Mindy Vanderhoeven, Director of Digital Analytics & Operations

QUICK SHOT: What Makes a Good Email Marketing Platform (and why it’s important!)

5 “must-haves” to take your email marketing program to the next level

By Mindy Vanderhoeven, Director of Digital Analytics & Operations

In the world of digital fundraising, one of the best ways to reach and relate to your donors consistently is through email. Email Marketing should be the foundation to your digital program and is still ranked as the most effective digital marketing channel, beating out Facebook, Google Ads and SEO.

Why is email still so relevant? And what makes a good email marketing platform? When it comes to connecting with your donors, there’s no digital channel with a wider reach than email. It is still the main currency of the web and anybody who’s online has an active email address. Additionally, email marketing is fairly inexpensive to implement and has an average ROI of $36 for every dollar spent!

The email marketing tool that you choose to send out your emails is vital to the success of your digital program (and not all platforms are created equal!). Choosing the right tool for your nonprofit can be a difference maker in taking your email marketing program to the next level, so you can engage more donors and increase donations.

So what are the important features that you should be looking for in an email marketing platform? Read on for the 5 must-haves!

Must-Have: Ease of Use

The first step in an effective email marketing program is the ability to create quality, branded emails that communicate your need to your donors. Your email marketing platform should be easy and intuitive to use without requiring technical knowledge or HTML coding. The best email marketing tools offer a drag and drop builder so you can easily create branded email templates and reuse them for future use. The questions to ask when choosing a platform are: Are the emails easy to build? Is this something that other staff members will be able to learn to create emails for volunteers, Thrift Store, etc.? You want the platform you use to not require a significant amount of time each time you need to create a new email (and not require a degree in computer programming to use!).  

Must-Have: Optimizing for Mobile 

In a world where people are spending more and more time on their phones, making sure that your emails are mobile-friendly is more important than ever! For BDI clients, 55% of fundraising emails were opened on a mobile device in 2021. Many email marketing platforms allow you to customize how your emails look on mobile, with the option of stacking images/buttons or blocking certain images from showing up on mobile. This will give you the ability to simplify how your emails look on mobile without the content looking too small. If your emails aren’t mobile-friendly, you could be missing out on the opportunity to engage with your donors.

Must-Have: A/B Testing 

Testing is an important part of any digital strategy. It allows us to discover the best new ideas for growing your online fundraising program and gives us insight on what motivates donors to open or click an email. 

The ability to test different concepts should be a key aspect of your email marketing platform. You should have the option to test subject lines, art, copy, layout, send names, days and times, to name a few. The email platform should have the option to set up A/B testing where the email list can be randomly split up into equal groups and receive different content. 

Must-Have: Personalization & Segmentation 

A good email marketing platform should allow you to personalize your email communications. This means that you can automatically add donors’ first names in the body of the email or subject line. Addressing your donors by first name helps the email to stand out in their inbox, boosts engagement and can make each donor feel as though you’re speaking directly to them. 

In addition to personalization, your email marketing platform should be able to take it a step further and also have the option of segmenting your email file to be able to send targeted email messages. Segmentation allows you to create groups based on your audience’s donation history, engagement levels, location, etc. You can then send targeted emails to your donors that help your email resonate with them on a personal level.

Must-Have: Welcome Series

One of the best things you can do to engage new donors is to send a Welcome Series. If you are not doing this already, you should!

A Welcome Series is a sequence of emails that a donor automatically receives right after they first sign up for your email list. It will usually include 3-4 emails that will be spaced a few days apart. It allows donors to get to know more about your organization and build a stronger connection with the work you are doing. Results for BDI clients have shown that donors that receive the Welcome Series first have a 15% higher click rate on future emails.

The ability to automate a series of emails like the Welcome Series should be a key aspect of your email marketing platform. You should be able to create an automation within the platform so that any new email address that is added to the list will automatically receive the emails. This automation allows you to get in front of donors soon after they make their first gift or join your email list so you can build on that momentum.

Final Thoughts 

Building a successful email marketing program is more important than ever! By choosing a strong platform, you will be able to create a robust digital marketing program that will allow you to target emails to your donors, test new concepts and engage new donors. This will help serve your ultimate goal: to grow your online revenue and serve more people in your community.

Check out last week’s Quick Shot – “7 Major Marketing Trends in 2022”>>

  • Mindy Vanderhoeven

    Mindy Vander­Hoeven, Director of Digital Analytics and Operations

    Mindy offers more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising with experience on both the agency and the nonprofit side, having previously worked at Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles. Mindy draws on her knowledge of direct response, analytics and digital marketing to guide clients in their digital fundraising programs and utilize smart, strategic efforts. 

    In her role at BDI, Mindy is committed to growing the effectiveness of digital fundraising programs through better online strategies in website optimization, email marketing, digital media, analytics and leading industry trends. Her vision for the digital team is to implement new ways to use improved tracking and analytics to gain better insights and help our clients in the ever-changing digital field.

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