5 Email Strategies to Improve Your Fundraising

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04.25.2012By

By now, you probably realize that email is still the most effective way to get people to donate to your nonprofit. (Read this for a reminder.) And if you’re like most people, you realize that getting the most from your email list is a process of continual trail and error, testing, and learning.

Here are a few ideas to help you get more from your email marketing efforts:

1. Segment Your List

Last week you learned about the value of list segmentation. The smarter your list segmentation strategy is, the more action traction you’ll get from your subscribers.

For example, you can ask the “link clickers” to donate directly without worrying about turning anyone off. If they’ve consistently opened your emails and clicked on links, you can assume that they’d be more open to an ask than a new subscriber.

Taken further, you can ask repeat donors to become “gold members” who automatically contribute a set amount each month.

2. Tie Fundraising to Advocacy

We know these things about people who sign a petition:

  • They agree with your cause and your message
  • They are willing to take action to help you change the world
  • They are comfortable publicly expressing their support

Research shows that activists are seven times more likely to donate, compared to non-advocates. An advocacy action also helps warm up a person for a fundraising ask.

Try following up an advocacy action offering them an additional opportunity to support the cause:

“Thanks so much for signing the petition! While you’ve got us on your mind, here’s another way you can support.”

3. Focus on Facebook for Acquisition

One of the most popular questions people ask during my Charityhowto webinars is How do we fundraise using Facebook?”. And as I’ve said before, the key lies in having an appreciation for Facebook’s role in the donor relationship.

Asking for money from a group of people that have hugely varying connections to you may not be as effective as acquiring emails on your Facebook Page (which is much less threatening than asking for money). People who subscribe will be more receptive to a fundraising ask via email. Again, the fact that they’ve subscribed to your email list is in itself an expression of a deeper commitment to your cause that is on their terms!

4. Follow Up With Cause Marketing

There are several ways to integrate cause marketing into your fundraising campaign, but that’s especially powerful is when you take advantage of the moment when they have you on their mind.

Epic Change did this during one of their Mothers Day campaigns. Central to the campaign was the ability for users to create custom eCards for the mom in their life. Prior to creating the card, they were prompted to make a donation. And after they donated, they received an email listing several amazing retailers that gave a percent of each Mothers Day purchase to Epic Change.

5. Test Text Emails Versus Templates

One way to improve your click-through rate (different from your open rate) is to use plain text instead of a template. I’ve done many A/B tests with clients that show a higher click-through rate on text emails.

There are two reasons for why subscribers may prefer text over template emails:

  • Template emails generally feel salesy. People like to buy, but don’t like being sold.
  • Text emails generally feel personal. When was the last time a friend sent you an email using an HTML template? Exactly.

Try testing a text email with 10% of your list the next time you send an email to your list.

These are just a few ways you can improve your email strategy. But surely you’ve got great ideas too!

Please share your email ideas below!

  • Another suggestion is to use a professionally-designed e-mail template that ties into your brand image. Many orgs still prefer HTML emails over text, regardless of the CTRs. Yet, the free or reduced ESP templates aren’t always that impressive.nnThis is a challenging area, especially when many recipients are still viewing e-mail using Outlook as their e-mail client. The Microsoft program can skew many of the ESP templates.

    • Elaine – Good point. I wouldn’t recommend switching over all emails to text. Just the ones where you want to make an appeal feel more personal.