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How Often Should I Email My Donors?

It's a question we get all the time! In this article, we'll share our answers.

How Often Should I Email My Donors?

How often? Often enough that they remember you. But not so often that you bug them. And make sure you have the most engaging message. And there’s a good time of day to send them. Like Goldilocks, your job is to find the answer that’s just right.

We can help! Nonprofits are our business, and helping nonprofits raise lots of money for worthy causes puts a spring in our step and a song in our hearts. Let’s take a quick look at some of the best practices we advise when it comes to sending nonprofit emails, and then we’ll look at how often you should be reaching out.

Email Marketing for Nonprofits

The key to a strong email campaign, and a strong nonprofit, is advanced, reliable technology. Since this is advice we give our clients, we know they have a robust nonprofit CRM.

If you don’t, pay attention to the following! It's what your CRM should be able to do to help you use email to maximize email marketing for nonprofits. 

  1. Segment Your Donors. This enables you to send highly personalized emails, which greatly increases your chances of engagement.
  2. Send Content That Matters. Put yourself in your donors’ shoes and ask yourself, “Why would I care about this?” An in-depth bio on your executive director might not be the most fascinating content for your donors. But a case study of some boots-on-the-ground good made possible by donations? p.
  3. Ask for the “Pain in the Butt” Number. Not really, but when you get a new donor, ask them about their communication preferences. And not just “email me” or “don’t email me,” but list the types of content you like to send and have them check the boxes of the material they’d like to see and how often they want to see it. (Added bonus: if no one ever clicks on something, you can ditch it. You’re constantly curating your content based on what your constituents want to see.)
  4. A/B for the Win. A/B testing, that is. And if that sounds like marketing jargon, it’s actually quite simple. Send the same email to two groups of people and change one thing about it. It can be the tone of your message, your subject line, or even the time of day. See which gets more clicks and donations. Iteratively, you’ll arrive at a perfect email.
  5. Plan Your Year. Don’t be spontaneous when it comes to your email campaigns. Think about those campaigns you’ll want to run: end-of-year, fundraising, matching gifts, capital campaigns. Then map out how many emails are in each, and the cadence you want for the sends, and back into a year-long calendar. You’ll be amazed by how a little organization around campaigns reduces your stress.
  6. Measure your Metrics. Use that fabulous CRM to run reports. What’s your email deliverability rate? Open rate, click-through rates, abandonment at donation form, successful donation, unsubscribe rates? When one number is lower than you’d like, zoom in and fix that one element before moving on to something else. With the right technology, you’ll know what’s wrong. With the right partner, you’ll fix it.
  7. Don’t Be Boring. Your supporters, like all of us, get a million emails a day. Inject personality into your emails. Send pictures and tell stories. Vary the content, so they never know exactly what to expect. Over time, you’ll develop a voice that will make your campaigns even more effective.
  8. Tie in Social Media. If you’re throwing a stat into an email, put it on Twitter, too. Same with a case study, a testimonial, a fundraising effort or result. Get your name and your mission where people are - that means social media is a good target.

Email Frequency: What Works?

Our rule of thumb is that every email sequence should have three to five emails, and they should each have a few days in between. Every communication should be purposeful and have a call to action or element of engagement the recipient can choose.

More than five emails in a series, and you’re bugging donors. Don’t do it!

Let’s take a welcome series, which is a really common series for all our clients, and take a look at how often you might send emails.

Within 24 Hours: Send a personalized thank-you email. Thank them for their specific donation and tell them how it will be used, if you can. If not, reiterate your mission. Offer a link to your website, or even better, to case studies or results pages on your website. If they click, that’s valuable information to have as it shows engagement and interest.

A Week Later: An introduction email is appropriate here. You can get a little more in-depth talking about your programs or events you have planned. If there’s something to get excited about, like an annual gala, start talking about it. Your goal is to get them to learn more about your nonprofit and see different ways they can get involved. Your call to action here could be a “learn more” button next to a program description or event.

Two Weeks later: Talk about your impact and the good you’ve done. Share case studies, success stories, anything compelling that will get them invested in your success. If you have this content in the form of a newsletter, send it now, with an option to unsubscribe. Your newsletter can have a “donate now” button as a permanent feature, but don’t ask for donations beyond that.

Three Weeks Later: This is an invitation email. Highlight a year-end campaign, an auction, a peer-to-peer campaign. Start a drumbeat of excitement around something you have planned. Include a button to donate, volunteer, or participate in some way. Always offer a few choices so that those who want to click a donate button can do that, and those that want to serve at the soup kitchen can do that.

One Month Later: Finally, send a “how-are-we-doing” survey. Many CRMs have this functionality built in, which is helpful because the technology can analyze the data.

As you can see, we start with a heartfelt and personal message of thanks. We move to sharing more about your nonprofit, then we highlight how much good you can do thanks to your donors. Then you ask for a donation of time or money (and, if they say yes, you think about adding them to a sustainer development campaign in the future). Finally, you ask for feedback so that you can fine-tune your approach and your communications.

Last Thoughts on Crafting Good Emails

Despite the length of this article, we do believe fewer words are better. Have a clear message and communicate it concisely, but be sure to inject personality, stories, humor, and humanity.

Respect unsubscribes. If you don’t, the consequences can impact your email deliverability.

And choose your partner wisely. You want superior technology that won’t be sunset, and you want a team that can advise you on how to raise the most money using the most fundraising tools. If you’ve got great technology and a great team, you’re ready to roll. If not, give us a buzz.