How NOT to do nonprofit email marketing

in Copywriting - Nonprofit,Email,Online Fundraising

People need to know WHY you’re sending them an email.

Is it to simply share a story of the great work donors and members are doing through their support of your nonprofit? 

Is it to ask them to sign an electronic petition? 

Is it to ask them to support your charity?  Or is it to ask them to register for a conference your association offers? 

Whatever you write … and whatever your purpose is … you must make it CLEAR why you’re writing and what you want the reader to do.

Don’t take this approach

I recently received an email from a charity and I have no idea why they sent it or what they expect me to do. 

Here is the COMPLETE text of their message:

We’re new and struggling.  Just thought you should know about us. [link to their website]

I kid you not.  That is the entire message.

Granted; it wasn’t a blast email to a list.  Errr, at least I’m reasonably certain it was sent only to me.  Nonetheless, doesn’t everyone deserve the courtesy of a clear message?

You might be thinking, “Yeah but Karen, our nonprofit would never send out something like that to our subscribers so why cite it as an example?”

I cite it as an example because I believe far too many emails aren’t much more explicit than this one was … even when they have more copy.  And it also goes to “frame of mind.”  If he did this with me what’s the probability he’ll do a “180” and write a great email to a list of prospects or donors?

Common email weaknesses

The email I received illustrates at least 5 common weaknesses of nonprofit emails:

The sender wasn’t thinking like the reader.

The sender was absorbed in his own world and zipped something off in a hurry which did nothing to enhance my impression of the organization. 

The sender forgot that prospects, donors, members and other supporters are also busy people!  We’re not going to spend time deciphering the message.  Plus I believe the sender will quickly find that being small and new doesn’t get them much slack from readers. 

The sender thought they were clear but unfortunately they weren’t even close to being clear. 

The sender didn’t tell me what they hoped I would do.  There was no call-to-action or statement similar to, “I’m writing you today because …”

Don’t get lazy with your nonprofit email marketing.  Everything you do creates an impression that either builds your image or chips away at it.

More nonprofit email help from Zapp Nonprofit Blog:

7 Guidelines for Emails Readers Respond To

Hurricanes, Mysteries and Fundraising