How to create an outbound email

A detailed guide on drafting and sending email messages with Engage

Alyssa avatar
Written by Alyssa
Updated over a week ago

Engage setup ⚙️

First, open your dashboard and head to Engage in the sidebar.

Engage is automatically activated for verified nonprofit accounts. Accounts that are not verified will need to first Request Access on the Engage tab.

If your Engage page includes the Getting Started heading, you'll need to connect your email domain, add email senders, and get your custom branding set up before you can send an email.

engage start screen

Are you a verified nonprofit? You can also create outbound SMS messages – see our dedicated guide!

New message or template ➕

  • When Engage is set up and ready to use, click New Message in the top right.

  • Choose Email Message to create an email from scratch, or choose Start with template to use a built-in templates. Available email templates include:

    • Upcoming Fundraiser

    • Inactive Donor

    • Thank you

    • #GivingTuesday

    • EOY Update

    • New Supporter

new message button

Filter your contacts 📙

The first screen you'll see is the list of contacts you want the message to be sent to – your mailing list! By default, all your contacts will be included. To narrow this down, create a new Filter to include a targeted group of contacts.

If you don't have contacts in your account yet, you'll need to import your contacts before you start.

You can create filters to create targeted groups based on a variety of different criteria, such as:

  • Presets: A selection of preset options, including one-time donors

  • Campaigns: Donors who have given to a specific campaign

  • Contact: Donors who have given a certain amount, recurring donors, contacts since a certain date, or by tags

  • Team Member: Team Members on campaigns based on how much they've raised, the date they registered, or the number of supporters

  • Transactions: Donors who have a Transaction meeting the criteria set, ie. credited to a specific Team Member, over a certain amount, or by date

  • Tickets: Ticket holders of a specific ticket type, status (ie. checked in), or by number of tickets purchased

  • Recurring Plan: Donors with recurring plans by start date, amount, frequency (ie. monthly donors), or payment method

  • DonorSearch: Criteria set by DonorSearch such as rating or annual gift likelihood

  • Custom Fields: Filtering options will vary based on the type of contact custom field.

    • Text fields: Includes or excludes

    • Number fields: Greater than, less than, or equal to

    • Date fields: Includes or excludes date selection

    • Toggle fields: yes or no

    • Option fields: All, Any, or None of available options

These are cumulative filters, so you can select multiple criteria. Contact tags are a great way to designate a specific group of donors.

contact tags

You can also filter contacts by clicking the dropdown arrow to the right side of the filter button. This will give you the options of segments (saved filter groups) and presets.

filter split button

Subscription status ❌

If a contact has a red bell icon next to it, this contact is unsubscribed. Unsubscribed contacts will not be sent a message, even if they are displayed in your filtered list of contacts.

unsubscribed contact example

If there are just a few, there's no action you need to take, and you can go ahead and proceed to the next step. If all of your contacts are unsubscribed, you'll need to bulk subscribe your contacts – this is often the result of a data import issue, and it can be fixed.

Compose your message ✏️

  • After finishing up your contact list, click Next, and you'll be taken to the message composer, which is formatted like an email composer. In the top section, you'll see:

    • the number of contacts it'll be sent to and any excluded contacts

    • a field to choose an email sender

    • the subject of the message

    • any file attachments you'd like to add

sample email setup fields
  • First, name your email - this will help keep you organized later on! You can do this by clicking the pencil icon next to the title, which will be a draft number by default. (You can also do this after a message is sent.)

  • Choose your email sender. This will be the email address that displays as the "from" email when it's sent out. This is part of the setup process. If you missed this step, follow our directions to add email senders.

  • Add a subject for your message. This is limited to 255 characters.

  • You can then add attachments to your message.

    • Up to 5MB of attachments are supported

    • Up to 10 separate attachments

    • Images, PDFs, and MS Office files are supported

  • Head to the next section, where you'll see your brand color and logo pre-populated in the composer. If they need to be adjusted, you can edit your outbound branding settings.

  • Click "Message..." to begin typing your message. If you have chosen a template, your message will be auto-populated. Areas for customization are indicated by [text in brackets].

Read on to learn more about the icons included in the message composer, or skip ahead to send a test email and see how it looks! 👀

Composer options ✉️

Add text and images, embed video content, include links to other websites, and more!

  • Undo and Redo

  • Paragraph – options for body text and headings

  • Bold, Italic, Underline, Strikethrough

  • Text Color – choose colors for your text from a preset, or enter a custom color

  • Link – enter a URL to link to, the text to display, and a title (displayed on hover)

  • Merge tags – add customized information about your donors, including:

    • Contact Details (email address, mailing address, etc.)

