Making nonprofit email marketing affordable and easy [product review]
A well-executed email marketing campaign can make all the difference for nonprofits whether it’s to communicate with supporters, promote special events or request donations. There are plenty of free and paid email marketing tools available but they aren’t all made alike. I use an email management tool called Vertical Response for one of my client’s monthly e-newsletter and it’s made our campaign fast and affordable.
I wanted to share my review of this service to help other nonprofits find the right tool for them. Like many similar tools, Vertical Response helps you create the look of your email, manage lists, execute campaigns and monitor effectiveness.
Nonprofit email discounts
These features aren’t unique to Vertical Response. In fact, these are standard offerings. What puts Vertical Response in a unique position is that it supports nonprofits with free services and discounted rates.
Vertical Response offers 10,000 free emails a month to qualifying nonprofits. That means you can execute as many campaigns as you like but the total number of recipients can’t exceed the limit. Should you need to send more emails, a discounted rate is available at $12.75 per 1,000. Prices go down as you send more: at 100,001-500,000 emails, the rate becomes $6.38 per 1,000.
To be accepted into the program, expect to fill out an application and submit proof of nonprofit status. For Canadian charities, this means submitting proof of Canadian Revenue Agency registration while American organizations must prove 501(3)(c) status.
Another tool called Mailchimp offers 12,000 free emails per month to nonprofits (but the free version caps your subscriber lists at 2,000), while Constant Contact and Emma offer discounted rates to nonprofits as well.
Sending out email campaigns can be nerve wracking. I’ve had recurring nightmares about a glaring mistake being delivered to thousands of inboxes instantly. But I’m happy to report that many of my anxieties have eased considerably with Vertical Response.
Five Step Process
There are five steps to building an email on Vertical Response:
- Recipients, and
Each step contains a number of fields for customization. Most fields offer a short, jargon-free explanation so you won’t need any technical background to build an email.
Vertical Response provides basic analytic reports. The data provided is standard of all tools: open, click-thru and unsubscribe rates. What I like most about their reporting system is that you can easily compare different campaigns. This is especially helpful in determining future strategy and content.
For those of you looking to integrate email campaigns with your donor or client database, you just might be in luck. Vertical Response offers integration with Salesforce databases. But if you’re looking to integrate with other databases, it won’t be as easy.
I’m obviously a big fan but Vertical Response isn’t perfect either. It’s important to consider your organization’s current and future needs when choosing the right tool.
If you’re working with any database other than Salesforce, you will have to work with a developer for integration. This will allow your database and email marketing tool to transfer information back and forth. If your campaigns are relatively small and you’re not looking to track responses on an individual level, integration may not be necessary. For those of you who need integration, note that Salesforce, Blackbaud and Oracle offer paid email management tools that will work nicely with their databases.
Social Media Integration
Enabling social sharing on emails is great when you want your supporters to help spread your message. I would recommend bypassing the buttons provided by Vertical Response and using AddThis instead. AddThis allows you to customize social sharing links and suggested messages which is important if you’re looking to direct traffic to your website.
Another significant downfall is list management. Like most other email marketing tools, lists have be in a certain format and named correctly. For some reason, most tools won’t tell you why an email list is not accepted and Vertical Response is no exception.
A solid email marketing tool for nonprofits
Cons aside, the affordability and ease-of-use made Vertical Response an easy choice for my client. This is an email marketing tool that clearly supports the needs of nonprofits with limited budgets and tight timelines. The effectiveness of email campaigns relies on valuable content but the right marketing tool can enhance your message, making it that much easier to communicate with your supporters.