One day, when Genevieve Piturro was volunteering at a shelter for homeless children in New York City, she decided to bring 12 pairs of pajamas to help the kids get ready for bed.

When she arrived, she was surprised at the reaction: some children didn’t know what pajamas were. They had always just slept in their clothes.

This didn’t sit well with Genevieve, so in 2001 she started The Pajama Program, an organization meant to help combat that problem by giving new pajamas—and books—to children in shelters, group homes, and other places where there was a need.

In 2008, Beth Weise Moeller, owner of Interactive Media Consulting, jumped in to help promote Pajama Program’s mission even further by getting the organization started with Email Marketing from Constant Contact.

Pajama Program started sending out emails asking for donations for the program and now, according to Terri Jasen, National Program Director, these donation emails raise around $1,000 with each mailing.

How’d they do it? By keeping things short and sweet!

The art of focus

Beth helped Pajama Program get started with email marketing by importing their mailing list into Constant Contact and helping them find the right templates for their newsletters.

From there, she says, “They ran with it.”

Terri explains turning to email marketing proved to be a huge benefit for the program. “Before Constant Contact, we were sending direct mail newsletters out that cost a lot of money and we didn’t see a lot of return.”

Beth helped Pajama Program with best practices, too. She made sure that the organization directed traffic back to the main website and, above all, kept things simple.

“A lot of my clients want to write long, lengthy emails, but I always tell them to keep things short and focused,” she says.

Terri agrees with that approach. “The simpler emails tend to have a better response. Mostly, those are the ones that seem personal and aren’t too long.”

The Oprah effect

Pajama Program also benefited immensely from one media giant with unparalleled clout: Oprah Winfrey. Genevieve was a guest on Oprah in 2007. The publicity helped put the organization on the map, and what was one of the things that helped people connect to the cause?


“They got about 1,000 new email addresses in about 24 hours,” Beth recalls.

So, with a national celebrity’s blessing, Pajama Program has continued to thrive, grow, and help kids across the country.

The $1,000 email

Here’s a typical donation email from Pajama Program. Notice it’s very focused and to the point. Terri says this particular campaign raised $1,130 for shipping pajamas and books.

“It doesn’t have to take a lot of effort to have a big effect,” she explains.

Candice Cross, the IT Manager who is in charge of Pajama Program’s email marketing, adds that most newsletters do have some kind of call-to-action, or links that drive the recipients to learn more about certain fundraisers.

“Some successful campaigns are just a few sentences, a regular email with no decorations. We just want to keep people updated on what’s going on with the organization,” she says.

The effort has definitely paid off.

Since Pajama Program was founded 11 years ago, there are now 64 chapters in 34 states that help give donations straight to the shelters. To date, Pajama Program is responsible for distributing almost two million pairs of pajamas and books to kids in need.

When it comes to online marketing, the organization stays innovative, too.  One of the latest email campaigns features a video of children explaining why they need a new reading center.

Take a look:

Want to learn more about nonprofits that effectively use email marketing? Check out the story of Fairy DogParents