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GuideStar Blog

How to Build Email Trust with Supporters


This fresh approach to creating the most effective email campaigns possible is a priceless reminder built on famed psychologist Abe Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Although created for for-profit marketers, is equally relevant for us cause communicators and fundraisers.

Here’s the challenge—faced by 99.9% of your organizations, I bet (me too)—this approach addresses:

1) Your relationship with the folks who’ve signed onto your email list is a clear, although implicit, exchange.

2) They give you permission to email them in exchange for targeted content they value, and respect. Relevance rules!

3) As a result, there’s a constant push-and-pull on the relationship. The tension is as strong as the potential—your subscribers always assessing whether your emails are worth their time and attention.

4) Just as you might lose sight of your partner’s needs when bickering about family chores, it’s all too easy to forget the deal you’ve made with email subs to focus on your organizational goals, be they your year-end fundraising appeal or a just-launched petition campaign.

5) It’s vital to keep your promise. Here are a few techniques that will help:

  • Make sure you keep the WIIFM (What’s in it for me, me being your subs in this case) front in center as you develop content
  • Start at the bottom of the pyramid—with your subject line—and apply WIIFM to every element in your email (consider creating a WIIFM checklist to review before you schedule emails)
  • Test, track and refine according to your email analytics. Bolster those insights with a few conversations with subscribers, if possible

The preceding is a guest post by Nancy Schwartz, Speaker-Author-Strategist, Nancy helps nonprofits like yours succeed through effective marketing. For more nonprofit marketing guidance like this, subscribe to her e-update at

Topics: Communications