Is your charity doing email marketing right?

New articles are released with the latest email trends every year and every year these are much of the same. While the advances haven’t been drastic, it is worth taking some time to re-evaluate if you’re making the most of them.

In this article we look at some of the tools charities can harness when it comes to email marketing.


Producing effective automation flows can be great for you and your recipient; it prevents you having to manually send out every email and means the recipient gets all their emails at the right time. You can keep your subscribers better engaged by sending them relevant emails when they’d be most likely to look at them.

Many email marketing services offer a simple way to map out your automation flows. You can time every email exactly as you want and base decisions on the way your recipients behave.

To the left is an example of an automation flow constructed using Charity Digital Mail’s drag and drop system. Using this, it’s simply a case of producing triggered campaign content and then dragging the relevant ‘campaign’, ‘decision’ or ‘delay’ into the grid.

We whipped up an example user flow that would be used by a charity seeking donations.  It involves the crucial steps from getting people engaged with your cause, to becoming donors and even recurring donors.

You can produce a broad variety of automation flows depending on what sort of emails you send out.

Further on in the article you will see examples for a double opt in process and a personalised donation request.


It’s very tempting to think that once someone has signed up with their email on your site, they are then available to receive all emails you send.

The advantage of a single opt-in is that it can increase your subscriber rate as people have less hoops to jump through to get on your list. This makes it tempting and may even work for you in some cases, but be cautious.

You are more likely to end up with a greater number of disengaged subscribers by using this method, so will be spending money emailing contacts who aren’t really worth reaching out to.

An additional factor to consider is the implementation of changes to GDPR, which will be law by 2018. These changes are being introduced with the data subject in mind. Organisations will only be able to use data for the exact purpose specified with the correct consent.

A weak opt-in process is a risky decision; it creates some risk of appearing sneaky when it comes to legislation. If you’d like to read up a bit more on how GDPR will impact charities, you can read our article here.

Double opt-in is a simple way to:

  • Make sure subscribers are genuine
  • Build a database of people keen to receive your emails
  • Keep your opt in list concise to save money on email marketing
  • Minimise risk of breaking GDPR legislation

A double opt-in policy just adds a small extra step for the user.

There is a risk that certain people may not go on to confirm  an opt in with some studies suggesting this could be as much as 20%. A simple example would be: someone subscribes through a form on your site, so you send them an email with a link to confirm, and they do not click this link. In this scenario, you’ve unfortunately lost a subscriber.

Nonetheless, it’s fair to assume that if they didn’t complete the process, they wouldn’t have been as likely to engage with your content.

To the right is an example double opt-in automation flow on Charity Digital Mail. It’s easy to do as it only requires the addition of one triggered campaign. If you’d like to read more about why and how to use a double opt-in process, there are tons of useful articles online. Here are some top examples:


Personalisation and customisation

Personalising emails where you can simply makes sense. When people read content that applies directly to them, chances are they’re more likely to engage. It’s one of the key things that helps with engagement. Countless successful organisations will tell you that engagement should be at the centre of your strategy. After all, it is what creates conversions.

Personalisation can be done in many ways, depending how specific you want to go, and how much data you have to work with.

The earlier mentioned ‘double opt-in’ can be great as it gives you a chance to ask for a little more information of people. This could just mean getting their name or could be finding out what sort of person they consider themselves to be.

Once you have a certain piece of information, you can give your emails a more personal touch. This could be anything from saying, ‘Hiya NAME’ to saying ‘Because you’re passionate about…you might be interested in…’ depending on what information you have.

Small features like this immediately make the email seem a bit more thoughtful, even though it can be as simple as including a data field in the email or segmenting certain contacts from various address books.

As well as tailoring the content of an email, you can also make sure you send it at the right time and that it’s optimised for the device that users are likely to look at it on. Again, with a good email marketing platform these additions can be easy to do and make all the difference to your open and click-through rates.

The example shown on the left is taken from Charity Digital Mail, which offers send time optimisation. This feature analyses the behaviour of each contact to estimate their most likely open time. By increasing the likelihood the email gets read, you’re inevitably increasing the chance of readers getting engaged with your content.

Additionally, before you send any emails, you can preview exactly how it will look on a variation of devices to make sure mobile or tablet users aren’t getting a naff version of your great email.


Improving shareability

Encouraging repeat donations from your loyal supporters is fab! Do you know what’s also great? Establishing new donors.

Creating engaging content is the ultimate priority when it comes to shareability. WaterAid, for example, pride themselves on having an engagement strategy rather than a fundraising one. When you think about it, they shouldn’t be two different strategies at all, they should be directly linked to one another.

The focus is on content that’s worth sharing and creating discussion, so there is always opportunity to expand the network. This approach means WaterAid and other charities aren’t limited to just getting conversions from the people they email directly.

This word-of-mouth style marketing is a budget friendly and highly effective way to grow your contact list with like-minded individuals. So the question is, what are some essentials for sharable content?

  • Find the media sweet spot: Videos and images are great for making your emails appear more exciting, and can be a great way to portray what just can’t be written with the same affect. However, too much and your email could be slow to load, or be sent straight to the junk folder, not good!
  • Use short, sharp and memorable text: Including statistics, figures or survey results as a focal point of your email campaigns helps with shareability by making the information quickly digestible and easy to pass on
  • Add links and call to action buttons:  You want to make sure that if readers want to find out more or act upon anything in your email, they can. Buttons make it as straight forward as possible for recipients to read on or donate quickly, and that applies when the email is shared too!
  • Make it easy to forward: Having great content is obviously crucial, but so is making it as simple as possible to share. Including a ‘forward this email’ link or button in your email can work wonders!


For this article the email marketing platform example used is Charity Digital Mail. This product is available on the Charity Digital Exchange platform, offering enterprise level email marketing at an affordable cost for charities. Find out more here


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