How to Get People to Open Your Emails

Did you know that the average American checks their phone more than 150 times a day? While that might be shocking, it also gives you as a nonprofit leader an idea of what your supporters and donors are doing, too!

There are two major perks to using email for marketing your nonprofit. 

First, email is a quick and easy way to get your nonprofit’s name right in front of your donors and supporters, and even the people you want to serve. Even if they don’t OPEN your email, they’ll still see your nonprofit’s name, and that reminds them about your organization, and shows them that your nonprofit is alive and active.

Second, email is easy! All you need is a short paragraph or two about one topic, add a picture or two and - BAM! You’ve got an email that you can send to your targeted audience. 

According to recent research, people prefer email for communicating with the brands they’re connected with – yes, that includes your nonprofit organization. It’s also used consistently by every age group – even teenagers are using email. More people check their email every day than sign into social media, in fact, 54% of adults check their email every day before social media, and a majority check their email up to 20 times per day.

Email is not only an important part of your nonprofit organization’s marketing strategy, it is ESSENTIAL! It should absolutely be part of your focus for your nonprofit’s marketing plan.

Here are the four most important things to keep in mind if you’re going to include email in your marketing plan:

  1. Use your list. Have a tiny email list, or no subscribers at all? No worries! You can start writing while you add to your list. Nonprofits typically have two or more audiences - people you serve and donors - so create separate lists for each.

    Collect email addresses at your events. When someone drops off clothing, gifts, takes a tour, or uses your services, have your list or spreadsheet ready and train your volunteers, staff, and yourself to invite people to join your email list so they can receive updates about the good things your nonprofit does. Add the new subscriber’s information to the appropriate list.

    Tip: Only ask for their name and email address at first, asking for more might make people refuse. Make it a habit to always invite people.

  2. Pick a goal. For every email you write, choose a goal. What is the point of your email? Are you increasing awareness about your organization? Are you promoting a specific event or service? Are you asking your audience to do something, or to take action? Ask yourself, “What is my goal?” and then start writing. This will also help you keep the email short and to the point. Email can help build the “know, like and trust” factor for your audience when it is clear to them what your email is about.

  3. Pick your topic. Once you have a goal in mind, it’s so much easier to pick your topic. Have you talked or written about this topic before in a speech, Facebook post, your journal, to-do list? Re-purpose that content into your email. Make it readable, expand on the idea if necessary. It’s always so much easier when you have something to start with. Just remember to keep your goal in mind. As Donald Miller says, “If you confuse, you lose.”

  4. Keep it simple and short. Emails should be a quick and easy read and about one topic. Try to keep your emails to about 200 words, or about 20 lines. That’s just a frame of reference – if it needs to be longer, or shorter, that’s OK – but just remember, take out anything that your audience doesn’t need to know. Less is more! And if you have extra leftover email content that you’ve deleted, use that for another email in the future. 

Give your readers a reason to open and read your email. Make it uplifting and positive. 

For your donors and supporters, they want to know they’re supporting a nonprofit organization that is helping the community or a cause. You’re going to do this by giving them reasons to keep supporting you – update them on whatever issue your nonprofit deals with, let them know what kind of progress you’re making. Give them statistics of how many people you’ve served or money you’ve raised. The goal is to keep them excited and keep them engaged with your mission. Make them feel like the hero and let them know how much their support is helping to change the lives of others. But remember, keep it to one topic per email. 

Writing emails to the people you serve is a little different. Try writing emails with small, useable pieces of information that can help them in their everyday lives. You’re giving them valuable resources in your emails and showing them you’re there to help.

For example, if you were a pregnancy care center, you could give them a short list of foods to avoid eating while they’re pregnant. Or if you’re an organization that gives away free bikes to kids, you could include in your email three kid-friendly places to ride bicycles in your local area. It truly doesn’t take much content to make a great email – remember, you’re trying to keep this email about 200 words or 20 lines. Short, sweet, and helpful. Serve your audiences through email. It’s all part of building that “know, like and trust” factor.

Wrap up your emails with a call to action. Make it stand out visually, if you can. Your email isn’t just about giving lots of information – people want to know what they should do next. If you don’t tell them or point the way to do something, they’ll do nothing and go on to the next thing because they weren’t clear about what you wanted them to do. In your emails to your donors, a good call to action would be a link to where they can donate. For your emails to the people you serve, try adding your phone number or website so they can make an appointment or learn more about your services.

How often should you write? If you love writing emails and it comes easy to you, aim to email your subscribers once a week. If writing an email is a challenge, start off with a once a month goal. Consistency is key in the email marketing game, but what’s more important is committing to a goal you can achieve.

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