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A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided it was time to add a furry friend to our family. So we did some searching and fell in love with a dog online.

We made a trip to the shelter the next day to meet him and filled out the paperwork for the adoption. He’s been a big part of the family ever since.

Afterwards, I signed up for their email list to receive their monthly newsletter and special event emails, which are great. Because I have a personal interest in their cause, I want to see them succeed.

This really got me thinking. Our story has a successful ending, but what if the shelter could do more to engage their contacts? What if they could make other pet parents and adoptions more successful? What if they could better engage their advocates and volunteers to increase support for the organization as a whole without spending a ton of time doing it.

Create an automated email series

Autoresponder can play a big role in helping nonprofits optimize their message and gain awareness via email.

An autoresponder series allows you to trigger a sequence of emails at intervals of your choosing. They begin sending when contacts are added to a list. It’s a cost-effective, time-saving solution that allows you to send relevant emails to your contacts at just the right time. As a nonprofit, you can use a series to engage supporters in a variety of ways and provide information that helps everyone.

Setting up an autoresponder can seem daunting if you aren’t sure what you’ll send. That’s why I wanted to share five ways you can use autoresponder for your nonprofit and a formula to set-up each email.

1. Welcome series

When people sign-up on your website or anywhere else, provide a proper introduction by triggering a Welcome Series of two emails. Contacts are most engaged directly after sign-up so use the Welcome Series to let them get to know your organization.

Here’s how you can structure the emails in your Welcome Series:

Email 1 – Welcome & fulfill the offer

If you offer something to subscribers in exchange for their email address (a guide, or helpful resource), use email 1 to fulfill the offer. This is also your chance to let them know how important their support is to your organization. In most cases, we suggest triggering this first email immediately after sign-up.

Email 2 – Invitation to connect

Two days later, ask them them to engage with your organization to begin building a relationship. If you are on social media, let them know how get involved in the conversation and spread the word about your cause.

Example: In the case of the animal shelter, they could entice people to sign-up by offering a free dog training guide and include a link to the ebook in the first email. Then in email two, they can ask people to “Share the Love” and connect with them on social media to help spread the word.

2. Action series

Another idea is to encourage your supporters and followers to take action on something. This type of series is great for requesting donations, getting volunteers, and even encouraging people to register for your events.

For this series, it’s important to start with an interested audience and then follow up with timely, relevant emails that encourage them to do something specific. Here’s a formula you can follow get your contacts to take action:

Email 1 – Give reasons why
In the first email, provide a few reasons why they should take action. Let them know why they should adopt a dog through your organization or how donating will make your organization more successful.

Email 2 – Highlight a unique aspect
Three days later, highlight a unique aspect of what you are trying to get them to do. Share something that differentiates your need for donations or the adoption process from other similar organizations.

Email 3 – Invoke the fear of missing out
In another three days, showcase how they can be a part of your organization’s success and try to invoke a fear of missing out if they don’t take action.

Example: In the case of the animal shelter, Click Segmentation in Constant Contact can be used to find people who are interested in adopting certain types of dogs.

Once a contact clicks, the Action Series can be triggered to those people in order to entice them to adopt a dog. In the first email, they can provide three reasons why the type of dog would make a great fit for a family. Then, in email two, they can talk about how those dogs make a great fit because they make friends easily. In the final email, they can share information on how fast these dogs are adopted and encourage people to schedule a visit to the shelter right away.

3. Onboarding series

After someone takes action, you can follow-up with an onboarding series to to keep them interested and provide any essential information they need to know.

Here’s how you can create an onboarding series for your nonprofit:

Email 1 – Thank you & getting started info
Start by saying “thanks” and provide any essential information they need to stay motivated about the action they took. We suggest sending this 1 day after they take action.

Email 2 – Share educational information
Three days later, provide educational information based on the action they took to keep them involved. Think about sharing videos or even FAQs to convey this information.

Email 3 – Ask for feedback
Three days after email 2 ask them to complete a survey, or leave a review online for your organization. Let your contacts know how important reviews are to your success and how they’ll help you to obtain more support.

Example: In the case of the animal shelter, they can send the onboarding series after people adopt a dog. In the first email, contacts can receive training tips and resources for their first day as a new dog parent. Then in email two, they can provide information on successfully transitioning the new dog into the home. Finally, they can ask for a review of the experience and provide information on how important it is for the success of the organization.

4. Anticipation series

Another way to engage your supporters is with an Anticipation Series to create excitement for something happening at your organization.

You can use this type of series to build enthusiasm for an event or fundraising campaign. Think about the types of things that will help your readers prepare and keep them thinking. This type of content in your series will help to increase attendance and donations.

Example: In the case of the animal shelter, they can use this type of series to build excitement for their annual 5k fundraising event. They can send information on training for a 5k, the anatomy of a good running shoe, and even prizes they can win by attending race day.

5. Best Content series

For those of you who have existing, timeless content, turn it into a series for new supporters who haven’t seen the information yet. You’ll be able to make sure that everyone is privy to the same information and boost views on the content you already have. Think about any emails you’ve already created or use content from your blog.

This type of series can help you to build stronger relationships with your volunteers and supporters. Just make sure the information is up-to-date, relevant, and that the series builds on ideas.

Example: For the animal shelter, they can create a series using posts from their blog with information on pet health. Email 1 can include a short blurb from the blog post talking about pet nutrition. Email 2 can feature a post on the importance of yearly check-ups and vaccinations. Lastly, email 3 can feature a post on pet exercise with suggestions on fun activities to do with your pet.

Get Started Today!

You now have five ideas to start implementing autoresponder series for your nonprofit. Use these ideas and change them to fit the needs for your organization. You’ll be able to build stronger relationships while furthering your cause.

Need help getting started? check out the recording of our recent webinar: Practical Uses for Email Automation. You’ll be able to see some email examples and a demo on how to create an automated series in Constant Contact.

What kind of automated series will you create?