Picking a great nonprofit email provider is a lot like buying a house, just nowhere near as expensive!
But think about it…
…the decision to buy is a big one
…moving in is a lot of work
…you make it great by what you fill it with, be it laughter or great design
…it should be easy to get around in, safe and secure
…it should accommodate you as grow and mature
…it’s going to demand upkeep and maintenance
Since picking a nonprofit email provider is indeed a pretty big deal in the sector, what should you look for when you’re window shopping for a great nonprofit email provider?
11 Things to Look for in a Nonprofit Email Provider
Does it play nice with your donor database? Maybe it is built into the donor database like Bloomerang and already taken care of for you. If not, is it compatible with 3rd party syncing tools like Zapier that you can use to get both systems to talk to each other and sync actions or data?
2. Customer support
Do they have live chat and how quickly do you get a response? Do they have a library of on demand trainings on how to use their tool? Some email providers, like the one I use, Active Campaign, offer customers the chance to book free 30 minute 1:1 coaching session with an expert.
Are there easy-to-use customizable templates for sending newsletters and appeals?
How easy is it to see and run reports?
How easy is it to do split A/B testing on your subject lines and content?
Is it easy for you to send your message to target audiences based on shared data i.e. they live in a certain zip code, they are an active donor, they are a first-time donor, they are a monthly donor, they haven’t given in the last 12 months, they just joined your list a year ago, they didn’t open your email campaign etc.?
Segments use information you already have about contacts to categorize them.
If you are new to segments think of a fridge in the office breakroom full of different kinds of canned drinks. That fridge is your email platform. The different kinds of canned drinks (Energy drink, Coke, Sprite, Diet/non diet) are your segments.
Using segments helps you hyper-personalize your communications to your audience.
Not segmenting your communications can damage and destroy donor relationships. You can’t make people feel like you “get them” if you constantly send everyone on your list the same exact message. Fundraising is not a one-size-fits-all kind of communication gig.
What could possibly go wrong with sending the same message to everyone?
A lot! Like…
…a cheery, upbeat thank you message could be sent to a bereaved donor making a gift in memory of a loved one who died.
…an out-of-town donor could be invited to a local event.
…people who didn’t give could get a thank you message meant for donors.
Next thing you know those donors are making a run for the exit door (aka hitting “unsubscribe”).
Can you easily add tags to contacts to document their acquisition source or engagement data? If you are new to tagging think back to our office fridge example with canned drinks. A tag is like someone putting a label with their name on it or a sticker (i.e., half price) on one of those drinks.
Can you easily set up an automated email series, automated engagement tagging, automated engagement scoring and/or automated list scrubbing? Are there sample automation sequences to help you get started? Is doing it an intuitive drag and drop process?
Does the platform work easily across all devices people use to read email?
Can you afford it? Remember “free” isn’t “free” if it holds you back from being able to operate efficiently! If it is costing you extra staff time, headaches and lost features (like segmentation) that result in churn with subscribers it’s not free, it’s actually terribly expensive!
11. Future Proofing
As you grow your constituent base and create new lists, segments and tags will your system grow with you in an affordable, long-term way?
If you truly take the time to evaluate and compare different nonprofit email providers, you can set your organization up for email success and better donor relationships.