4 Nonprofit Email Newsletter Design Tips

While email marketing works similarly across industries, when it comes to the purpose of their email newsletters, each has different goals in mind. For those in the nonprofit industry, chances are you aren’t looking to sell a project.

Instead, your goals probably revolve around building brand awareness and driving donations to your cause. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how well known your brand is when it comes to driving donations via email marketing. With so much competition amongst nonprofits, it comes down to having the right nonprofit email newsletter design tips on hand to create an email that drives action.

Before diving into our four nonprofit email newsletter design tips for 2020 and beyond, it’s essential to take a few moments and look at the significant differences between a traditional email newsletter and a nonprofit newsletter.

What sets a nonprofit email newsletter design apart from a traditional newsletter?

Email newsletters serve a similar purpose across all industries: to inform readers. However, when it comes to traditional B2B and B2C email newsletters, they can take on several different forms, including:

  • Product/brand updates
  • Curated news
  • Featured article/blog sharing

Nearly 83% of B2B marketers utilize email newsletters as a part of their content marketing, and the average email open rate falls around 17.92%.

What sets nonprofit email newsletters apart is that they only have two goals in mind:

  • Raising brand awareness
  • Driving donations

While nonprofit email newsletters may not come in a wide variety of formats, they have an overall higher email open rate when compared to other industry averages. While the average email open rate was approximately 17.92%, nonprofit email newsletters have an open rate of approximately 20.39%.

 Nonprofit email open rate

Source: Campaign Monitor

So what’s the key to driving these sorts of open rates? Relating to your customers on an emotional and realistic level. Asking for monetary donations is a very personal thing for most consumers because they’re doing something for nothing.

Other brands are asking for money by encouraging purchases. However, the customer is getting a product or a service in return. When it comes to making monetary donations to a nonprofit, the only thing the consumer is getting in return is a thank you from the brand and the “feel good” emotions from doing something for someone else.

How do you reach your nonprofit subscribers and encourage those vital donations? It all starts with having the right nonprofit email newsletter designs.

4 nonprofit email newsletter design tips for 2020 and beyond

Designing a nonprofit email newsletter that brings in the conversions you’re looking for isn’t as challenging as you may think. There’s one simple rule to keep in mind: Design for your readers, not for you or your cause.

While you’re trying to raise the necessary funds to continue doing business or to help a given cause, you must keep in mind that your readers don’t want to be guilted into donating. Emotion plays such a vital role in the process, so you have to design with them in mind. That said, here are four nonprofit email newsletter design tips to incorporate in your campaigns for 2020 and beyond.

1. Start your story at the subject line.

When it comes to planning out the actual content that goes into your nonprofit email newsletter design, you need to start with the subject line. Although that’s a vital design tip for any email, with nonprofits, this is where your storytelling needs to begin.

Just like any other email newsletter, the subject line needs to be eye-catching and interesting enough to entice the reader to click on your message in their crowded inbox. You already know that you have limited space to work with, so how do you craft a nonprofit email subject line that’ll garner those vital opens?

Take this example from the nonprofit Help for Heroes. In their subject line, they utilize both effective adjectives and action verbs to help appeal to their readers’ emotional sides.

Subject line: Will you volunteer to help our heroes, ?

Effective nonprofit email newsletter subject line and design

Source: Really Good Emails

The subject line starts the story of the nonprofit by asking the reader if they can help support our “heroes” by volunteering their time. As this is a nonprofit located in England, Wales, and Scotland, this subject line evokes several emotions, particularly patriotism and pride. That’s enough for most readers to click on the email to see how they could possibly help.

2. Data helps support the cause, but storytelling is what reaches your readers.

You’ve started the story in your email subject line, and now it’s time to continue it in the body of your email message. You’ll want to keep in mind the same tips mentioned above for creating an effective email subject line, and, while you’ll want to include some statistics and helpful data in some of your body content, you don’t want to make it the main focus of your body copy.

Data should always be a supporting factor, not a primary one. Data doesn’t give readers a reason to act and donate. Instead, take a page from some of the best nonprofit emails and use the body of your email to tell a story about the nonprofit, how it’s helped a real person/community, and how they can help do the same by donating.

Now, we already know that Help for Heroes does a wonderful job of creating subject lines that draw the readers in, and it turns out that they can deliver on the storytelling element as well.

Subject line: Show veterans they are not forgotten

Email storytelling in action

Source: Really Good Emails

This email introduces readers to a real person who’s been helped by the nonprofit and shows readers exactly where their donations are going. This, again, helps to evoke the reader’s emotions, making them more likely to donate.

3. Consider going dark mode.

Now that you know the type of text you should be including in your nonprofit email newsletter, it’s time to consider the actual design elements of the email. When it comes to nonprofit email newsletter design tips, one major thing to consider is designing your email for those who utilize email dark mode.

Many email service providers are rolling out email dark mode to help those that are battling screen-related ailments, such as headaches and migraines. This “dark mode” is designed to help a user’s eyes relax, while allowing them to better focus on their devices. After all, approximately 80% of American adults have stated that they use their devices for more than two hours a day, which contributes to a lot of screen-related issues.

When designing emails for dark mode, there are a few tips you’ll want to keep in mind, including:

  • Use transparent images, so their background can change according to user settings.
  • Avoid the use of background colors and images to create certain design elements, such as your CTA buttons.
  • Try using a white stroke around your black text to help it stand out on darker backgrounds.

Email designed for dark mode viewing

Source: Really Good Emails

4. Make sure you include all subscribers by utilizing a mobile-friendly template.

Your nonprofit’s email subscribers use different devices to view your message. That said, when you design your email newsletter, you need to consider a mobile-friendly email template. This ensures that your subscribers will all be able to open, view, and digest your content—no matter what device they’re using.

 Email design differences

Source: Campaign Monitor

Notice these subtle differences in how the email is presented when viewed in Apple’s iPhone Mail. In the first example, the email is a single-column layout that adjusts the images and text according to the size of the screen. This makes it much easier for your viewers to scroll through, whereas the second one kept the original layout; however, the text is harder to read without having to zoom in.

The second image utilizes a responsive email template, which adjusts the email to any device, but doesn’t always make it easier to read. A mobile-friendly email template utilizes simpler design elements to adjust the email, so all users can view the message with little difficulty.

BONUS: Examples of effective nonprofit email subject lines and CTAs

Now, we already discussed the importance of your nonprofit’s email newsletter subject line. We’ve also touched on the idea of using certain words to evoke emotions that’ll encourage your readers to act. With those ideas in mind here are a few subject line examples worth noting:

  • “Join us in supporting relief efforts for
  • “You donate, we’ll match”
  • “We’re inspirited by your generosity”
  • “Start the year off by giving back”
  • “Volunteer your skills for

You can use these same principles when creating the perfectly clickable email CTA buttons:

  • “Get involved”
  • “Find out why”
  • “Find out how”
  • “Read their story”
  • “Start gifting”

Wrap up

There are dozens of nonprofit email newsletter design tips out there that can help you create an effective campaign. Not sure where to start? Then keep these four tips in mind:

  • Using the subject line to start your story is the best way to grab your reader’s attention.
  • Keep your readers engaged with storytelling and sprinkle in the necessary data to back up any claims.
  • Consider designing for dark mode.
  • Using a mobile-friendly email template ensures all your readers have access to your email newsletter.

Looking for some extra inspiration for your next nonprofit newsletter? Then check out our list of inspirational nonprofit newsletter template examples today.

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