How to Develop a Personalized Nonprofit Email Strategy

Year after year, nonprofits lose an average of 55% of their donors. Why? A study conducted by fundraising researcher, Penelope Burk revealed that 53% of donors cite issues around nonprofits’ communication efforts.

What’s happening?

Our heavy dependence on technology in 2020 helped us all to realize what’s been true all along: that people desire human connection and to feel like an integral part in inspiring a better future. Without tapping into that passion in your donors, donating to your organization can feel more like a transaction than a community transformation. It’s crucial that your every interaction reminds them how critical they are to the impact you’re making together.

How do you improve donor retention? Start with your donor engagement.

When you shift your focus to the future, everything else will fall into place. Rather than get caught up in checklists and day-to-day tasks, remind yourself, your team, and most importantly, your donors, that every action your team is taking – no matter how mundane it may feel – is bringing your entire community closer to your shared goal.

Think of your mission as one big goal thermometer with milestones along the way. Celebrate every step with your donors and remind them that it’s your partnership with them that makes your work possible.

Fundraising Goal Thermometer Example

Adding a personal touch to your donor communications doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming. Here’s how to do it efficiently with tools that optimize your outreach.

  1. Identify your audience for messaging that resonates
  2. Segment your broad scope messaging to speak to specifics
  3. Use data to personalize your direct email outreach
  4. Keep donors engaged with automated workflows and scheduled outreach
  5. Be transparent with your donor communication across teams
  6. Make donors feel included with automated thank-yous
  7. Surprise your donors with a video email message
  8. Provide updates with automated nonprofit email campaigns

Personalization Idea #1

Identify your audience for messaging that resonates

Before you write up a truly heartfelt message to your donors, identify who they are! It sounds like a simple concept, but on a larger scale – your entire donor community – how do you get started?

With donor persona research tools, it doesn’t have to be a guessing game. In fact, you can get a breakdown of your donor demographics, then tailor your messaging to speak to each segment among your supporters.

Personalization Idea #2

Segment your broad scope messaging to speak to specifics

It’s understandable that it’s too time-consuming to send one-off emails to each and every one of your donors. However, there’s a way you can make your message personal even if all your donors are set to receive the same message – it just takes a little setup.

In this case, you can create messaging for your donors based on their accrued giving level and write your message based on each level. This way, you’ll remind your donors how they’ve made your mission possible in the past.

Let’s say you have a range of donors with accrued giving of $5,000-$10,000 over the last five years. Whatever the exact amount, your CRM can fill this information in using related fields in your database. Your messaging might look like:

example of a message to a donor

Personalization Idea #3

Use data to personalize your direct email outreach

What happens when you ask your staff or a volunteer to follow up with a donor they don’t know? Let your data be their guide. Some fundraising software systems store each of your donors’ most updated metrics atop their record for your entire team to reference.

Having quick access to the details of your donors’ history with your organization will help give your staff a snapshot of who they’re reaching out to.

Personalization Idea #4

Keep donors engaged with automated workflows and scheduled outreach

Assigning donor follow-ups among your team can help you save time, but even the planning itself can be time-consuming. The good news is, there’s a way to automate that, too.

Every time you save an email from your donor into their record, you can set your fundraising software to automatically delegate a follow-up action to someone on your team, however many days, months, or years later.

Personalization Idea #5

Be transparent with your donor communication across teams

Consistent communication is key to cultivating lifelong donor relationships. However, if you delegate tasks, not everyone on your team will know who the donor is. In this case, it’s important that any staff member or volunteer can pick up where you left off by managing your email threads in one place: your donor record. On your donor’s end, the transition will appear seamless.

Personalization Idea #6

Make donors feel included with automated thank-yous

Let’s review the thank-you email your donors will receive upon completing an online donation. Does this sound familiar?

example one of donor thank you email

Sounds good, right?

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that message, but what it may insinuate is that your donor is on the outside of your mission, contributing only to help you do the work. This feels more like a transaction, as if the work isn’t happening with them.

With just a few tweaks, you can transform your messaging to remind your donor that they’re an integral part of the work because you share the same values, and you’re taking action together:

example two of donor thank you email

Personalization Idea #7

Surprise your donors with a video email message

To make your donor feel like a valued member of your donor community, connect with them in ways they already feel comfortable engaging. For example, 80% of all media is consumed through video. The simple fact is that it’s just more engaging, and people will appreciate the extra effort.

You might use this strategy in an email to personally invite them to an event, provide an exclusive impact update, or individually thank them for an exceptionally large gift.

Along with your video message, your email could say:

example of video message email

Personalization Idea #8

Provide updates with automated nonprofit email campaigns

It can’t be stressed enough that once your donor gives, you must tell them what exactly they’ve funded and how important every dollar is to the future of your cause. By staying forward-focused and including donors in regular updates, your donors will feel like part of the journey toward your goal.

But again, time.

Today’s nonprofit email marketing tools can make this very important step set-it-and-forget-it. That way, every time there’s a new development, you’d only have to modify the message in your template.

Helping all of your donors to feel the love through an email can be a challenge, but by reminding donors how important they truly are to achieving your fundraising goals, you’re in for a lifetime of camaraderie in making an impact with your donors.

Fine-Tune Your Donor Outreach with The Donor Persona Checklist

by Laura Bucher

Aug 3 21
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