Blog Insights
Email Drip Campaigns for Nonprofits

Whether your communications team is a one-person show or a fully-dedicated team, an email drip campaign strategy should be at the top of your priority list as you head into the last quarter of the year. What’s the first thing you do in the morning once you’ve hit your phone’s alarm and flopped your head back into your pillow? Changes are very good that it’s either: (A) you fall back asleep and wait for your backup alarm to ring, or (B) you grab your phone again and check your email. While email newsletters have been around for years, they remain one of the most effective ways to reach audiences — especially since the dawn of smartphones. According to Litmus, 54% of people first open their email on a mobile device (instead of a desktop), which significantly increases the chances that you’ll catch people’s eyes as they wake up in the morning, ride the train to work, wait for an appointment or meeting to begin, etc.

Email is only as effective as it is compelling

Nowadays, email marketing is a staple for any organization that wants to reach its audience. This means there are a lot of emails being sent out. As a nonprofit navigating the sea of email newsletters, the biggest question you likely have is, “well then, how do I get mine to stand out?” The simplest answer: give your subscribers what they want. And make it continuously compelling enough that they will want to click through and read on.

Email drip campaigns to the rescue

Known as ‘lead nurturing’ in the private sector, email drip campaigns are an excellent tool for nonprofits to better connect with their subscribers. A drip’s goal is to figure out what content a person is most interested in and follow up with more focused content that feeds that interest. If a person receives the right kind of content, then they are more likely to take action when you want (or need) them to. In the private sector, this might take the form of sending you teasers about running shoes so that you eventually buy that coveted pair you’ve had your eye on. In the nonprofit sector, the right content can grab your users’ attention so much so that they eventually become more engaged with your mission by donating money, volunteering their time, or signing a petition.

The beauty of automation

While you’ll need to spend an initial investment of time in mapping out and developing your various streams of content, one of the biggest benefits of a drip campaign is that it is automated. A trigger sets it off — e.g., subscription to a newsletter, attendance to a webinar, donation at an event — and then the campaign runs its course from there. Depending on what piece(s) of content your subscribers click on, they will then receive a related piece of content as a follow-up. You’ll not only have a better sense of what your audience is most interested in, but you’ll also have more engaged users, who are more likely to get involved. And for those who didn’t click through at all? You’ll have a few chances to tease out what they are most interested in, but if you haven’t had a chance to grab their attention, then at least you won’t be hounding them in the future with content that isn’t as good a fit.

Getting started: From baby steps to full throttle

The first thing you need to do is review your goals. What kind of engagement are you hoping for from your subscribers? What kind of audience tagging do you want to achieve? How is your organization’s mission going to benefit from your email outreach? Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start crafting some of the messaging and paths that your users will take as they receive your content. You’re also ready to look into the right marketing automation tool for you. You may have heard of some such as HubSpot or Salesforce’s Pardot, but there are many more. While most marketing automation tools come with a price tag, they can be a worthwhile investment in reaching your goals. If you’re looking to start small, you can also begin with a more manual approach using a free version of an email tool such as MailChimp (reviewing open and click-through rates) and then scale up from there. The key is that you want to become more deliberate with the kind of content you are sending to your users. The fact that they’ve signed up for your list means that you’ve already piqued their interest. The next step is to give them something good to chew on, followed by an opportunity for real engagement — which is only possible when the content is right. So, go out there and make it right!

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