Email is tricky. Period!

Sorry about the earlier accidental blog post. What can I say about my fat fingers and mis-clicks? LOL

Last week, I dedicated the entire week’s worth of blog posts to exploring ePhilanthropy related topics. Needless to say, I still have a few thoughts I couldn’t squeeze into last week. Today, I turn my attention to email and tomorrow I will try to wrap everything up into a nice package before moving onto new topics.

So, how do you use email and what are some challenges you’re experiencing?

For those of you who know me, you know that I tend to misuse email and sometimes send something that looks more like a novel or manafesto. The reality is that many organizations make the same mistake with their e-newsletters. I’ve seen too many e-newsletters that simply look like an electronic version of their snail-mail cousin.

What I  recently learned as part of an ePhilanthropy pilot project was that your e-newsletter will be most effective if the following occurs:

  • Use more white space and pictures than you do words.
  • Design your e-newsletter so that the reader doesn’t need to use the scroll bars (at least not much).
  • Keep the e-newletter to two or three major stories. Make sure your donor-focused e-newsletters has stories that demonstrate your program effectiveness and community impact. Try to have a story that serves as a “call-to-action” for volunteers and donors.
  • Keep each story to two or three short sentences with hyperlinks that jumps them to a page on your website to read about the details.
  • Use an email service provider to avoid getting blacklisted by your donors’ Internet Service Providers (ISP) as a spammer. Check-out Emma or Constant Contact.

Non-profits are using email for EVERYTHING such as: prospect cultivation, donor solicitation, donor stewardship, board communications, marketing, and much more. The challenge is that the email channel’s effectiveness is degrading quicker than the snail-mail channel did. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you opened your email inbox … was there a lot of “click, click, click … delete, delete, delete” going on? Or did you have problems downloading an html email? And what about the newest trend where we’re all reading our email on our smart phones? UGH!

And another problem non-profit organizations seem to wrestle with is the process of collecting email addresses. Penelope Burk reported in her book “Donor-Centered Fundraising” that “47-percent of non-profit do not communicate with their donors via email.” She shared that the biggest reason was not having donors’ email addresses.  Click here for some great suggestions on getting better at collecting email addresses.

We all need to get better at using best practices if our organizations are going to succeed in this new ePhilanthropy environment. The trick is staying up-to-date on the ever changing best practices environment . As I said on Friday, I suggest frequently visiting Network for Good’s online learning center website. Click here to see all sorts of resources pertaining to email.

OMG … I can write an entire week about email, but I will stop here. Please jump into the discussion and share some of the best practices you find most valuable. How do you know when your organization is over-using email and what have you done about it? Are you integrating email into your marketing and fundraising efforts? If so, how? Are you using email analytics to track your open-rate and click-through rates? What are you finding? We can learn from each other!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. I forgive the finger slip on a Monday :)! Email is something that I love to hate. We use e-mail with our donors in many of the ways you talked about. We use our i contacts not just for sending information but gathering it as well. We send a survey monkey link and ask our donors how we are doing- and other info. Love your posts – keep them coming.


    1. Thanks for weighing in, Rose. I love how you use email and online surveys to become more donor-centered! Penelope Burk would be VERY proud of you. I was just looking at iContact vs Constant Contact vs Emma and it looks like iContact is comparable to Constant Contact in price. Very affordable! Thanks for the tip.

  2. I just want to mention I’m very new to blogging and site-building and truly loved your page. Probably I’m planning to bookmark your website . You definitely come with good articles. Regards for sharing your web-site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.