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A well-timed email marketing message to the right people is like marketing gold—it can help your nonprofit expand its reach, grow its donor base, recruit volunteers and drive donations, all from the comfort of your audience’s inboxes.

The key to email marketing success: An email marketing platform built with automation and customization capabilities, so it can make the above happen without hassle. (We might know about a few and can give you recs.)

At Firespring, we’ve made effective email marketing easy for nonprofits like yours with an email marketing tool that integrates right into our nonprofit websites. Once you have a well-oiled email marketing platform all set up and ready to roll, we recommend sending these five types of emails in order to create best engagement and ROI results.

1. Welcome

When someone volunteers, donates or simply signs up to receive your emails, welcome them to your community and your cause with an engaging, informative email. Welcome emails get four times higher open rates and five times higher click-through rates than traditional emails, according to Experian. The best welcome emails are friendly and engaging with a clear CTA for your recipient to learn more about your nonprofit. You can send them to a landing page on your website, ask them to follow you on social, show other ways they can interact with your org (volunteer, attend an event, etc.) or even ask for their address so you can send them a gift (branded swag keeps you on their minds).

2. Fundraising appeals

No matter the type of campaign or theme of your fundraising appeal emails, a good ask has these three elements:

  • A strong case for support (your why)
  • A concise explanation of how the funds will be used (your who and/or how)
  • A clear call to action that links people directly to a donation page—not your homepage (your where)

This last point is especially important—you want to get your audience as close to a Donate Now button as possible without asking them to navigate around your website. It’s worth your time to be sure you have a seamless flow from your email to your donation pages: Email-based marketing and promotional campaigns generate approximately 28% of all online nonprofit revenue, according to Double the Donation.

3. Marketing emails

When we say “marketing,” that’s for your ears and eyes only—you don’t want your marketing emails to scream “marketing!” to your audience, right? Nobody likes a sales pitch. All kinds of emails could fall under the category of “marketing”—a monthly newsletter, a synopsis of your latest blog content, an update on a fundraising campaign, a donor appreciation email, a letter from your director and much more. What makes them “marketing” is that you’re engaging your audience and asking them to interact in some way with your org: volunteer, register for an event, donate to a campaign, subscribe to your blog and the like. Even a “thank you” email post-donation can have a strong call to action (preferably not asking for another donation).

A lot of nonprofits ask, “How many emails is too many?” That’s a tough one, because every business and organization is different—there’s no hard and fast rule. But think about frequency like this: You want to keep your audience engaged, so don’t let too much time lapse between emails that you drop off your audience’s radar. On the other hand, every message that you send to someone’s inbox carries the risk of an unsubscribe, so you don’t want to send emails so often that people feel spammed, and they decide to bounce. The key is to test and find that sweet spot for your org and your audience.

4. Milestones

People love to be recognized, and this is where good email customization practices come in. Milestone emails are those that recognize and celebrate a special moment in your recipient’s life: a birthday (or half-birthday, which is fun and different!), their “first donation” anniversary, a certain number of hours volunteered or events attended. These types of emails can be customized and automated so they land in your recipient’s inbox at just the right time. The goal of these emails is simply to make your audience feel appreciated. That’s it, that’s the objective—to leave warm fuzzies in their inbox.

You can go a step further and send a gift card, branded swag or a small gift, but these types of emails don’t need to have a strong call to action that asks something of your recipient—in fact, that could turn your warm fuzzies into a cold shoulder. Keep it focused on them and their milestones and simply celebrate them.

5. Announcements

Opening up a new location for, say a shelter, a food bank or a school? Got an event coming up? Offering a new service or expanding into a new region? These are all types of announcement emails—they’re focused on presenting new information and alerting your audience that “hey, something cool is happening, and you’re the first to know about it.” Keep these types of emails light on copy so people don’t have to scroll to figure out what the news is—your message/announcement should be short, sweet and above the fold with a CTA that invites users to learn more on your website (preferably a landing page vs. your homepage).


One more idea: a drip campaign. A drip campaign is a series of emails that accomplish a specific goal, like re-engaging donors who’ve lapsed or onboarding new supporters or volunteers. Not familiar? Learn more about email drip campaigns and how they can be an effective marketing tool.

Firespring Email Marketing

The Firespring email marketing platform integrates directly into our nonprofit websites, which means you can easily capture email addresses, segment your audience into the appropriate list and automate the most relevant messages for each subscriber. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. Chat with one of our email marketing experts to see if this would be a good fit for your organization.