As you likely know, a dedicated nonprofit fundraiser is one of the top ways to earn revenue for your mission. However, in order to attract supporters and collect gifts, you need a strong marketing strategy to promote that fundraiser.

Usually, nonprofit marketing strategies involve a combination of digital media, print resources and in-person efforts. Fundraisers, whether an online peer-to-peer (P2P) campaign or a charity auction event, thrive under a combination of efforts that genuinely engage donors and aim to build meaningful relationships with them. However, due to COVID-19, you likely paused face-to-face tactics and prioritized your digital marketing channels instead.

Email marketing is one of the most important and effective ways to reach your audience and provide them with valuable communications. But it’s not enough to just send your supporters a mass email telling them about an upcoming fundraiser. It takes a dedicated communications strategy and comprehensive email marketing tool. 

To learn more about how email can help promote your fundraiser, let’s explore the following steps:

  • Sending an email blast
  • Creating targeted content
  • Setting up the stage for future engagement

Send an Email Blast

To get started with promoting your upcoming nonprofit fundraiser, send out an email blast to your existing supporters. This gets your audience thinking about your mission and introduces the fundraiser. 

Send this email blast to your entire donor email list, not just your most passionate and consistent donors. While the latter is the most likely to respond and act on your fundraiser, your other supporters will still appreciate getting an update on your organization. If they cannot give or participate during this time, encourage them to share the fundraiser on social media so that it can potentially reach an even greater audience!

What should your email blast include? For example, let’s say you’re planning an online-based charity auction. Make sure the email blast has the following information:

  • Description of the upcoming fundraiser with the date(s) of the auction and impact you hope to bring. This shouldn’t be too long, as your donor email list already knows your general mission. Keep this to one or two short paragraphs, and make sure you hit the essential details in the first one. For your online auction, make sure to include how participants can sign up, what the fundraising goal is, and a link to the dedicated event with a more in-depth description and information on the auction items.
  • A compelling subject line that invites the user to click the email. Some good examples for your auction event are: “[Name], Want To Help Feed XX Hungry Kids?” or “[Name], Win a Trip to XX at the 2021 Annual Gala!” The average email open rate is only 17.8%, so if you can add an element to help your email stand out, it’s definitely worth it. An engaging subject line should capture the reader’s attention and let them know what the content of the email will entail.
  • Clear and actionable next steps. What’s the point of an email blast if it doesn’t encourage the reader to take any action. While it’s great to introduce your fundraiser, make sure your email also has clear next steps. For your charity auction, you should include a link to the registration form, as well as your dedicated event page on your website. For those who can’t participate, encourage them to take the next steps by sharing the auction on social media with an eye-catching and clear button that lets them do just that!

This email blast is only the beginning of your email marketing campaign, so don’t worry if your supporters don’t immediately sign up for your online charity auction. But if they do want to participate right off the bat, your email blast should provide all the necessary information and links to do so.

Create Targeted Content

With an integrated email marketing solution, you can create targeted content and provide more value for your recipients. This can prove to be tremendously beneficial when promoting a fundraiser. With 10s to 100s of emails flooding a person’s inbox each week, it’s more likely for an individual to open and engage with targeted messages as opposed to generally written ones — this applies to both the subject line and the email content.

To create more targeted email content for your supporters, many fundraising professionals will segment their audience. This involves grouping your donors by key metrics and generating email marketing content catered specifically to them. In general, a strong marketing strategy comes from utilizing data. Take a look at your fundraising database and donor profiles and consider the best ways you might segment your audience for this specific fundraiser.

Let’s consider your online charity auction again. Taking insight from this comprehensive DNL OmniMedia article on donor segmentation, here’s how you might separate and group your own supporters for this type of fundraiser:

  • Engagement type: Depending on if the recipient has participated in peer-to-peer campaigns, are donors, volunteers, or advocates, how you promote your upcoming fundraiser to them should differ. For your charity auction, consider segmenting your marketing emails based on past event attendees, new registrants, donors, and volunteers. This way, you can create targeted content for each engagement type. Specifically, past attendees might get an email calling back to another online successful auction, while new registrants might receive content with more details introducing them to how the auction will work. 
  • Gift type: Not every donor gives in the same way. There are one-time donors, recurring donors, major donors, first-time donors, and year-end donors to consider. The same goes for your online charity auction. As you email these donor-types about your fundraiser, make sure to call back to their specific type of engagement. For example, let’s say you segment your recurring donors. When drafting an email to them inviting them to your charity auction, make sure to include how that donor’s consistent support is crucial to your organization’s success and accomplishments. The same goes with your other donor types. With your major donors, ensure you emphasize their generous gift as an integral part of your organization’s accomplishments. Showing ample donor appreciation is key, especially if you want them to continue supporting your cause. 
  • Engagement level: Different from engagement type, engagement level describes your lapsed donors, regular donors, sporadic donors, and events-based donors. After all, you likely wouldn’t talk to your regular donors the same you would those who haven’t given in a while. If you do segment your lapsed donors, you can start your email content by referencing some of the recent accomplishments your organization has done. This shows them that you have still been taking action since they’ve last given. Remember to acknowledge that you know they haven’t given in a while, but that support has still made a meaningful difference to your mission, and that it can again with your new fundraiser!

Deciding on how you’re going to segment your email recipients will depend on the fundraiser at hand. For your online charity auction, you’ll likely find success in segmenting by engagement type and sticking to three or four groups. After all, you do need to create separate email content and tactics targeting those groups, so creating too many segments can get overwhelming.

Remember, while you are drafting these emails with the context of the segmented audience, each marketing material should still end with a clear call-to-action, like a link to a donation page, event registration page or social sharing options.

Set the Stage for Future Engagement

While your emails promoting your upcoming fundraiser should obviously describe the fundraiser and inspire your supporters to take action, it should also leave room for future engagement. While acquiring new gifts is always a plus, your marketing emails and communications should foster donor relationships and set up the stage for long-term support.

For example, as we’ve mentioned earlier, putting social media connections in your marketing emails encourages readers to share the campaign with their own network of friends and family. On top of that, it also opens another channel of engagement between you and the supporter. 

Around seven-in-ten Americans depend on social media to engage with each other, learn about news, and share content. When you encourage and point to social media in your email, you’re providing the opportunity to engage with supporters where they are already active. They might even follow you and receive additional information on the fundraiser at hand, as well as future opportunities.

Sending appreciation and thank you emails

Another way to set up the stage for future engagement is through appreciation and thank-you emails. If a supporter does participate in or give to your upcoming fundraiser, they should also receive an email summarizing their donation and how it will benefit your mission. This is a great opportunity to display your appreciation for the donor and emphasize how your impact would not be the same without their gift.

For your online charity auction, use your appreciation email to wrap up the event, thank them for the item they bidded on, and summarize the overall impact of the fundraiser. If they don’t yet have the item, you should also include details on how that item can be received.

A well-written thank you email will show supporters that their gift is truly valued and might inspire them to continue donating to your cause. Within this thank you email, consider including links that allow the reader to opt-in to future email engagements on other opportunities such as volunteer events or other virtual fundraising experiences.

For help drafting your appreciation emails, Fundraising Letters has a resource of different templates you can use based on the organization type and fundraiser. While these aren’t emails persay, these templates can still provide guidance for your emails and help you hit the essential points. To explore additional email-specific tips, this article on asking for donations with email can provide some expert guidance.

As you’re brainstorming ways to promote your upcoming fundraiser, don’t worry about how the lack of face-to-face communication may put a strain on your engagements. With email marketing tools and a dedicated online communication strategy, you still can effectively spread the word on your mission and attract donors in personal and meaningful ways.