How to Create a Welcome Email Series for Your Nonprofit

A nonprofit welcome email series gives your organization the chance to solidify its relationships with new donors.

This 3- to 4-part series properly introduces your nonprofit, welcomes first-time givers, and helps them get to know your work and its value. Through these tailored messages, you can gradually guide these donors to deeper levels of involvement.

But you can’t just deliver the same welcome email series to all of your new donors.

Your organization has a variety of acquisition channels, so you have to talk to new donors according to their specific entry point to your organization.

Below are best practices on how you can create targeted email series that engage three main segments of new donors.

Audience #1: First Time Donors — send one email per week

First-time donors have made a direct gift to your organization. This means they were compelled enough to give, but they may not be fully committed to your nonprofit yet. Before you plug them into your regular newsletter list, use a welcome email series to introduce your organization, educate them about your mission, and begin cultivating the relationship.

Tips to Engage First-Time Donors

  1. Inspire them to adopt your mission. These donors were interested enough in your mission to donate, but you need them to buy into the overall value of your organization. Accomplish this by showing the results of your great work. Photos and videos of the people you help can bring your impact to life, so be sure to include these in your welcome series.
  1. Include a call to action at the end of each email. Keep in mind these donors just gave, so you don’t want to hit them with another appeal to donate right away. Go for the soft ask approach in your first email or two.

You can invite readers to:

Then, the final message in your welcome email series can present a more direct ask, such as:

Audience #2: Third-Party Donors — send one email per week

Third-party donors are a very special group of supporters. These are the people who give to their friend’s or family member’s personal fundraising pages. This means that they gave to your organization because of a personal relationship to the person asking for a gift — and not necessarily because they were moved by your mission.

Naturally, you can’t treat these donors the same way you would treat donors who responded to a direct appeal. Some, or most, may be completely unfamiliar with your organization and its work. Create a highly targeted engagement strategy that builds trust with these donors and nurtures these brand new relationships.

Tips to Engage Third-Party Donors

  1. First, send a personalized thank-you message. After the campaign is over, send a short, personal, heartfelt thank-you email from a staff member. This message should simply thank the donor for their gift. An excellent idea is to mention the fundraiser he or she gave to. This shows you have a keen interest in supporters’ involvement, and it also reminds the donor that someone they trust believes in your organization. Then you can offer a soft invitation to learn more about your work, such as providing an article about the cause or a blog post of a beneficiary’s story.
  2. Start by offering valuable resources and information. Gain donors’ trust by educating them about your organization. Offer videos, infographics, or blog posts through your emails.
  1. Weave in soft asks gradually. After your first couple emails, ask third-party donors to follow your social channels or share a story, photo, or video on their own profile.
  1. Add donors to your newsletter. After you’ve established initial rapport with these donors, you can add them to your regular newsletter.
  2. Wait a couple of months to send your next donation appeal. Until then, continue to deliver engaging content and track your open and click-through rates to learn what donors respond to. Use this time to build their confidence in your mission to give again.

Audience #3: Event Attendees — send one email per week

These people were first introduced to your organization through one of your fundraising events. Hopefully, they had an amazing time and learned a lot about your work, but this interest can wane if you don’t follow up effectively. Craft a tailored welcome series for event attendees that strengthens their connection to your event and organization.

Tips to Engage Event Attendees

  1. Create a custom email series for every event. If you send a default email series to every attendee — whether they participated in a bike-a-thon, gala, or holiday supper — you can miss your chance to keep these donors interested. More than likely, each supporter attended an event that aligned with his or her specific interests. Keep these attendees engaged by sending them targeted content based on the specific fundraiser they attended. In order to do this, you need to create a follow-up welcome email series for each of your events.
  1. Send your first email within a day of the event. This initial message should thank people for attending and rallying around your cause. As a best practice, write this email beforehand and schedule its delivery right after the fundraiser.
  1. Report the event’s success. In your second email, summarize the event and its success. Share how much was raised, and explain how the funds will be used. Include photos or videos to remind attendees of their experience and sustain their emotional momentum to join your mission. Include a call to action to take a survey about the event or check out your bigger photo collection from the event.
  1. Send a schedule of any upcoming, related events. Use your third email to offer a list of upcoming events these attendees might be interested in. If you don’t have any upcoming events, send an impact story and ask them to keep an eye out for new opportunities to get involved.

Make your first impression count.

When new donors receive targeted content right from the start, you increase your chances of sustaining their interest in your organization.

A tailored welcome email series allows you to start the relationship off on the right foot and gradually take it to new heights. Take the time to create personalized messages for these specific audiences, and you can keep their support for the long haul.

For a deep dive of nonprofit welcome emails, as well as examples, get the complete Guide to Welcome Emails.

About the author: Elizabeth Chung writes about nonprofit fundraising and marketing for the Classy blog. She enjoys pastries, Wes Anderson, and watching Wes Anderson movies while eating pastries.

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