Posted by Jay Wilkinson

There are five principles to follow if you want to be a superstar in email marketing. They’re simple and easy to implement, and if you follow these principles, you’ll radically change your email marketing program.

1. Spend time on your subject line. For many organizations the subject line is an afterthought when it should be a priority. The number one reason people open your emails is because the subject line captures their attention and makes them click. In fact, I would say that if you spend an hour on the email’s content, you should spend one more hour on the subject line. Don’t just resort to “August newsletter” or something that means nothing. Make your subject line compelling and interesting, but clear and brief.

2. Pay attention to the “from” line. Who is sending your email? Here’s a tip: It shouldn’t be from I’ve received a few emails like that, but why would I click on a message from someone named “email marketing?”  It’s important to use a real name on every email that you send. Sometimes it might be from your executive director or a fundraising professional, or maybe from one of your founders or a board member who’s well known. Whoever it is, using someone’s name will dramatically affect how many people open that email. The worst thing to do is use a generic term.

3. Make every message mobile friendly. You probably know this already, but half of all emails that people receive from a nonprofit are opened on a mobile device. We have to make sure that every email we send is mobile friendly. No questions—just make it happen.

4. Include a specific and singular call to action. After someone reads your email, what do you want him to do? Whatever it is—whether it’s Donate Now or Subscribe To Our Newsletter—give him the ability to take action and send him to a landing page on your website where it’s easy to follow through. Whatever you do, don’t dump him off on your homepage and make him navigate himself; take him specifically where you want him to go.

5. Make every message meaningful. This is perhaps the most important principle to follow. Don’t put a bunch of drivel or filler material in your emails; make them relevant and interesting to your readers. Tom Ahern, a good friend of mine who’s a consultant in the nonprofit sector, wrote a book on fundraising materials. He wrote, “Your newsletter isn’t really about getting people to read your article. It’s about delivering joy to your donors repeatedly.” I’m so onboard with that notion.

At the end of the day, email marketing is about creating an intimate relationship with your constituents and establishing a connection. If you can build your emails with that sentiment in mind, your email marketing program will be powerful and convincing.