If you volunteer for a non-profit, you know they appreciate your time and effort. Unfortunately, facilities, supplies, and employees can’t be paid for with only time and effort. Like their for-profit siblings, non-profit organizations need money to operate. Not everyone has connections to big donors or philanthropic companies, but we all have friends, family and other acquaintances that are usually more generous than we think. Used properly, an email marketing tool (like Benchmark) can help you raise money to ensure that your beloved non-profit will continue to serve its mission. Here are five tips to help you do just that.

Tip 1: Verify that your non-profit has an easy way to accept online donations

When you raise money through email, most of your donors are going to want to click directly through from your email to the donation page and make a contribution with their credit card. Online donations are similar to “impulse buys,” so you need to remove any obstacles from the donation path. A straightforward donation process with clear steps is necessary to maximize the impact of your fundraising efforts.

Tip 2: When you are deciding which contacts to email, more is better

When you raise money for a non-profit, don’t think of it as “asking for money.” Your emails are informing people about a non-profit that you support and believe is doing valuable work. Your job as a fundraiser is to let people know that if they choose to contribute to the organization, the money will be well spent. When you compose your email with that mindset, you will want everyone to receive the message.

Tip 3: More contacts is better, but organizing them into groups is the best

If you plan to send the same email to your mother, your boss and your college buddy, you will wind up writing something so generic, that it will sound impersonal to anyone that reads it. Instead, organize your contacts into groups that have something in common. You will then be able to create tailored messages to appeal to the individuals in each specific group. At a minimum, create these contact groups: close friends, family, former donors to your non-profit (if you have any) and everyone else.

Tip 4: If you start an email with “Dear friend,” NO ONE WILL READ THE NEXT SENTENCE!

You’re using an email marketing tool, so take advantage of the form fields. Insert the [first name] function after “Dear” in the salutation of the email. If you don’t, people will immediately sense that you have sent out a mass email, and feel that it’s not important for them to read.

Tip 5: Send your contacts three to four emails, before giving up

Many people won’t donate, because they choose not to, but some people won’t donate, because they forget. If someone read your email, while they were in a meeting or (God forbid) driving a car, they might have intended to donate when they were able. Of course, most people forget these intentions and need to be reminded. After sending your first email, send at least two follow up emails (to those that haven’t already donated) to gently remind them of the fundraising campaign. Good people won’t be offended.

As a member of the Young Men’s Business League, we raise money to support the Austin Sunshine Camps every year. Six years ago, I helped the organization develop and implement a fundraising system based on these principles. As a result we increased our annual fundraising from $40,000 to $400,000. Technology alone won’t achieve this kind of performance, but if you combine quality email marketing and online fundraising systems and tools with passionate volunteers and a compelling mission, you will achieve remarkable results.