6 Tips to Find the Right Email Service Provider for Your Nonprofit

Is your nonprofit ready to begin an email marketing campaign to promote your organization, engage more volunteers or acquire more donations?

You need an email service provider (ESP).

At Websites4Good, we know an email service provider can make communicating with supporters much easier for your nonprofit.

In this article, we will go over what an ESP is, as well as some of their benefits for nonprofit organizations. We’ll also give you six pointers on how to pick an email service provider for your nonprofit.

First, let’s talk a little about what an ESP is and why organizations like yours need one.

If your nonprofit is on the small side or in its early stages, or if you are new to this subject, you may be thinking:

“We have Gmail; isn’t that good enough for now?”

The answer is a definite no, and I’ll tell you why.

Gmail and other email providers like it are simple online email applications. While it is possible to send bulk email through online email applications like Gmail, it’s not advisable for several reasons:

  • These applications were not designed for bulk emailing.

  • They put limits on the number of emails you can send per day. For example, you can review the limits Gmail imposes here on their help page.

  • Sending too many emails from a Gmail account will set off alarm bells, and your account will be marked as spam (and can be suspended).

  • There is not much room for growth in your email marketing with simple online email applications.

Email Service Providers (ESPs) are a much better option because they were designed for the purpose of mass email marketing and communication.

Simply put, an ESP is an email service that facilitates bulk email campaigns and other services for marketing and mass communication purposes. There are lots of options when it comes to ESPs.

Email marketing is generally efficient and cost-effective. A study by Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric showed email marketing has a high rate of return on investmentas high as 122%, which is nearly four times more than other marketing forms (source).

Email marketing for nonprofits is so valuable because it provides a way for you to

  • Connect and engage with your donors, volunteers, and followers

  • Continually keep your cause in the top of their mind

  • Communicate urgent updates and needs as they arise

  • Increase the potential for donations

Now let’s look at a few of the reasons why using an ESP to do your email marketing is better than using an email application like Gmail or Hotmail.

Having an email service provider can make communicating with supporters much easier for your nonprofit.

ESPs give you the ability to create a consistent look and design in your communications through the use of customizable templates. Using customized templates will add a more professional look and feel to your organization.

Another valuable function is data segregation (or lists), which means you can distinguish specific types of contacts, such as those who are volunteers, donors, etc. Using lists, you can email one group at a time with customized communication that is relevant to each group.

Using an ESP provides you with great analytics about your communications and your contacts. This may include info about which emails are being clicked on, read, forwarded and/or giving the desired outcome such as greatest yield in donations, volunteer applications, etc.

These are just some of the great benefits provided by a good ESP. As you begin your search for the right provider for you, you’ll find there are many more.

So, let’s get you started with six tips on how to pick an email service provider for your nonprofit.

1. Educate Yourself

Before you even begin to try to choose an ESP, take some time to do your research and educate yourself on what ESPs can do. You’ll find the list is too extensive to cover in any one article. Once you know what all is possible and a little about how it works, you can move on to the next tips.

2. Know Your Needs

As you take the time to educate yourself on what’s possible with ESPs, you will probably find yourself compiling a long wish list of what you would like in an ESP for your nonprofit. Write down that wish list and then pare it down to what features and tools you actually need to accomplish your goals. That leads us to the next tip.

3. Know Your Goals

Begin with the end in mind. What are your goals when it comes to email marketing? Do you simply want to connect and send out information? Do you hope to increase donations? Engage more volunteers? Your goals will be as unique as your organization and that is why finding the right ESP is important. Take the time to fully define your goals and put them on paper.

4. Know Your Budget

Budget is probably always in the front of your mind as a nonprofit owner. Because it is common for nonprofit budgets to be meager at best, you want to be sure you’re getting the most out of your marketing budget by choosing an ESP that will give you the most for your money. Knowing what you will be able to spend up front will help you narrow down the list of possibilities.

Once you have a firm grasp on what ESPs can do for your nonprofit as well as your organization’s needs, goals and budget, you are ready to start looking for an ESP that will best suit those parameters.

5. Ask Around

Most likely you have some friends, family members or colleagues who have been where you are right now in choosing an ESP. Don’t hesitate to contact them and ask which ESP they use and if they are happy with it or not and why.

Perhaps you are even a recipient of their email campaigns. If so, take note of the ones that most appeal to you and ask them which ESP they use for their emailing. Compile a list of ESPs you would consider from the feedback they give you.

6. Research, Research, Research

The best way to make the best choice is to equip yourself with research—lots and lots of research.

Let’s briefly look at some of the most important items for you to look into.

Deliverability rates: This is huge because the most important goal is to get your emails through the email providers and all the way to your recipient’s inbox.

Available tools and features: Be sure the top goals of your nonprofit email marketing plan can be met with the features offered by any ESP you are considering.

Cost: Not necessarily what’s cheapest, but what can you afford that will do the most for you.

Customer Service: This is especially important if you are not among the tech-savvy, but even if you are, you still want good customer service!

Ease of use: Having all the features in the world won’t matter at all if you are unable to actually put them to use for your nonprofit.

While there are many ESPs that are likely to be useful email marketing platforms for nonprofits like yours, here at Websites4Good, we typically work with services such as MailChimp, Campaign Monitor and a few others. We’d love to hear what you’re using. Leave us a comment below.

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