools may seem low on your to-do list, these statistics offer valuable information into how your newsletter is performing and what content is being received well by your audience.

Generally, nonprofits receive a 15-17% open rate with every email, with click rates even lower. An open rate is the percentage of your audience that opened your email from their inbox, while a click rate refers to the percentage of readers that clicked the call-to-action, blog post, or other links in the email. Statistics give insight into what subject lines work best, the types of newsletter content your audience responds best and worst too, day of the week and time for best delivery, and more.

8. Mishandling Un-Subscribers

Hand-in-hand with not using an email marketing service is mishandling unsubscribers. National law requires that every email the markets a product from a nonprofit or for-profit business must have a visible unsubscribe option. If not, various consequences could result such as getting marked as spam, blacklisting your site, and more.

Hillary Skeffington

Hillary Skeffington

Hillary Skeffington is the Communications & Partnership Manager at Elevation. While Hillary started as a volunteer for nonprofits, she has recently dived into the nonprofit web design industry in efforts to provide nonprofits with quality websites so they can drive greater change with their online presence.

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