How to Create Powerful Email Drip Campaigns for Your Nonprofit

You probably already know that email is one of the most effective digital channels for fundraising and donor retention.

Email is also powerful for nurturing relationships with peer-to-peer fundraisers.

What is an Email Drip Campaign?

An email drip-campaign (aka email series) is an email marketing strategy to drive actions over the course of the campaign.

Drip campaigns consists of a series of messages delivered over a specific timeframe.

For example, a Facebook fan who signs a petition receive a series of 3 emails over the next week encouraging them to donate, share the petition with their friends, or share their story on Facebook.

The benefits of drip campaigns is that they engage people who’ve recently engaged with your nonprofit!

Plus, after you set one up, drip campaigns pretty much run themselves.

How to Create Email Drip Campaigns for Your Nonprofit

The technical steps for creating drip campaigns vary depending upon what email marketing software you use.

But regardless of the software, you should follow these steps:

1. Create clear goals for your email drip campaigns

Decide what the objectives are for the campaign.

Do you want petition signers to donate? Do you want folks who create a peer-to-peer fundraising page to get the most out of their fundraiser? Do you want to welcome newsletter subscribers?

Having clear objectives helps you determine the strategy, content, and call-to-action for each email. So don’t skip this step!

2. Select the best audience for your email drip campaigns

Who will receive these email messages? Will you be targeting new petition signers who donate? What about donors who join your newsletter?

What action will trigger your drip campaign? Donating? Subscribing?

3. Determine message quantity and frequency

Decide on the frequency and number of messages. You have to strike a balance between reminding them about the campaign, and being a pest.

Generally speaking, if your message has value to the recipient, they’ll be more receptive.

For example, this email from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia makes me feel like a total rock star. That’s value!

Your message frequency will also depend on what actions you want people to take, when you want those actions taken, and how long the campaign is.

4. Write your email messages and subject lines

Write the messages in advance, and base them on your understanding of what motivates your segments / personas.

Your messages should sound as if they’re written to a friend. In fact, read them out loud!

Read this post on email marketing for more tips on writing more effective email messages.  And don’t forget to write awesome subject lines!

5. Create rules that tag campaign participants

Creating a unique list allows you identify these folks for future campaigns (these folks signed the petition to save the sea turtles, and these folks signed the petition AND donated).

You’ll also want to add optin forms for this list to your website, Facebook Page, blog or wherever you plan on capturing people.

6. Enter your messages into your email marketing tool

After you’re written your messages and subject lines, enter them into your email marketing tool, which as I’ve said will have a different process.

For drip campaigns, avoid fancy email templates in favor of rich text.

In several tests I’ve done with clients, rich text email gets more clicks than HTML templates (please do test this for yourself).

7. Configure your message frequency

In terms of how the drip part of all this works, the timing of your messages is typically kicked off when someone opts into various stages of the campaign.

For example, here’s my drip campaign for email newsletter subscribers. Note the delay time for each message:

Most email marketing tools support the dripped messaging shown above.

8. Launch your email drip campaigns

Your campaign is launched as soon as the web forms are live and people are aware of the campaign.

But are they instantly aware as soon as your campaign is live?

Of course not!

You have to market your marketing!

Send an email blast about your campaign. And make sure you promote with all your channels.

9. Measure your email drip campaigns

After launch, you’ll want to start tracking open rates, click-though rates, unsubscribes and other stats important for measuring the effectiveness of your campaign.

Important: Measure right away. Don’t wait until not after your campaign is over.

The data you gather from day one will help you avoid unintended disasters by adjusting the messaging, action calls, and frequency during the campaign.

10. Conduct a post-mortem

Have a discussion (in person preferably) about what went well, what didn’t and how your organization is more capable.

Mistakes only become failures if nothing is learned.

John Haydon