For many nonprofits, email is an essential tool for reaching a wide variety of audiences.

But with high list churn rates and low open and click rates, what can you do to make sure audiences are actually reading your nonprofit’s emails? 

The answer is in the format.

Here are eight tips for effectively formatting your nonprofit’s emails:

Break your emails up by topic

The subscribers on your nonprofit’s email list have a passion for and an interest in what you do. Many probably support you by donating, volunteering, or sharing your work with others. In return, you should make it easy for them to find the information they want in your emails.

  1. Break up your emails by topic, so that readers can quickly scan the email and find the information that’s relevant to them. Use a short headline to identify each topic, and keep it consistent every time.
  2. You can even use a specific font, style, and/or color to make the topics stand out.
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Keep your content short and simple

According to the 2017 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, nonprofit communications staff spend most of their time on websites and email marketing. Keeping your email content concise will save you time and help hold your reader’s attention.

  1. Keep your email focused on the most important information. Include only a few sentences for each topic, and link to longer content on your website or blog.
  2. If you don’t have website or blog content to link to, try your best to summarize the topic in a paragraph or two.

Be mindful of images

Images can be an important part of your nonprofit’s email format, as long as they are used smartly and correctly.

  1. Some nonprofits are choosing to forgo images altogether, with the exception of a header photo or other feature image. This puts the focus on the important topics and keeps the email short.
  2. If you do use images, make sure to keep them small. Many email services do not load images automatically, and large images will be slow to load.
  3. Also be mindful of the placement of your images. Too many images placed “above the fold” in your email could bury other content and cause your reader to miss important information.
  4. Lastly, remember not to rely on images. Web design company Wired Impact summarizes this point in a blog post on nonprofit newsletter design: “Because many of your readers will not see the images, make sure the text can still speak for itself.  This way you don’t have to worry about images not loading.”

Review, update and repeat

It may take a few tries to find the right format for your nonprofit’s emails but these tips are really working for us at YMCA Camp Kon-O-Kwee Spencer; our open rate is now right around 30%!

If you’re not ready to completely change your email format, start with one or two of the tips above. Send at least three emails in the new format and measure the results. If open rates and/or click rates do not improve, review the format, update it, and try again.

Once you find the right format, stick with it. Your audience will begin to know what to expect and will look forward to opening and reading your emails every time.

How to effectively format your nonprofit’s emails: 8 quick tips #NPMC Click To Tweet
Kelly Rembold

Kelly Rembold

Marketing Specialist at Lark Enterprises, Inc.
Kelly Rembold is a nonprofit marketing and communications professional with a passion for storytelling. She is the sales and communication director at Kon-O-Kwee Spencer YMCA, a year-round YMCA camp in Fombell, PA, that offers summer programs, group retreats, and environmental education. Kelly has a background in journalism, and has previously worked as a reporter and editorial assistant for newspapers in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Kelly Rembold