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Email Marketing for Nonprofits

by Winston Bowden  |  
May 13, 2008
  |  10,187 views

Nonprofits are confronted with many of the questions that any other enterprise, small or large, often ponders: How do I connect with my customers? Which communication vehicle will provide my organization with the highest return on investment? How can I determine what my target market wants?

While many of our corporate friends have turned to email marketing to help answer these questions, the concept is comparatively new to nonprofits. Email marketing may not be the silver bullet for every problem, but it provides us with an efficient and affordable tool to communicate with our constituents.

Whether you're launching a membership drive, soliciting donations, or selling tickets to a fundraising event, email marketing can provide the biggest bang for your buck. This article provides information on how to develop successful email marketing tactics and strategies that can be applied both to nonprofits and to businesses.

Step 1: Building your contact list

There are dozens of articles on how to build an effective email list, and most will identify similar strategies:

  • Face-to-face sign-up sheet
  • Paid search
  • Search engine optimization
  • A link to your subscription center on your signature line
  • A link on your online donation or event-registration checkout


These tactics are tried and true. There are dozens of others, but as email marketers know, the biggest taboos are rented or purchased lists. Our goal when helping a nonprofit build its initial contact list is to create a strong group of members who have specifically requested information from the organization.

The Visual Art Exchange (VAE) is a Raleigh, NC-based nonprofit that supports emerging artists in the local community. VAE receives the majority of email sign-ups not from the Web but from visitors to its art gallery in downtown Raleigh.

Whether you have a retail face to your nonprofit or you simply have a pen and paper at your office's front desk, do not underestimate the power of face-to-face sign-ups.


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Winston Bowden is marketing and sales manager at Durham-based Contactology (www.contactology.com). Reach him via wbowden@contactology.com.

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