The 6 Most Important Email Series for Nonprofits

March 23, 2015 | EveryAction Team

An email series is a set of pre-written emails that are sent to a user after that user takes a specific action. It can also be called a drip campaign, email workflow, or branching email campaign. You want to:

  • Increase supporter engagement

  • Raise more money

  • Reduce the pace at which you are losing subscribers or donors

  • Optimize your email marketing program

But you don’t have any more resources or capacity to spend on email marketing. Not to worry, we have 6 automated “set and forget” email series that you can setup, leave running, and reap the benefits. It’s like a delicious crockpot meal for your email list.

The Welcome Email Series

Who receives it?

A welcome series typically goes to all new supporters who subscribe to your email list.

What is it?

A series of 2–4 emails that welcome new subscribers to your organization, introduce them to your culture, and set them on the pathway to becoming a fully engaged member of your community.

Why create it?

A welcome series is your attempt at making a new friend. You have to put in significant effort upfront to ensure your supporters know that you care about them.

Having a great welcome series will increase open and click rates of all your emails (not just this email series), increase your donation rates, and decrease unsubscribe rates.

Ready to take it to the next level?

If you already have a welcome series and want to take it to the next level, there’s a few different things you can try.

Think about creating a few different welcome series based on the channel that your supporter came to you. For example, if they provided their email address through a specific petition or issue page, include content In your welcome series specific the cause they care about.

You can also try setting up A/B tests to optimize the performance of individual messages in your series. Try different subject lines to see which perform better.

You might also like to try playing with lag time between the time they subscribe and the first email they get.

Remember, the first email in a welcome series is arguably the most important. It’s an opportunity to make a great first impression with every new subscriber.

The Reengagement Series

Let’s face it. It’s hard to keep 100% of your email list engaged all the time. And it’s even harder to get someone who hasn’t interacted with you in a while to re-open one of your emails.

Who receives it?

Anyone who hasn’t opened/clicked on an email or engaged with your organization in any other way in the past 6 months

What is it?

A series of 2–3 emails aimed at getting your inactive subscribers to open/click on an email to demonstrate that they still want to hear from you. If they don’t engage, it’s time to stop sending them messages.

Why create it?  

Sending emails to a disengaged email list can have negative consequences on your spam rate and email deliverability.

Shedding the dead weight in your email lists increases the number of messages that land in inboxes, the total number of recipients that open your emails, and thereby the total number of actions/donations resulting from each email.

Less really is more when it comes to disengaged supporters.

Ready to take it to the next level?  

Test different reengagement emails to see what performs best for you. Try setting a deadline for action. Don’t be afraid to be upfront or honest in your emails.

A challenge to re-engage or go separate ways can be effective.

Sustaining Donor Upgrade Series

Who receives it?  

Sustaining donors who have reached a 12-month anniversary of their recurring donations.

What is it?

A multi-email series thanking them for their support, celebrating their anniversary with you, and asking them to upgrade their gift by ~10–20%.

In essence, this series subtly suggests that, as donors’ relationships with your organization grow, so should their support.

Why create it?

In addition to constantly expanding your sustainer pipeline, you should also be focusing on upgrading your sustainers to give more and increase their average gift.

This often yields a good return in comparison to recruiting new sustainers. It has a much higher success rate than recruitment and it expands your donations without increasing overheads.

Ready to take it to the next level?  

Test different messages, issues, and ideas to see what performs best in generating upgrades. If you have the information, you can also try segmenting your list and target sustainers with issues relevant to them.

One-time Donor Upsell Series

Who receives it?

New donors that have recently made a one-time contribution to your organization. The aim for most fundraisers is to secure continual contributions from donors, even if the dollar amount is lower than a one-off donation.

What is it?  

A multi-email series thanking new donors for their support, as well as your first opportunity to ask for a monthly contribution.

If you can demonstrate the value of sustained support in this series, you may find that those who are interested in supporting your work will be willing to support you on an ongoing basis, if you make the a good case.

Why create it?  

Sustainers give more over time, and cost less to maintain in overheads and resources, freeing them up for other opportunities. Sustainers’ contributions are worth up to four times more than those from traditional donors over the life of their giving.

Ready to take it to the next level?  

Test different messages, issues, and ideas to see what performs best in generating upgrades. You can also try different lags between the donation and the upsell email, as well as different relationships between their donation and the suggested recurring amount.

Don’t be afraid to even try asking for less up front in return for more over time.

Donor Payment Update Series

Who receives it?

Sustaining donors who regularly contribute to your organization, but whose credit card information may no longer be valid.

With the rise in popularity of automated payment services, many people forget to update their new credit card information everywhere–this series ensures your donation doesn’t get delayed any longer than necessary.

What is it?  

A multi-email series thanking donors for their ongoing support and asking them to provide updated card information so that their invaluable contributions to your organization can continue to make an impact.

Why create it?

As many as 8–15% of cards fail every month (due to expirations or card replacements) – these are your most loyal donors and they still want to give.  

By asking for updated card information you can optimize your sustainer revenue for much less than it costs to acquire new sustainers

Ready to take it to the next level?  

Test different messages to see what performs best in getting folks to update their payment details.

And it should go without saying that your donor should feel like their private information is safe in your hands; in other words, make sure your donation page doesn’t suck!

Missing Compliance Data Series

For our friends in the PAC world, or conducting fundraising efforts that require compliance rules, this email series is for you!

Who receives it?  

Any donors who meet the threshold of requiring additional data for a compliance report (eg: employer/occupation) but for whom those fields are blank.

What is it?  

An automated, multi-email campaign that continues until a donor reciprocates by providing the necessary compliance data.

Why create it?  

You need this information to be able to file your compliance report; save yourself time/frustration by having an automated email solicit the data from your donors.

This series can replace the seemingly endless “phone tag” loop or litany of unanswered messages, freeing up your staff and allowing donors to respond at their convenience.

Ready to take it to the next level?

Create a secondary ask on the form for another donation. At best, the donor will decline to donate again; at most, you’re back in compliance and just added another donation.

Want to learn more about how EveryAction can support your email campaigns? Click here for a customized tour!