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It's time to start planning for the holidays. Retailers have been aggressively planning their marketing strategies for months. In these stressful economic times, it is more important than ever to build messages that resonate with your audience. Like retailers, nonprofits should be thinking about how they can tell their story and leverage the holiday season.

In this article, we'll discuss some techniques that nonprofits can use to bolster revenue and solicit support from members through email and online tactics.

Gift a Membership

Most nonprofits have a devoted fan base, and many of their members spend time with friends with similar interests. These friends might be excellent member prospects for your organization. The trick is to offer your members a simple way to buy gifted memberships.

The most economical solution is to do so via your Web site—and marketed through an email marketing campaign.

The first step is to setup some kind of payment system. If you're a small nonprofit, you may not have an advanced CRM or e-commerce solution that allows you to create a seamless payment process. That's okay. There are plenty of inexpensive solutions that will handle this for you.

One of the industry leaders is PayPal, which allows you to add a secure button on your Web site to direct users to PayPal's secure server for processing. The transaction occurs on their side, providing security and safety. There's no upfront fee—you pay a small percentage of each transaction.

How does email marketing play a role in this scenario? There's no better way to market an online offer than on your Web site and through your targeted contact list. Ensure that members are aware of the offer, and make it attractive. Don't dump ten paragraphs of text in your email campaign manager and hit send—you'll be disappointed by the results. Find a good designer to create an email-friendly offer that will engage your audience.

Make It Personal

Whatever you are offering, make the message personal and heartfelt. Perhaps you're trying to raise money for cancer. If so, tell a success story. Talk about a survivor. People respond to emotion. A list of names is rarely moving. A picture with a story about someone overcoming a disease or challenge is far more compelling.

This strategy is a well-known marketing technique and can be applied to any nonprofit model. Review your target audience and find a success story. Keep the content engaging by ensuring that the story is something to which most of your members can relate. Show them where their money is going and ask them to show others why they should be supporting you as well.

As you're planning your email marketing, make sure you're building these success stories into your campaigns. Again, don't just send text. Design the email with colors, photos, and links back to your Web site. Link them to pages that are strategically designed to bring about action: Donate Now! Sign-up for your Membership today!

If they've clicked a link on your email and made it to your Web site, they're interested. Don't let them off the hook. Think of your email as the entry point. Once they click, they've entered your sales channel. Keep them moving down the "sales" pipeline. Make the track clear and direct.

Tell them what you want them to do and make it easy for them to do it.

It's Tax Deductible!

Don't forget the power of the almighty dollar. Everyone likes to save money. As a nonprofit, generally speaking, any donation will be tax deductible. Make that evident within your marketing collateral and make it easy for recipients to collect the documentation they need for tax returns.

Highlight Your Organizational Success

What exciting things have occurred at your nonprofit this year? Have you made new hires? Did you move into a new office? Did your staff double? Did the number of members triple?

Your members want to hear about your success. Tell them how their support helped you grow and prosper. Ensure you do more than just talk about the exciting events. Show them! Include images that reinforce your success stories.


Most shoppers are looking for good deals. How can you market your services as a bargain? This might be a great time to offer a membership special. Offer a renewal at a discount. It doesn't have to be an outrageous discount. Like your membership gift program, make it easy to renew.

If you don't have an online center to purchase memberships, set one up to accompany your email marketing campaign. Remember, when in doubt, PayPal. It might not always be sexy, but it gets the money from the customer's account into yours.

Say Thanks to Corporate Sponsors

The holidays are an excellent time to say thank you to major stakeholders. Designing a specialized sponsor campaign for your major corporate supporters is a cost-effective way of letting them know you appreciate their efforts.

Personalize the campaign with information about their level of support. People respond to one-to-one communication far more than a blanket email. Remind them how much they gave and let them know who benefited from the support.

Building lasting relationships with corporate sponsors is critical to maintaining the growth of your nonprofit.

Consider including sponsor logos or company names on other email marketing holiday communications that goes to your members. For top-tier sponsors, link their logo to their homepage. This is an excellent way of providing them with premium exposure within your membership base.

You might go one step further and add a special page for sponsors on your Web site that includes logos and the links.


Nonprofits have an excellent opportunity to leverage their support base during the holidays. Email marketing is an ideal medium for soliciting that support.

The key to any successful email marketing campaign is planning. Don't count on email as a last-minute channel to bolster support. Instead, make it a tactic with thoughtful planning and execution.

Email allows the user an opportunity to easily learn more and to act. Make certain that you are providing them with plenty of opportunities to donate and give to your organization. Create landing pages that reinforce your messaging.

Most importantly, don't make them guess at what you're asking them to do. The intent of your communication should always be easy to understand and engaging. 

Continue reading "Holiday Email Tactics for Nonprofits" ... Read the full article

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Winston Bowden is marketing and sales manager at Durham-based Contactology ( Reach him via

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