Why automate your nonprofit’s marketing?

I agree, digital marketing for nonprofits can feel overwhelming sometimes. So many ways to reach your audience – with new options rolled out every day. Some days I do not want to learn one more single thing!

Now that I have that off my chest, I would like to suggest you consider one more thing: marketing automation. 

You know how when you got that new coffee maker that you could set to run automatically in the morning? Remember how it took you months to figure out how it worked? And how you realized what a beautiful thing it is to have your coffee ready for you when you wake up?

Digital marketing automation is kind of like that. Automation can strengthen your digital marketing efforts and save you valuable time.

Keep your organization growing with expert advice and all the tools you need, all in one place.

When an email is more than an email

If you’re using Constant Contact as your nonprofit marketing tool, you can (and should) design and activate an automatic “welcome” email.

Your welcome email is an awesome opportunity to make your new subscribers feel welcome and appreciated, and to show them why it was such a good idea to join your mailing list

Marketing Automation for Nonprofits - welcome email
Setting up an automated welcome email is a great way to welcome each new email subscriber as soon as they sign up for your nonprofit’s list.

Naturally, the first order of business in a welcome email is to say welcome. You also want to say thank you – after all, your new subscriber shared their email address with you! This is not to be taken for granted. They are giving you permission to contact them directly. They want to hear from you. 

While saying “welcome’ and “thank you” are top priorities, an automated email allows you to take your message up a notch. Many businesses, such as retail stores and restaurants, will offer a special coupon or discount code to people who join their lists. As a nonprofit, this will work if your organization has a gift shop or snack bar, but this isn’t going to work for every organization. You may have to be a little more creative.

A pet rescue center might offer a tip sheet for welcoming a new pet into your home, or advice on what to look for in a pet health insurance policy. A food bank could provide recipes – perhaps from local restaurant chefs? — using pantry items. A nature preservation group could send information about local hiking trails, or a guide to regional plants. The idea is to give your audience something of value to them that also aligns with your mission. And it’s as easy as creating a link in your welcome email that connects to a PDF with the information.

If you are using a smart email marketing tool, you can step up your organization’s automation game. For nonprofit organizations, this can be a real time saver as well as a digital marketing booster. 

A good place to start is with a “welcome series” of emails. Building on the initial welcome email discussed above, a welcome series will follow that initial email with one or two more emails designed to deepen the connection between your organization and your new follower. 

A few days after sending your initial welcome, for example, many email marketers recommend a second email that invites your follower to connect with you via social media. This brings the individual into your loop of regular updates to the community. A third email might be designed to lead the follower to a particular page on your website – perhaps your upcoming events page. You will create a powerful digital marketing circle for everyone who joins your mailing list – email marketing, social media, and website.

Marketing Automation for Nonprofits - connect email
Turn your welcome email into a welcome series by following up with an automated “invitation to connect” email.

Take note: nowhere in the welcome series are we asking for contributions of money or time. The welcome series is a relationship-building strategy, a time when your new follower gets to know and trust you.

Other email automation options

Once the welcome series is up and running, pat yourself on the back, knowing that you have created a digital marketing masterpiece. When you’re ready for more, here are additional ideas for automating your email marketing program. 

Re-sending emails to non-openers

This requires three really simple steps. When you’re scheduling your Constant Contact email, say yes to the question, “Send to non-openers?” The system will ask you to decide how many days to let go by to give people a chance to open your email before sending it again. Then you will be asked to provide an alternate email subject line. This is optional, but it does give you an opportunity to try a different subject line that may be more compelling to the recipient.

List segmentation 

Segmenting your contact list can add to the efficiency – and effectiveness – of your email campaigns. Your clients may have very different needs and interests than your volunteers and donors. By segmenting your list, you can do a better job of ensuring that everyone on your list is receiving the information they came to you seeking. 

Drip campaigns

This is a slangy way of referring to a series of emails scheduled in the run-up to an event or donation campaign, such as Giving Tuesday. Just as with any other event or campaign planning, you’ll need to work backwards from the goal or event date. With email automation, you can design and schedule your series in advance. 

One word of caution: Keep an eye out for current events that might be at odds with pre-scheduled messages. A major local or national event or even a change at your organization could require revisions to language, images, or circulation date to avoid sending a message that is suddenly irrelevant or worse, inappropriate.

How much is too much?

Every audience is different, and you will need to do some testing to get a better sense of the right frequency. Your donors may want more communications than your clients, for example. Constant Contact now provides a calendar view of your scheduled emails, which will help you to avoid overloads – especially if you have more than one staff member or volunteer preparing email campaigns. 

Putting the social calendar on cruise control

Social media posts can be automated as well. It is easy to connect your social media accounts to your Constant Contact account and from there, you can pre-schedule your posts. As with email pre-scheduling, just be sure to keep an eye on what’s going on around you, to make sure your messages remain relevant.

The benefits are clear 

Yes, digital marketing requires consistent activity, but it doesn’t have to take up all of your time and attention. Time-saving automation features make it easier than ever to market like a pro.