You only get one chance to make a first impression. So what impression are you making with your email list?
When an individual trusts you (and your organization) with their personal email address, the best way to respect that trust is by sending a welcome email. Besides, a solid welcome email can pay dividends later on. According to Becky Endicott, co-host of the We Are For Good podcast, a welcome email has a 4X better open rate and a 5X better click rate than a regular email.
Translation: A welcome email is your time to shine, allowing you to educate recipients on the mission and values of your organization.
On episode 89 of the We Are For Good Podcast, our friends Jonathan McCoy and Becky Endicott share valuable tips, including what a welcome email series is, how to build one, and other valuable tips.
What is a welcome email?
A welcome email is an email (or a series of emails) that a subscriber receives after signing up for your email list.
A welcome email — when done right — does far more than confirm a new subscriber on your list. It seeks to deepen their relationship with your organization, allowing your audience to learn more about your mission, values, and founder story.
Typically, a welcome email will be expanded into a series of emails, thereby educating subscribers on your organization. Through a series, you can offer valuable content such as your most-shared blog posts, viral videos, or shareable podcast episodes (in other words, content that the recipient probably missed in the past). It's your opportunity to tell the subscriber, "Hey, you subscribed to our list, and we're going to thank you by only sending valuable content that's worth your time and inbox space."
How to build a welcome email series in three steps
To build an effective welcome series, you need three things: content, human empathy, and technology. In other words, you need to 1) write email content that offers value to the reader, 2) understand your audience so you know what wouldbe valuable in the first place, and 3) have the technology to automate it.
Becky and Jonathan recommend dividing your email sequence into three parts, including:
1. The welcome email (with a freebie) 👋
Before you start thinking about your welcome series, take a step back and consider how a subscriber might land upon your list in the first place.
One of the best ways to grow your list is to offer a freebie or lead magnet — a downloadable piece of content or special offer that entices people to hand over their personal email addresses. Your freebie should be within your topic of interest, such as:
- Sports team: If you're a high school dance team, offer a video of last year's state competition.
- Grassroots nonprofit: If you're a local organization looking to clean up parks in your town or country, create an interactive map of the best hiking routes within a 2-hour drive.
- Local club: If you're a local book reading club, create a top-50 list of the best recommended books of the year.
And here's the best piece of news: Chances are, you already have these pieces of content. It's simply a way to repurpose your most valuable pieces of content that new subscribers haven't seen before.
The first email within your welcome series serves a dual purpose. First, it automatically sends the freebie to the recipient, thereby helping to build trust with your email list. Second, it offers an opportunity to introduce your organization, explaining your mission, values, and social media channels. (Side note: Keep your email brief — you’ll have plenty of future emails to dive into the details of your organization.)
2. The partnership 👯
Send: 5-7 days after first email
The second email within your email campaign is your opportunity to help build a relationship with those on your list. The hosts of the We Are For Good podcast refer to this email as your "partnership" email, because it makes subscribers feel like they're on your side.
Try to make this email feel like a glimpse behind the curtain at your organization — a bit of insider knowledge that might not be known to the greater public. Here are a few ideas to include:
- Founder story: How did your organization get started in the first place? Do your founders have a captivating story that would capture the reader's attention?
- Anecdotes: Do you have a case study, testimonial, or personal anecdotes from people who have been directly impacted by your organization?
- Impact made: Could you share any statistics about how your organization has changed your community for the better?
When writing your second email, be careful about your CTA button (call to action). The partnership email should not be a conversion email (i.e., it should not lead directly to a donate page). Rather, it should lead to past blog posts, webinars, or podcast episodes that help the reader dive further into the stories you shared.
3. The ask 💪
Send: 5-7 days after the second email
Now that you’ve spent two emails nurturing your email subscribers, it's time to make the ask. Your third email is the conversion email. You dedicated two emails to offering valuable content to your subscribers, and now you're going to ask for something in return.
