Email Marketing for Nonprofits: Top Tools for Your Organization

Updated January 21, 2020

Email marketing is an incredibly effective channel for generating return on investment (ROI) and boosting revenue.

That said, because the goals for nonprofits differs from the email marketing goals of e-commerce companies or other small businesses, different email marketing tools are required.

Email for nonprofits often focuses on generating more — and bigger — donations rather than selling products (although some nonprofits do sell items through their websites as well).

It’s important to choose a platform that meets these needs rather than looking for the best overall email marketing tool in general. What works for a business may not work for a financial service organization or a nonprofit.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of email marketing tools that have functionality that can help nonprofits create email campaigns to engage donors and deliver results.

At a glance: The best email marketing tools for nonprofits

What to look for in a great nonprofit email marketing tool

Nonprofits have specific needs when it comes to email marketing tools, which is why there are a number of factors to consider when choosing a solution.

Pricing discount

A lot of email marketing platforms offer a pricing discount specifically for nonprofits.

Mailchimp email software has special 15% off pricing discount for nonprofits and charities. They also offer 10% off for implementing two-factor authentication.

Mailchimp’s pricing page includes details of its 15% discount for nonprofits.

These discounts are normally specified on the software’s public-facing pricing page, but sometimes you have to ask for details. Some vendors prefer to work it out on a case-by-case basis.

This offer is normally a percentage discount on your bill and varies by software vendor.

Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor offer a 15% discount, while Benchmark Email provides a 25% discount. It will be calculated after sign-up when you provide the software company with the details of your organization.

Relevant templates

People who are responsible for nonprofit email marketing are often pushed for time and need software that automates processes, but in a way that is relevant to their tasks.

That’s why you should look for email marketing software that has email templates suitable for nonprofits. This could be fundraising event templates or campaign update templates.

Using a template helps you make an email newsletter tailored to your purpose, and templates also take less time to put together.

Free plans or free trials

Budget is always going to be an issue when it comes to choosing email marketing services for nonprofits. That’s why it’s important to be sure that the tool you’re choosing is right for your organization.

Many email marketing tools offer free plans, while others provide free trials ranging from 14 days to a month. Make sure to try out the features and the usability before making a decision.

The 10 best email marketing services for your nonprofit

We’ve put together a list of the best email marketing software for nonprofits, all of which have functionality that can help you with specific tasks such as growing your donor email list, promoting fundraising events, and engaging customers to increase donations.

1. Zoho Campaigns

It’s important to get to know your donor base, to ensure you have up-to-date details so you can contact them in a timely fashion, and to make sure all interactions are stored in one place.

That way, you can make sure only one person is reaching out to your donors, that you’ve recorded their contact preferences (such as whether they prefer you to reach out via email or phone), and that you have all relevant previous interactions on hand in order to provide better service.

Zoho Campaigns contact management dashboard with subscriber information including contact information, location, custom fields, and associated lists.

Zoho Campaigns centralizes all donor information and interactions.

Zoho Campaigns has a set of contact management features that make it suitable for nonprofits. You can add custom fields to your sign-up forms and your contact management functionality to make sure you record the specific information relevant to managing your donors.

This email marketing software also brings together all donor information and interactions with your brand into one place.

The information you can add to this contact management hub is entirely customizable, but some useful details include:

  • Email segments and lists on which they are included
  • Campaigns they’ve been sent
  • Updates to their contact details
  • Social media activity

2. Mailchimp

Using autoresponders — automated series of emails triggered by customer behavior — can not only save you time, but they also increase response rates and overall engagement, such as clicks, forwards, and newsletter shares on social media.

There are a number of different campaigns you can automate, such as welcome series for when people first sign up to your mailing list, thank-you emails for when someone donates, and reengagement emails when someone hasn’t interacted with your brand for a set period of time.

Mailchimp automation screen with options including thank you responders, retargeting emails, abandoned cart emails, and purchase follow-ups.

Mailchimp provides autoresponder templates for specific types of campaigns.

Setting up these autoresponders yourself and knowing which emails to add next in the sequence can be challenging.

Mailchimp provides autoresponder templates for campaigns such as welcome series so you don’t have to set up those steps yourself. All you have to do is either create the emails or edit the email templates for your purpose.

3. Campaign Monitor

It’s important to keep track of how your email campaigns perform so you know which ones are effective, which ones you need to improve, and which aspects you can optimize to improve ROI.

When you’re running email marketing campaigns at nonprofits, this ROI often relates to donations rather than purchases. That’s why it’s key to have the tools in place to monitor which campaigns have led to donations.

Campaign Monitor and Salesforce integration screen tracking leads, deals, revenue, engagement, and campaigns in a dashboard view.

Campaign Monitor’s integration with apps such as Salesforce allows you to track campaign metrics, such as donations.

Campaign Monitor’s App Store allows you to download add-ons that you can then use to extend the email marketing solution’s capabilities to track donations through customer relationship management solutions, such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. This allows you to see which email campaigns have led to donations.

4. MailerLite

While you may think it’s OK to send most emails to all subscribers as the end goal is the same — to get them to donate — that’s not a good approach if you want your donors to feel appreciated and to trust your organization.

