I get emails all the time from nonprofits asking what they should use to send emails to their donors. The truth is, the question isn’t always that simple. Mailchimp is a great email and reasonably priced email option for nonprofits with under 10k contacts that use simple email campaigns and broadcasts. For nonprofits that have a larger contact list or plan on having complex marketing campaigns, Mailchimp might not be the best option. Here is what I use to help determine if Mailchimp is the right choice.
Usually my initial response to the question “What email tool should our nonprofit use?” is a list of follow up questions:
- How many contacts do you have?
- Are you sending off email broadcasts? or do you plan on building journeys for your contacts?
- Where do you get your contacts from?
- Do you need certain journeys to trigger based on actions a contact takes?
- What is your budget
Below is how I determine if Mailchimp is the right tool for the job.
The size of your audience is going to make a big difference as to which email and marketing tools will work best for you. There are two main reasons for this: price and segmentation. The first one is fairly simple. Most email tools offer a sliding price scale based on the number of contacts you have in your system. This is true with Mailchimp as well. I personally find that Mailchimp offers a competitive price for nonprofits with fewer than 10,000 contacts. After that, the price becomes similar to what is offered by other marketing tools if not more expensive. It is worth noting that Mailchimp caps its Essentials plan at 50,000 contacts, so if you have more than that, be ready to be spending a little more on the service.
Audience segmentation, on the other hand, can vary based on your audience’s size and how you plan on communicating with them. Will each contact in your database receive the same email or will it vary depending on who they are and/or what they have done. If you plan on sending out more than a simple newsletter or broadcast an appeal now and then, Mailchimp does offer ways to segment your audiences. What I have personally found is that while Mailchimp can segment audiences, other marketing tools often offer more robust ways to split your audiences into different subsections.
Journeys/Campaigns or Broadcasts
When it comes to sending out email broadcasts and newsletters, Mailchimp is great. It has an easy to use email builder and makes sending out an email to your entire list very easy. While broadcast emails are usually just the starting point for many nonprofits, sometimes that is all you need your email tool to do. If that is the case, Mailchimp may very well be the right option for you.
If you have complex journeys that are triggered by actions the contact takes, then you may want to look into a different tool. Yes, Mailchimp offers what they call “Customer Journey Builder” for their Standard and Premium plans, but I have found that their system leaves much to be desired.
Mailchimp can connect to several different platforms directly, or indirectly through tools like Zapier. These connections can trigger a journey to start, but that’s about where the magic ends. There is no easy way to pull someone out of a customer journey and the amount of customization you have within the journey builder is very limited. If you are not careful when designing your journeys in Mailchimp, it can be very easy to accidentally send many more emails to a contact than you initially intended to.
If you plan on sending anything other than a monthly newsletter to your constituents, having an email tool that can integrate with the rest of your tech stack is essential. You will need to have a streamlined way to add and update contacts so that the right person is receiving the right communication at the right time.
Mailchimp has done a pretty good job of developing native integrations with a large number of tools ranging from CRM’s to event management tools to ecommerce platforms. If the tool you’re using doesn’t have a native integration, it can probably be connected with Zapier.
Pushing data into Mailchimp is pretty straightforward, what is less common and more difficult, is having Mailchimp send data back to any of the other tools you are using. For example, if you have a CRM separate from Mailchimp, you may want to track the last time a contact has opened an email in that CRM. Most of Mailchimp’s integrations do not allow for something like this. To be able to have all of your data in one place, you will usually need to find something that offers both CRM and marketing automation in one product. While Mailchimp has the basics of a CRM, I would not consider utilizing it as one.
Mailchimp offers fairly competitive pricing when you have a small number of contacts. This can be very enticing for a small nonprofit. While price should never be the primary consideration when selecting a piece of technology, I do realize that it is often part of the equation. What I recommend most nonprofits do is look at how much the tool will cost them 5 years from now if they grow as much as they expect to. Changing tools can be very time consuming and expensive so you will want to make sure you select the option that will meet your organization’s needs for several years, not just the one that is a little easier on the budget.
For nonprofits, Mailchimp offers a 15% discount to nonprofits, making its lower introductory pricing even more appealing to small nonprofits. The actual price you will pay will depend on the plan you select and the number of contacts that you have. You can find pricing details here: https://mailchimp.com/pricing/. Be sure to scroll down to the price calculator as the prices at the top of the page can be deceiving. Once you plug in the number of contacts you have, the price may look very different than what you first expect it to be.
There are a lot of email marketing tools available, so it can be hard to choose the right one. Below are my recommendations based on the questions written at the beginning of this post.
Mailerlite is a very affordable email marketing tool for those on a budget. It doesn’t have much if you are looking to build out drip sequences, but it is great for sending out broadcasts or using RSS to email.
Sendgrid is a robust email marketing tool. So much so that some companies send out emails through their API without even using the interface. Sendgrid has features including email validation, segmentation, A/B testing, and signup forms. Sendgrid can get pricy fast, but still tends to be a little cheaper than Mailchimp when working with a larger list.