How to Choose an Email Service Provider for Your Nonprofit

colorful tiles- choose an email service providerEmail is a powerful tool that benefits commercial and nonprofit organizations alike. With that said, it is a tool that performs at its best when supplied by email service provider (ESP). An ESP has the tools you need to create professional looking campaigns, gauge your success, and make sure your messages are actually delivered, which isn’t guaranteed when trying to reach even small groups of people from a standard account.

But with so many vendors on the scene, how do choose?

Use these pointers to find an email service provider that accommodates the needs of your nonprofit.

Determine What Your Nonprofit Needs

Before heading out to the increasingly crowded ESP marketplace, it is wise to figure out exactly what your nonprofit needs to thrive with email. Of course those requirements are specific to your organization, but the following list of items will give you an idea of what to keep in mind:

  • Features

    What features do you need? Will standard items such as autoresponders, templates, and email composition tools suffice, or do you require something more advanced?

  • System integration

    Do you need to integrate the email software with a CRM program, or other systems used to track your fundraising initiatives?

  • Ease of use

    Is your IT team tech savvy enough to pick up and roll with any web software, or do you need to accommodate a certain skill level to get the best bang for your buck?

  • Contacts

    How big is your list? How many people do you need to contact? How big do you anticipate that list growing over the next couple years?

  • Budget

    How much can you afford to spend on email marketing services?

Do Your Homework

Like I said earlier, there are plenty of email service providers out there, and newcomers are frequently emerging on the scene. While this is a good thing from a variety standpoint, it also makes choosing the right vendor a tougher process. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you conduct thorough research before making a decision.

Here’s what you’ll need

So what areas do you need to pay attention when carrying out this important assignment? Here are a few that can be considered vital:

  • Service reliability

    Does the vendor you’re looking at have a track record for providing their customers with a reliable service? Hopefully so, because an unreliable infrastructure will get mighty annoying should the system go down during those crucial moments when you need to reach your supporters.

  • Customer support

    A given company is only as good as the support is delivers to its customer base. Set your sights on an ESP that provides solid support in the form of phone, email, chat, or a combination of all three.

  • Free trial

    It is in your best interest to find a company that offers a free trial. Whether that trial runs for 30 days or 14 days, this period should give you enough time to test out the software and determine if it is indeed a good fit for your nonprofit.

Seek Recommendations From Peer Groups

One of the best ways to find a provider of any service is to get recommendations. In this case, those recommendations will come from similar organizations with similar needs. Hopefully you have a few groups you can reach out to directly, but when all else fails, remember that the internet is your best friend. A little time spent with your favorite search engine, social network, blogs or discussion boards can lead you to feedback provided by trusted members of your industry.

Ask the Tough Questions

One of your have narrowed down your list of ESPs to a few potentially worthy candidates, it’s time to contact them find out who can really satisfy your needs. Here are few questions I recommend asking:

  • How do you guarantee delivery of email to the inbox?
  • What measures do you take to provide the highest level of security?
  • Can I upgrade my email plan?
  • How much does it really cost to get started? (watch out for hidden fees)
  • Why should I choose you over other service providers?


As you can see, choosing an email service provider is often a challenging process. It can be a long grueling road, but a road worth traveling once you find a suitor capable of fully supporting your  needs. Of course those needs may vary, but follow this universal format, and I promise that you will secure the right email marketing solution.
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About Francis Santos

Francis Santos has several years experience in the email marketing field. His current role is that of a writer for Benchmark Email, a best practices email marketing company. Follow Francis at Google+.