Thought Leadership

Building Authentic Human Connection into Your Email Marketing Strategy

A yellow sticky note thumbtacked to a cork board with a drawing of a lightbulb on it.

Successful mission-driven organizations understand that the last couple months of the year are critical to fundraising, but let’s face it– no one wants a barrage of fundraising emails during the holidays from an organization scrambling to raise enough money to hit a fundraising goal.

Remember: true human connection is the lifeblood that sustains the best nonprofits, and it needs to be nurtured all year round. So if you’re looking to make the most of the giving season, it is never too early to start planning smart and intentional email campaigns that build real relationships.

At Town Hall, we understand the benefits of incorporating human centered design and emotional onboarding principles into your email marketing strategy. Here are some of the best ways to build relationships with new subscribers and show your supporters that you understand and appreciate them:

Early Education Makes a Difference

And we don’t just mean pre-school! New subscribers and potential donors have often heard good things about your organization, but they’ll want to know more about the issues, so be sure to satisfy that curiosity by sharing informative content and uplifting stories regularly.

Take opportunities throughout the year to help supporters understand the issues at the core of your mission, and why your approach is smart and effective. Your content strategy should pair informative statistics with actionable strategies and a clear path to take part in your work. If you answer their questions, and keep them eager to learn, they will keep opening your emails and wind up telling their friends why your work matters.

Seek to Understand, Rather Than to Be Understood

While it’s important to educate your subscribers about your organization and the ways you’re making a difference, it’s just as important to cultivate a genuine interest in the people who are reading your emails, and communicate that you want to understand what is important to them.

People who care enough to subscribe are already more engaged than the general public, and it’s important to create opportunities to learn from them. Surveys are a great way to show that a campaign isn’t just a broadcast and a donation request– it’s an ongoing conversation with engaged audiences that are proud to be part of your work. 

But don’t just collect responses for anecdotal purposes, make sure to integrate learnings into the design of your email campaigns. Segmentation is key, so be sure your CRM is set up to guide them into the supporter journeys that make sense for them. Connect their interests with your opportunities to make a difference to identify the win-win. Donors, Volunteers, Advocates– all play a part, and cross pollination between these groups is a great way to deepen engagement and build a movement. 

Connect with Hearts and Minds

Fear, emotion, and logic can all be useful drivers of human behavior, but once a person’s basic needs for safety and security are met, most of their decisions– especially when it comes to giving their spare time, energy, and funds– are driven by whether that action will make them feel good. 

Messaging that focuses on the need can hook people during stressful times, but if your emails are consistently jarring and depressing, they’ll often fatigue quickly. It’s generally best to avoid repeating messages that stress the same problems without timely context. 

Surprises can be just as effective in hooking people’s attention, and while acknowledgement of suffering can inspire compassion, it’s critical to pivot quickly to the solution. People want a sense of agency, and they want it quickly, so provide clear calls-to-action that provide an effective path to a sense of empowerment. 

Every Win Can Be a Shared Win

Sharing your organizations’ successes– large and small– is a great way to demonstrate to new subscribers and potential donors that your work makes a difference. But remember– no one can move mountains alone, and it’s important to validate the efforts and contributions of people who have contributed in various ways to those successes. 

People who are considering taking meaningful action firmly believe that it’s the right thing to do when they see others doing the same, and they hear stories from those who have benefitted. Make sure to clearly communicate not just why the work matters, but how their contributions make a difference. 

And remember– people give to people they trust, so it’s important to put human faces on your work. Effective storytelling is both relatable and memorable, and it’s a great way to connect the humans in your organization to the humans who support your work. So be sure to highlight strengths and accomplishments of staff and supporters, and underscore that these connections that are being made are what’s making meaningful change possible. 

Giving Can Be a Gift

End of Year campaigns shouldn’t just be a transaction between an organization and a constituent base. So don’t just focus on the marketing funnel– remember that the people in that funnel have people in their lives they care about. So get creative in your donor engagement strategy, and make it fun.

When you’re looking to expand your supporter base, don’t just focus on the people on your email list, remember they too have people in their lives they care about. Do what you can to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to platforms and audiences and targeting and analytics (and hire us to do everything you can’t!) 

But remember– all this strategy and technical expertise is really the digital toolkit for creating meaningful opportunities and shared experiences. Use it well, and you will grow your audiences, build lasting relationships, and galvanize both new and existing supporters, so you will have the support you need to keep making a difference.

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