Holiday email campaigns: 12 Ideas for making your messaging merry and bright


Theoretically, the holidays should be all sugar plums, Love Actually, and full cashmere getups. In reality, it’s often snow-sludge, end-of-year work stress, and family tension. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could not only find a fun and festive escape in your inbox, but also if you could give that to your constituents? Santa (or Hanukkah Harry) would be so proud. And with a few easy and creative changes to your typical newsletter, even the elves will be proud of your efficiency. Get in the spirit with these holiday email campaigns that will help make your email list merry and bright this holiday season.

1. Holiday Gift Guide

Who doesn’t love a bundle? Turn your organization’s content into a gift guide (and don’t forget about the donation page) to help subscribers with their holiday shopping lists. 
For content, send an email with 3 to 5 articles to “Share with your family and friends this season” or to “Spark conversation at Thanksgiving dinner.”
For donations, tie dollar amounts to services or impact, and make donating in a person’s name the gift of the year. The Selamta Family Project breaks down each monthly giving amount so your donation feels tangible. Giving Mom the feels that come with giving a student free medical care for a year? Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.


2. Virtual Holiday Card

Don’t be afraid to have fun with your holiday marketing this season. Take a team photo (bonus points for ugly sweaters) and send some warm holiday wishes to your constituents. You can make it an excuse to also include your year-end recap or annual report to keep your subscribers up to date on all of the awesome work you’ve done this year. Sending it from the CEO or founder of the organization will add an extra special and personalized touch.



3. Pivot to Video

Make sure you pivot for good. Illustrate your vision and mission through video, which can also be repurposed as a pitch video for crowdfunding or your donation page. Studies have shown that crowdfunding campaigns with pitch videos raise 3 times as many funds. Why not test this theory to see if the same can be said for your email marketing campaigns?

4. Inspiring Infographics and Groovy Gifs

Don’t have video? Make the most of your images and data. Design infographics to share key stats from your year. Create or source gifs that bring your email campaigns to life. Keep readers’ eyes on your emails, and always — always — hyperlink your visuals to send users to your website.

5. Seasonal Subject Lines

Two of our favorite kinds of subject lines are punny and topical. Now is your chance to combine both! Think of your favorite holiday songs, movies, and sayings, and find ways to (appropriately) reference them in your year-end emails. Think “12 days of giving,” or “holly jolly jungle cats,” etc. Alliteration always helps.

6. : Snowman Emoji :

For organizations with younger audiences, consider adding seasonal emojis to your subject lines. Brands using emojis have seen a 45% increase in open rates, and apparently the snowman emoji is the most successful. Go figure, Frosty.

7. Ambassador Appreciation

Spread gratitude with your holiday wishes this season. Send a campaign that features different ambassadors in each email: One week could be volunteers, the next week could be field-workers, and the following could be social media supporters. Share Twitter and Instagram screenshots, testimonials, and stories. They’ll be honored to be featured, and your other constituents may be motivated to join in on the fun!

8. The Best Year Ever

Another fun way to recap the year is to look back on the best content or events from the past year. What article got the most pageviews (hint: use Google Analytics)? Did a story or video get shared a lot on social media (hint: use Twitter Analytics, YouTube Analytics, or Facebook Insights). Did you have a super successful event or gala? Share those highlights and the data (number of views, number of donations, etc) to back it up.


9. Spread Good Cheer

Have an inspiring video, article, or story of impact? Recruit your subscribers to help you share the message and spread holiday cheer! Use AddThis in your email to make it super easy for readers to see the content and immediately share it on social media or in an email to their network. Once their friends and family share it with their friends and family, you’ve got a movement going.

10. Potluck Playlist

Make a playlist on Spotify related to your organization and share it with your list as an exclusive email offer. We love the One Love #ThatsNotLove playlist: Subscribers get to collaborate by adding songs that illustrate unhealthy relationship behaviors. Thoughtful, thought-provoking, and fun. Bonus points if you have an organization-wide potluck and play it during the festivities.


11. Segmented Thank Yous

Not all subscribers are alike. Some are super engaged, opening and clicking every newsletter. Some are your donors, both big and small. These two groups of subscribers have proven to be committed to your organization. Consider sending them special thank you notes, highlighting how their commitment to your cause has helped you to drive impact. If you use Pardot, you can target these committed prospects based on their Score. Make sure the message is personalized, and offer an exclusive piece of content if you can. Our favorite thank yous include video testimonials or photos of notes from the people who benefit from your services.

12. And To All a Good Night

Expect a drop-off in email activity and website traffic in late December: Many of your subscribers will be on Holiday and offline. Schedule your Holiday-specific email marketing campaign to end before December 20 so you reach people before they sign off.
For end-of-year giving appeals, you can pick up the campaign again from the 29th to the 31st of December: studies show that 12% of donations are made in the last 3 days of the year. Then, finally, sit back with an eggnog and some fuzzy slippers to enjoy the festivities!
For more email marketing tips, download our complete email guide below (#haveyourselfametalittlechristmas).

Learn how to shed light on important email segments with Lighthouse by Whole Whale — no Rudolph required — at