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How to Use Email Drip Campaigns to Increase Donations

Donations from individual supporters are an extremely important part of a diversified fundraising strategy for many nonprofit organizations. Increasing donations is an important goal for most organizations. However, maintaining the right cadence of communication can be difficult. Drip campaigns are an effective tool to ensure that your organization stays top-of-mind for potential donors and past donors throughout the year.

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What Is a Drip Campaign?

An email drip campaign is a series of automated emails that you send to contacts in your customer relationship management (CRM) tool, such as HubSpot or Constant Contact. Email drip campaigns consist of prewritten emails that are sent out over set time intervals in cadences like these:

  • A time-based cadence, such as a monthly email
  • An action-based cadence, such as when a specific web page is visited
  • An engagement-based cadence, such as once a contact opens five or more emails, signaling potential interest

For example, if someone submits a form asking for more information about your organization's impact in your community, this should trigger a series of automated emails giving more information about what your organization does, testimonials and impact stories, initiatives and program results, and anything else that helps educate someone on the importance of your cause. Each email should have a clear call to action enabling readers to donate when they are ready.

Email drip campaigns require segmenting your contact list into different sections, or target audiences, and delivering timely, personalized, and targeted messaging based on what action you want them to take. The message you send to try to get a past donor to donate again is very different from the language used to convert someone into a first-time donor. Ensuring that you are sending the right message to the right person at the right time — and that you continue strengthening the relationship with each individual through each message — is the key to a successful email campaign and strategy.

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Aspects of a Successful Drip Campaign

A drip campaign is powered by automation. Anytime you work with automation — in marketing or otherwise — it is important to ensure that the core message of what you are automating is strategic, organized, tested, and correct. The two rules of automation, as defined by Bill Gates, are "that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency [and] automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency." Before automating your drip campaigns, you will need to ensure that you have the correct building blocks in place. 

Choose the Right CRM

Choosing the right CRM is imperative to a successful drip campaign. The right CRM can create segments based on contact activity and on contact details like country, source, or custom fields. While there are hundreds of CRMs on the market, not all CRMs are created equal. At a minimum, you need a CRM that has emailing tools, automation, and a sophisticated database for collecting information. One of the top CRMs that matches these criteria is HubSpot.

Segment Your Contacts

Email segmentation splits your contacts into different groups to deliver relevant marketing content and makes it easier to send targeted emails based on contact data. The ways in which you segment your audiences can be based on a number of tactics, depending on the goals of your organization. Potential segmentations include volunteers, donors, members, event attendees, and newsletter subscribers.

Personalize Your Message

Segmentation is a good way to group together messages, but adding additional layers of personalization can have major benefits for your email engagement. Your emailing tool should have personalization tokens — dynamic pieces of data that update according to who they are sent to — for you to drop into emails. A simple example of this is a first-name personalization token to start your email by addressing the individual directly. More robust CRM and emailing tools like HubSpot have a variety of personalization tokens to use, such as the ability to thank an individual for a donation and reference the donation amount, campaign, and time.

Find the Correct Cadence

While emailing your audience too much can cause recipients to unsubscribe, emailing your audience too little can prevent you from reaching your goals of nurturing and building relationships. The right cadence can be based on your audience and how engaged they are. A good rule of thumb is to only email a contact as often as they might expect. For example, someone who subscribes to a monthly newsletter likely only expects to hear from you once a month.

Anytime you gather the email of someone you plan to communicate with, it is best to ask for their explicit permission by including an opt-in for marketing purposes. This allows your organization to set the expectation of frequency, and the contact to give consent. For the contacts already in your system who might not have opted in this way, there are three ways to determine the right cadence.

  • Send an email with your newly updated frequency options and ask the recipient to select how often they would like to hear from you.
  • Test frequency over the course of five or six months and see if open rates and click rates change based on how often you are emailing.
  • The option most recommended if your CRM allows: change the frequency of the email drip based on the engagement of the individual contact. This means sending an email to someone who clicked your last email sooner than to someone who didn't open the last email at all. This ensures that you are communicating and nurturing those who are engaged and not overwhelming those who may need more time.

Get Automated with Email Drip Campaigns

Whether you are looking to implement a CRM for the first time, optimize your current emailing strategy, or just want an extra set of eyes on your campaigns, TechSoup has a solution for you.

The TechSoup Digital Marketing Services team specializes in full-funnel marketing strategies to drive more engagement. From email drip campaign strategy to segmentation and automation, the TechSoup Services team is here to help.

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