Imagine if you received an email thanking you for attending an event you definitely didn’t go to. Would you trust that organization with your money? That’s why it’s important to segment your customers.

Mailerlite advanced recipients screen showing a dropdown with different segmentation options, such as location, time zone, sign up date, and inactivity.

MailerLite lets you create segments based on a wide range of criteria.

MailerLite lets you segment email lists based on more than one condition and according to a wide range of criteria.

For example, you can create a segment for people who attended a fundraising event for the first time who have never donated. Then you can send them very relevant emails that are tailored to their specific circumstances and past behavior.

5. SendGrid

If you want your recipients to feel like you care about them and you aren’t just after their money, you need to treat them like humans, not numbers on a list.

Automation is great for saving time, but you need to use it hand in hand with personalization to ensure your donors get the best service.

SendGrid email editor with drag and drop features to add personalization.

SendGrid lets you add tags to your email to personalize the message.

SendGrid’s email editor makes it easier to personalize emails by letting you add any information you collect on your donors to your message.

For example, you can choose to add simple demographic data such as name, age, and location, or custom fields such as which causes they like to donate to or events they’re interested in. SendGrid automatically pulls in this data from your contact list so you don’t have to manually add it yourself for each recipient.

6. Sendinblue

Tailoring the content of your email to different stages of the donation lifecycle process is another key way you can personalize content and send your subscribers more relevant content.

This means instead of creating multiple emails for different target audiences, you can create one email and customize it according to past behavior.

Sendinblue email editor with drag-and-drop feature to add design and content elements such as text, headers, buttons, etc.

Sendinblue’s email editor allows you to display different content blocks to different recipients.

Sendinblue’s email editor includes dynamic content functionality whereby different content blocks in an email are shown to different users depending on certain conditions. This can include demographic data, such as location, or past user behavior, such as whether they’ve donated before.

7. Benchmark Email

It’s important to send a variety of content to your subscribers instead of always asking them for donations or sharing recent news. You could share case studies of how donations have helped charitable causes or create informative videos about work other nonprofits do to help their cause.

Benchmark Email template editor with drag and drop style elements for image, text, video, divider, and more.

Benchmark Email’s templates are all fully customizable.

To create these emails, it’s useful to have access to a lot of different types of templates, and to be able to tailor each one to your specific purpose. Benchmark Email provides a wide range of templates organized by industry and occasion.

You can fully customize each template, deleting, editing, and moving existing content blocks, or adding new content such as images, videos, buttons, navigation bars, and email permission reminders.

8. SendPulse

If you want to reach your ultimate goal of generating more donations from your email marketing campaigns, you need to continually grow your list. One of the best ways to do that is to create sign-up forms for your website so that people who are browsing your site can easily give you their details.

SendPulse subscription form with options to select forms such as embedded, popup, floating, or fixed

SendPulse lets you choose the type of sign-up form you want to create.

When creating these forms, it’s important to think about layout and page placement so that you can generate sign-ups that don’t disturbing visitors’ flow.

SendPulse lets you choose the type of form you want to create, for example:

  • Embedded
  • Pop-up
  • Floating
  • Fixed

You can choose either a vertical or horizontal layout for the form, and you can also edit the notification text the person receives after sign-up.

SendPulse also lets you track the success of the form in generating sign-ups using either Google Analytics or Yandex.Metrica.

9. ActiveCampaign

Email marketing works best when it’s integrated with all of your other marketing channels. That’s one of the principle email and digital marketing tips you’ll read in any Marketing 101 tips.

For example, you could use social media to generate more sign-ups for your email newsletter.

Or you could use SMS marketing and push notifications to quickly let customers know about new campaigns or urgent appeals that need their attention.

ActiveCampaign window to create an SMS message with information on sending credits, recipient, message, and scheduling.

ActiveCampaign lets you communicate with donors in different ways from the same place.

As ActiveCampaign is an all-in-one marketing suite, it provides this functionality in one channel. By integrating multiple channels in one platform, you can communicate with your donors in different ways from the same place.

For example, if they have signed up for a fundraising event, you can schedule an SMS to be sent the morning of the event to remind them.

10. GetResponse

People are busy, and they receive tons of emails every day.

It doesn’t matter that you work for a nonprofit organization, you still need to create engaging content that will cut through the noise. It’s not an easy task, but there are a couple of ways you can make your life easier.

First of all, the subject line is crucial. You need to personalize the subject line and make it interesting enough to entice people to open your newsletter. Secondly, you need to test different elements to see what resonates with your subscribers.

Every organization is different, so what works for one nonprofit might not work for another.

GetResponse A/B test function with 5 different subject line options

GetResponse lets you test different email options to see what works.

GetResponse provides a wide variety of options for A/B testing your campaigns, including subject line, delivery time, the from field, and content. It lets you test five different subject lines for each message and personalize each one.

Email marketing is essential for nonprofits

With the right email marketing software, you can save a ton of time and money by automating manual processes while improving the effectiveness of your campaigns in engaging subscribers and getting donations.

Email marketing for nonprofits is essential in the smooth running of your operations, and it frees up your time to focus on ensuring that your organization continues to do its important work in the most effective way.