Your ask email will have a clear CTA (clear call to action), guiding individuals to:
- Donate to your cause: Small businesses will use a conversion email to guide new customers to make their first purchase. As a nonprofit organization, you will guide subscribers to make a donation.
- Volunteer for an event: Your conversion doesn't have to be monetary-related. Instead, you can lead people to a signup form where they can volunteer their time for an upcoming fundraising event.
- Make a change: If you are running an activism campaign, you can invite subscribers to sign a petition, call their local senators, or attend a town hall meeting.
Pro tip: To get the most out of your conversion email, you will need a strong landing page — particularly when asking for donations. Be sure to make a beautifully branded donation page so subscribers can easily contribute to your cause.
Welcome email best practices
Once your welcome messages have been written, it's time to put them into an automated sequence. Below, we share several best practices to make a great welcome email sequence (several we stole from Jonathan and Becky, others are our own!).
- Invest in marketing automation software 🖥: Use your CRM platform or email automation software (like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or ThankView) to create a workflow and send emails automatically after someone makes a donation.
- Segment your list 🔀: Segmentation helps prevent unsubscribes on your list by only providing the most relevant information. Segment your list so anyone who is still receiving welcome emails does not receive other messages (like newsletters). That way, you don't bombard them with emails right out of the gate.
- Keep things fresh 🍀: Your welcome email design and content should not be a "set it and forget it" process. Instead, regularly revisit your sequence to ensure all information is still relevant.
- Give it personality 💃: Your emails should sound like you, so if you love sharing GIFs and emojis (like us!), do so in your emails. Content marketing doesn't have to be serious, so allow your personality and voice to shine through here.
- Dive into analytics 📊: Research your average open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates to increase engagement and understand your audience. How many donations were you able to receive from sending your welcome series?
- Play around with subject lines 💡: A subject line is the most-read line within an email (think about it: Even those who don't open your email still read the subject line). Play around with A/B testing email subject lines to see which ones are the most effective.
Lastly, above all else, remember that your email sequence is meant to be a journey. You don't have to give away every single detail about your company within each email (or even three emails!).
Sending too much information right away is sort of like meeting someone at a party who immediately tells you their life story — it's overwhelming and a bit of a turn-off.
A great email marketing strategy always approaches messaging like a conversation, adding a level of humanity back into the content.
Welcome email examples: How to write your sequence
Now that you understand which pieces of content to include, it's time to write your sequence. Below, we share simple welcome email templates to send to first-time subscribers. We’ve made them pretty straightforward to leave room for your unique brand voice!
Email 1: Welcome
Thank you so much for subscribing to [list name]!
We are dedicated to [organization mission]. In the past year, we were able to successfully [metric on impact made within the past year].
Thank you so much for joining our community. Below, please find [email freebie]. We hope this helps share our commitment to [organization values].
Email 2: Partnership
Allow us to explain how this entire journey began.
[Number] years ago, our founder, [founder name], realized that [founder story or problem]. They were able to [how the founder launched the company].
Today, we are still dedicated to our roots. Just this year, [name] was impacted by our organization by [personal story from someone impacted by your organization].
To learn more about [name] and how [organization] changed their life, read this blog post: [hyperlinked title of blog post].
Email 3: Ask
Every year, [statistics explaining the need for your organization].
We're hoping to change that. So far, this year, we have been able to raise [number] to impact [statistic showing your community impact]. And we're asking you to join us.
A donation of just [number] can help save [quantify their donation]. Can you spare just [number] to help [organization mission]?
Use Givebutter to help launch your welcome series
A welcome email series rolls out the red carpet for new users or subscribers to your list. It helps educate and deepen your connection with your supporters.
Use your first email within your series to offer a valuable freebie and reinforce your mission, then follow up with two additional emails — the partnership and the ask — to guide supporters through your workflow.
One of the many perks of Givebutter is that it integrates seamlessly with your email automation software. Help boost your conversion rates by leading supporters directly to your donation page. To launch your campaign and build your first welcome series, launch your free Givebutter account today.
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.