7 Tips for Better Fundraising Emails

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09.01.2011By

Email marketing represents a critical component of online fundraising. In fact, in spite of the social era or perhaps because of it, more email is being generated. A growing minority of emails are read and responded to on mobile devices now. Contacting friends and supporters who may back your fundraiser via email cannot be overlooked.

For most nonprofits, email has been and remains the heart and soul of their online strategies. Even social media-heavy programs seek to engage more loyal supporters through email programs like newsletter, petitions, pledges, advocacy and more. The purpose is to build a house file.

So how can you make email work best for your campaign? Here are seven tips to consider. Please add yours, too!

1) Vet your list

Carpet bombing your entire rolodex and house file is not a great way to make potential investors feel good about receiving your email. If you are looking for support from friends, focus on creating a small list of people who will likely care about the effort. The email itself is an ask. If at all possible, a personal email to each fundraiser makes a big difference.

If you are a nonprofit, you will want a list that is opt-in, and not purchased wholesale. There are great solutions from companies like Care2 to develop email lists of customized, qualified parties who will opt-in to information from you. Spend the money to build a list, but don’t buy an existing one that is not directly associated with your cause.

2) Write a fantastic headline

There are many elements to consider in writing a great headline, but make no bones about it, this is essential. Only 15% of emails are even opened, according to Blackbaud. Creating pithy headlines that are active in tense, short in length, and clear in purpose are critical to success.

3) The first paragraph should tell all

Similarly, like any well written piece, the first paragraph should clearly communicate what the email is about, and what you are asking of the reader. Get to the point, as they say. This is no different than any other business letter or memo.

4) Short paragraphs work best

Be considerate of the medium, which can be hard on the eyes. In that vein, consider your paragraph lengths (electronic media works best with smaller paragraphs) and be liberal in your use of white space and subheads to break up the document. Generally speaking, a long email is hard to read, so the top-heavy approach with purpose clearly communicated at the beginning makes a difference.

5) Make sure to tell that story

Almost every fundraising best practice discussion suggests personalize stories that show why you care, are critical to fundraising success. If your email reads like a wooden ask, it will fall flat. Be sure to review for not only form, but content and that you’re telling your potential donors why you believe it matters so they can feel your conviction.

6) Simple, specific, direct call to action

You have to make your ask. So ask. But don’t be wishy-washy about it. Be specific and direct, and make sure people understand why they are donating. What is the actual benefit of their contribution? An example might be: “Please give your $50 to provide homeless children in Washington, DC an education today.”

7) Use links and HTML

While you are using email, it is still an electronic document. Use anchor links to let readers see your cause, view a picture, and go to your donation page. Almost every email client developed in the past decade has this feature. Use it!

  • Margaretsouth

    We just launched an email campaign and I’ll keep you posted, but I still encourage those personal requests.  I plan to approach people one-on-one. 

    • geofflivingston

      It always means more when it is personal, for sure.

  • Margaretsouth

    We just launched an email campaign and I’ll keep you posted, but I still encourage those personal requests.u00a0 I plan to approach people one-on-one.u00a0

    • Anonymous

      It always means more when it is personal, for sure.

  • http://www.tripointfundraising.com Amy Eisenstein

    Yes – great tips. The only thing I would add is – keep it short. Your email should be less than one screen page. Finish stories by including links (#7) and driving readers to your website.

    • geofflivingston

      Brevity is critical. Absolutely spot on.  Thanks for commenting!

  • http://www.tripointfundraising.com Amy Eisenstein

    Yes – great tips. The only thing I would add is – keep it short. Your email should be less than one screen page. Finish stories by including links (#7) and driving readers to your website.

    • Anonymous

      Brevity is critical. Absolutely spot on.u00a0 Thanks for commenting!

  • Chip

    I agree with Amy and am a believer in the KISS theory.  Keep it simple sweety!

  • Chip

    I agree with Amy and am a believer in the KISS theory. u00a0Keep it simple sweety!

  • http://www.pamelagrow.com Pamela Grow

    Nonprofits think that they need to put out a full sized newsletter with every email communication.  As a result, their communications often become erratic.  Pick a schedule – once a month or, better yet, bi-weekly – and stick to it!  Craft short, sweet emails brimming with joy and readability, emails that your supporters can’t wait to read.  Write as if you’re writing to a friend, and PERSONALIZE. 

    • geofflivingston

      Nothing like a one or two paragraph email, in my opinion.  Do it well, do it short.

  • http://www.pamelagrow.com Pamela Grow

    Nonprofits think that they need to put out a full sized newsletter with every email communication.u00a0 As a result, their communications often become erratic.u00a0 Pick a schedule – once a month or, better yet, bi-weekly – and stick to it!u00a0 Craft short, sweet emails brimming with joy and readability, emails that your supporters can’t wait to read.u00a0 Write as if you’re writing to a friend, and PERSONALIZE.u00a0

    • Anonymous

      Nothing like a one or two paragraph email, in my opinion.u00a0 Do it well, do it short.

  • http://WiltonBlake.com/ Wilton Blake

    I’m so happy you included telling a story.

    • geofflivingston

      No story, no love!

  • http://WiltonBlake.com Wilton Blake

    I’m so happy you included telling a story.

    • Anonymous

      No story, no love!

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