    • Custom Fields (additional contact information added by you)

    • Donations (last donation date, largest donation amount, etc.)

    • Primary Details (first name, full name, company, etc.)

    • Social Accounts (website and social media URLs for your organization)

    • Year-End Summaries (link to last year or current year EOY summary for this specific contact)

Merge tags also support fallback values (defaults) that populate if merge tag data doesn't exist. To set fallback values, go to Engage > Settings > Merge Fields, and click Add new default.

  • Canva – use our native integration with Canva to add custom graphics

What is Canva? Canva is a free graphic design app that you can use to create images or slides for outbound messaging, campaign Story sections, or Team Member profiles. After clicking the Canva icon, you'll be asked to log in or create a free account. You can then create graphics to Publish and add to your message!

canva demo
  • Image – insert an image via URL (Source) or Upload

    • Maximum image width is 600 pixels and size is 5MB

    • To make an image into a clickable hyperlink, insert your image, click on the image so it's selected, then click the Link icon in the menu bar to enter the link you'd like it to point to.

  • Media – insert video content via URL or embed code

    • If you have your own video file (ie. MP4, MOV), you'll need to upload it to a video platform like YouTube before you're able to link it in your Givebutter email.

  • Emojis

  • List options – numbered lists and bullet points

Add a clickable button 📢

You can also add a clickable call-to-action button to your Engage email! This is a great way to add a Donate button that links to your campaign page, insert a Learn More button that links to your organization's website, or prompt your supporters to take an action at the end of your email.

Please note that this applies to text-based buttons. (For image-based buttons that link out to an external URL, follow the instructions above under Image.)

  • In the location of the button, click the Link icon.

click link icon
  • In the popup window, fill out the fields:

    • URL – The link that the button will direct to.

    • Text to display – Text to appear on the button. (ie. Donate, Click Here)

    • Title – Text that will appear when the button is hovered on.

    • Open link in – Choose from Current window or New window.

  • Click Save when you're done. A text-based link will appear in your Engage email.

insert link options
  • Click on the link to select it, then under the Paragraph dropdown menu, select Call-to-Action. This will convert the link to a button.

convert to button
  • To change colors, ensure that the button is first selected.

    • Text color – Click the text color option and select from the preset options, or enter a custom color from the palette or via hex code.

    • Button color – Click the highlight color option and select from the preset options, or enter a custom color from the palette or via hex code.

  • Your styled button can be relocated via cut and paste like regular text.

styled button

Complete list of Engage merge fields

Contact Details

  • Email Address

  • Phone Number

  • Full Address

  • Address Line 1

  • Address Line 2

  • City

  • State

  • ZIP Code

  • Country


  • Last Donation Amount

  • Last Donation Date

  • Largest Donation Amount

  • Largest Donation Date

  • Total Donations This Year

  • Total Donations Last Year

Primary Details

  • Prefix

  • First Name

  • Middle Name

  • Last Name

  • Suffix

  • Full Name

  • Gender

  • Company

  • Title

  • Birthday

Social Accounts

  • Your organization's Website URL

  • Your organization's Facebook URL

  • Your organization's Linkedin URL

  • Your organization's X (formerly Twitter) URL

Year-End Summaries

  • Last Year Year-End Summary Link – specific for this contact

  • This Year Year-End Summary Link – specific for this contact

Send a test email 🔍

Once you're happy with your message, you can send a test by clicking "Send a test" in the upper right corner of the composer. You can send a test email to multiple people if you like.

test email example

Schedule and preview 👀

Next, you'll need to decide when you want your Engage message to go out!

  • Send now

  • Schedule for later (set a date and time)

email schedule fields

The time zone shown for scheduled messages is based on the time zone selected in your Account settings. To change it, head to Account > About > Organization Profile > General Details.

  • Below the Schedule section, you'll see a preview of your message.

  • Click the Send Email or Schedule Email button in the bottom right when you're done.

send email
  • Your message will now appear under the Sent or Outbox tabs in Engage.

  • Once it's sent, a look at your outbound message statistics to see how many people have opened your message!


My Engage message is sending slowly, or has only been delivered to some of the contacts I selected.

Engage emails will start sending immediately at the scheduled time, but it can take some time for your email to reach everyone depending on how big the list is. This can also take a little longer if you have large attachments or images added to the email.

My message was scheduled to send, but it still shows in my outbox.

Please contact us at [email protected] so we can look into this further for you.

Can I unschedule an Engage message?

Yes! If you have scheduled an Engage message (email or SMS), you'll see a tab in Engage called Outbox. Click on your Outbox, click the three dots [...] to the right side of the relevant message, and choose Unschedule from this list of options. The message will not be deleted – it will be moved back to your Drafts folder.

unschedule a message

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