Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 52 seconds

brokeYou know we’re heading into the biggest fundraising season of the year. You also know that when you need to make immediate pleas in response to crises, email is the easiest, most direct route to reach donors on a one-on-one basis. While scores of successful fundraising campaigns have been driven through social media, the fact is that email marketing generates the highest return on investment out of any digital marketing channel.

And it’s only getting more influential. Consider this data from industry experts at The Radicati Group: by the end of 2015, the number of worldwide email users will be nearly 2.6 billion. By the end of 2019, the number of worldwide email users will increase to over 2.9 billion.

But getting results from email marketing is more than crafting a message and hitting send. Anything can happen on the way to the donor’s inbox: your message gets stopped by the Internet service provider (ISP) and flagged as spam; a donor tries to open it on their mobile device but non-mobile responsive formatting makes it difficult to open. These are just a few of the challenges that can be avoided by working with an email service provider (ESP).

You may think that as a nonprofit you can’t afford to subscribe to an email marketing company but in reality an ESP helps make you a better nonprofit marketer, at a low average cost.

High Deliverability Makes It Easy to Engage Donors
If you’re using atraditional email service like Yahoo, AOL, Outlook, or Gmail, you’re limited in how many emails you can send per day.

And it would be a shame to see all the work you put into cultivating your contacts and creating a compelling newsletter wasted when your messages ultimately end up   in a spam filter. Even if your messages get through, there’s no way to see if they were opened, if the links were clicked, or if your content was forwarded or shared on social media.

When you work with an ESP, you can send messages to all of your contacts at once. Also, since ESPs require that your emails are permission-based – meaning your supportersgave you the green light to add them to your contact list – helping ensure your messages arrive inthose inboxes. More importantly, since ESPs have established relationships with the leading ISPs, and tend to have average deliverability rates above 90%, your messages aren’t likely to get stuck in a spam filter.

Professional Design& Support
Professional looking emails have a significant impact on your ability to engage donors. Unless you have a coder on staff, your emails might not look as compelling as those sent by larger nonprofits. Adding to this challenge is the fact that more than half of all emails are opened on a mobile device. Unless your newsletter is mobile responsive, it might get overlooked.

When you work with an ESP, you can choose from hundreds of professional looking templates that are easily opened and read on a desktop or mobile device. And you can easily insert “subscribe” and “Donate Now” buttons. If you get stuck at any point, many ESPs offer support (a few even offer personal coaching). Meanwhile, if you’re having trouble formatting in Gmail or Yahoo or other traditional email services, where will you turn?

Reporting Metrics
One of the most often overlooked and time-consuming processes associated with email marketing is what to do about those notifications you receive after you send out a newsletter. You know, the ones that inform you that the email address bounced or the recipient is out of the office. Then there are the direct messages asking to be removed from your contact list. It’s easy to lose track of your contacts and their status, especially if you can’t automatically add or delete them.

An ESP enables you to manage all of your contacts in one place and automatically add new subscribers whileallowing others to easily unsubscribe. After you’ve sent your email campaign, you can see who opened, clicked, and forwarded your message, gaining valuable insight on what type of content clicks with various segments of your donor base

You Can’t Not Afford an ESP
As the original online marketing tool, email is still the most popular. When using an ESP, email allows you to easily and affordably engage directly supporters and personalize your messages in ways that social media can’t.  When you gear up for the busiest fundraising time of the year, you may also want to rethink how you’re using email to engage donors. 


By Ron Cates, director of digital marketing education at Constant Contact


Last modified on Thursday, 03 September 2015
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