The Role of Email Automation in Nonprofit Marketing

The Role of Email Automation in Nonprofit Marketing

When it’s the final day of an important fundraising campaign and your team is frantically sending out last-minute calls for donations, you can’t afford to do everything manually. Email automation is a lifesaver in situations like this, but these aren’t the only times it can make a big difference for your nonprofit.

By automating your marketing and outreach emails, you can cultivate stronger relationships with donors, boost fundraising results, and easily keep your supporters in the loop. In case you haven’t tried email automation for yourself, we’ll give a basic overview of the following:

  • Why Should You Automate Nonprofit Marketing Emails?
  • What Does Email Automation Look Like?
  • 3 Tips for Maximizing Email Automation’s Effectiveness

Automating your emails doesn’t have to be complicated, as long as you have the right tools and strategies under your belt. Let’s explore why and how your organization can get started.

Why Should You Automate Nonprofit Marketing Emails?

Automating your nonprofit’s emails comes with a wealth of benefits. According to Redpath Consulting Group, email automation handles basic donor engagement needs for you so your staff can focus on aspects that need a more hands-on approach. 

And the benefits don't stop at saving staff time and energy. Automating emails also allows you to communicate with donors and constituents faster and with greater personalization. By creating automated email journeys triggered by donors’ actions, you can ensure every supporter receives the most relevant information for their needs and interests. These timely, tailored emails can boost donor engagement and lessen your staff’s workload.

What Does Email Automation Look Like?

Email automation can take different forms that vary in levels of complexity. With the right tools, you can use automation for everything from triggered donation acknowledgment emails to tailored journeys spanning weeks and including a variety of responses based on donors’ actions.

To start automating for your nonprofit, begin by covering your baseline email needs, including::

  • Donation acknowledgment: Trigger immediate donor thank-you emails whenever a donation is made, or create a stream of multiple thank-you emails that serve different purposes and are delivered across a few weeks. These could include sending matching gift information to donors who may be eligible and a post-donation survey to those who are new to your nonprofit. 
  • Event promotion and follow-up: With automation, you can schedule a series of promotional emails leading up to your event plus tailored follow-up messages for attendees. For example, you might send an email to all supporters announcing the event and linking to your event website, then send different emails based on whether supporters have visited the website, registered, responded with a no, or not taken any action. 
  • Welcome emails: Set first-time donations to trigger a welcome email series complete with an introduction to your organization, opportunities to get more involved, and information about upcoming campaigns. Consider creating a series of three or four welcome emails spaced out over the course of a month.

These are just the foundational practices; there's more to explore. You can also use email automation to re-engage lapsed donors, trigger reminders to complete donations when users abandon a form on your website, and more. 

3 Tips for Maximizing Email Automation’s Effectiveness

Automating any of your email processes will save your team time. However, you can enhance your automation efforts by following a few straightforward best practices.

1. Select the appropriate tools.

Your automation results depend largely on the technology your nonprofit uses. Spend time researching options with your team, and request board input when necessary. Schedule product demos to get an up-close look at how the software works, and ask plenty of questions.

When searching for a robust email automation solution, look for the following features:

  • Segmentation tools
  • Ability to build email journeys with branching logic
  • Reporting and data analytics
  • Intuitive, user-friendly dashboards
  • Specialized for nonprofits

Additionally, make sure your chosen solution integrates with your CRM. For example, Salesforce for Nonprofits offers many third-party marketing automation integrations, along with native integrations that seamlessly fit into the rest of your technology stack. When your automation solution can pull supporter information and preferences straight from your database, personalization is much easier. 

2. Leverage personalization techniques.

Email automation naturally leads to improved personalization, but you can take this further by using additional techniques to boost your messages’ relevance for your supporters. Consider using the following strategies:

  • Strategic segmentation: Grouping supporters together based on shared attributes and preferences is crucial for any nonprofit marketing strategy. Try creating highly specific segments, such as mid-level donors who volunteer locally or first-time donors interested in animal advocacy campaigns, to make your emails as relevant as possible.
  • Inclusion of personal details: The more details about individual supporters you can include, the better. eCardWidget’s guide to donor thank-you emails suggests including donors’ names in your subject lines and referencing their past involvement activities in the email copy. You can easily use automation to pull in details about your supporters from your donor database.
  • Using branching logic: One of the best features of automation is the ability to create pathways that send recipients in different directions based on their actions. For example, you might email one general campaign update to all supporters, then send donors down different email branches based on donation size. 

If your automation tool includes reporting features, use these reports to gauge the effectiveness of your strategies. Metrics like open and click-through rates can give you an idea of how many supporters are resonating with the emails you send and when you need to switch approaches.

3. Seek expert guidance.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to experts when you need help. There are plenty of consultants who specialize in nonprofit technology and know exactly how to help you use the best automation tools to engage your audience.

When partnering with a consultant, they’ll first get to know your nonprofit’s priorities and evaluate your existing technology. They can give recommendations on the right email automation tool to invest in, organize training for your staff, and help you develop strategies to use your system as effectively as possible to support your goals.

Make sure to choose a consultant who is familiar with the software your nonprofit uses on a daily basis. For instance, if you use Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud, you're far better off partnering with a consultant who specializes in Salesforce rather than one who primarily works with Blackbaud and has a passing knowledge of Salesforce.

After becoming proficient in email automation, you can dive into automating outreach on other platforms, as well, such as text messages and social media posts. Integrating a multichannel approach can enhance even the most comprehensive email strategy.

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