The number one mistake for nonprofit organisations on Mailchimp

All your contacts in one basket: this is what you want to achieve — Photo by Melinda Gimpel on Unsplash

Depending on your NGO or nonprofit organisation’s mission, you might have several communications channels: events, social media, newsletters, official communications, etc. And on these channels, you try to reach different audiences.

For a nonprofit organisation or an NGO, these audiences can be as various as grantees, granters, civil society organisations, partners in your field of operation, followers of a specific project, officials, journalists, local representatives, influencers, members of other organisations and businesses, internal sections of your organisation, etc.

It might be tempting — and logical — to use separated “Audiences” in Mailchimp (and on other e-mailing tools). But the marketing platform prefers that you gather all your contacts in a single place, a single ‘Audience”.

Why use a single Audience for different targets?

The logic of Mailchimp is fairly simple, although counter-intuitive. The platform wants you to gather all your contacts in one place to create synergies between the campaigns you will launch.

You might consider that a certain partner will not be interested in a project that you run in a foreign country, for instance. But later, and if your project expands, you will want to send a notification to your partner across the border.

In this case, you will appreciate having long-standing and qualitative data in one place: how well do they respond to your communications? what interests them? to which topics are they most likely to react?

This is powerful. Mailchimp built its business value around this principle: in a single place, on a single audience, you can collect details data about all the people interested in your business.

The benefits of using a single Audience

But the interest does not end here. There are other benefits to switching to a single audience instead of one per project or target.

The first one is obvious: you save money. As a Mailchimp subscription is based on the number of contacts in your list, turning to a single audience can save you tons. And since nonprofit organisations and NGOs often struggle to finance their activities, any cent saved is a win.

The second benefit is less obvious but as important. By running one audience list instead of 5, 10, or more, there is less margin for error. Contacts are all updated at once by the targetted person themselves. You will have less opportunity for a disastrous untimely sending. In short, your communication will look more professional.

A third benefit is a legal one. European legislation such as RGPD forbids you to hold data about a person against their will and consent. If someone decides to unsubscribe from your mailing list, they will be removed from an audience, but not from all. And next time you send communication about another project, your message will end up in their mailbox, effectively pissing them off. The one-audience system makes sure that you stay compliant with consumer data protection rules.

How to target specific people in a single Audience

Now that you are convinced about the necessity to adopt the one-audience approach, let’s see in detail how to address different targets. To do so, Mailchimp offers tools such as segments, tags, and groups.


A segment divides your audience into two or more groups. You can distinguish it by the origin of the lead (did they register on a landing page or did you add them manually?), by age (are they more likely to be interested in bridge or skateboarding competitions?), by localisation (did a project target specific countries above others?), etc.

Segments are used to target specific people over others. Segmenting by age will mean that someone over (or under) a certain age will not receive your mailing.


Tags are probably the most useful division in Mailchimp. A tag can be applied to any contact. A person can have several tags attached to her. This way, you might tag contacts by their jobs — local representatives, business leaders, influencers — and still be able to send communication to someone that is a local-business-influencer, something that is impossible with a segment.


Groups are useful if you have multiple publications. Your contacts can even choose to subscribe or unsubscribe themselves to a group. You can group people to receive communication about a certain project, event invitations, general news from your activities, etc. This will allow your audience interested in project A and not project B to register to the former only.

Combine segments for maximum efficiency

Now, let’s imagine that you want to invite local representatives in France to attend an event on your flagship projects. You can segment your campaign on your subscribers in France, gather your tag for representatives, and group contacts for a specific project only.

With this solution, no need for complicated, one-time lists. A single effective audience and a handful of tags and segments are all you need to run a successful mailing campaign.

Are you responsible for the communication, marketing, and advocacy work of an NGO or a nonprofit? Do you run one?

Stop right there: this is your new knowledge place. Once a week, I publish marketing tips and advice for organisations like yours.

For more insight, follow my activities on Medium, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you are interested in European and French politics: turn to the beubble.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store