Posted by Jay Wilkinson

In nonprofit email marketing, here is what you should focus on above all else:

Make the inbox a special place.

This is your golden rule. If you remember this—and do it—you’ll be successful in all of your nonprofit email marketing campaigns. Of course, this begins with your content. Every message you send and every e-newsletter you create must include interesting and relevant information for your audience. Imagine that I’m one of your readers—every message I get from you should make me feel like I know exactly what’s going on in your organization. Like I’m an insider.

Next piece of advice—don’t schedule your emails. There’s no need to limit your messages to the second Tuesday of every month, or every other Monday. What if you don’t have anything to say next Monday when your email is scheduled to go out? I guarantee that no one in the world is sitting there, waiting patiently for your emails to arrive. Instead of putting your emails on a schedule, try this: Send out information when you have something important to say.

I know nonprofits that have sent out three email marketing pieces in three days’ time—boom, boom, boom. And it was highly effective because each of the messages were relevant and important. They were all about an event coming up the following weekend.

So if you have something happening at your organization (you hired a new employee, you’re launching a new program, or you got recognition at some community event, for example), create an engaging email message about it and send it to your constituents. Don’t wait for your calendar to tell you when to launch it. Wait a few days, then post it on your website and send a press release to the media.

But be sure to let your email audience know first. This is effective because it makes them feel like insiders, and it truly does make their inbox a special place.

(this post originally appeared on