Email fundraising for nonprofits

Email fundraising should engage recipients immediately.
Date Published
06/10/2015

As nonprofits race to keep up with new fundraising tools, they must not let previously successful electronic options fall by the wayside. Organizations embracing the visibility provided by social media shouldn’t forget the advantages of traditional email marketing. When using email to appeal to donors, there are a few best practices that will help yield optimal results and meet your fundraising goals.

Personalized messages
You don’t want your message to look like spam. The typical email account is full of unsolicited communications from companies and advertisers that annoy consumers. If your organization wants to reach current or possible donors, you need to differentiate your emails from the typical noise.

Personalization goes a long way toward capturing an individual’s attention. This means more than just using a recipient’s first name. Keep track of particular donor groups and demographics to see what kinds of content appeals to them. Nonprofit fundraising software can collect data from past successes or missteps to help create targeted messaging.

Constant Contact Email Marketing suggested avoiding messaging all of your donors all at once. You should segment your audience based on past donation amounts, age, social media use or other distinctive criteria. Modern technology tools can help you manage and diversify your messaging system.

Subject lines
A subject line should catch a reader’s attention while being honest about the contents of the email. Don’t try and trick someone into opening an email by starting with a line that is misleading or overly sensational.

Practical Ecommerce, a resource for online marketers, said a successful email subject line should be specific, short and compelling. First, decide what you want this email to accomplish. Then you need to break the goal down to just a few words that will be relevant to the message and the reader. The subject line should try to elicit a simple emotional response from the recipient based on the actual contents of the email. If it’s a call to action, stress urgency. If its in regards to a recent success, convey gratitude.

Segmenting your audience will help you create subject lines. You can use words that appeal to particular groups.

Provide concise content
The key to a successful email is the ability to be concise. The Fundraising Authority reminded nonprofits that people rarely read emails closely and are most likely going to skim them.

Make your messages easy to read quickly. Provide multiple sub headlines and eye catching facts and figures. Will your donors understand your message if they just breeze through the cliff notes?

If you are fundraising, make the donation process simple. Your donors might not have the patience to read through instructions. Provide a one click sharing option or direct links to where they can go to help. Your supporters are more likely to save emails that contain valuable information or convenient links for future involvement.

Timing
When is the best time to send a fundraising email? When you have a specific need or event that funding can directly benefit. The ability to show donors results is always a best practice.

Besides that, you want to take advantage of news stories that directly impact your cause. Real-time messaging keeps your nonprofit relevant. You want to send updates about progress as soon as they happen. You should send thank you notes to supporters right after they contribute.

Regular messaging is always good. You might be worried about swamping your supporters with updates but according to Dan Zarrella, a social media researcher, if somebody is going to unsubscribe from your email list, it will be immediately, not after months of many messages. Network for Good shared Zarrella’s findings on how constant information has shown to keep subscribers interested but rarely drives people away.

Coordination
All of your contact options should be delivering the same message. You shouldn’t be delivering different information to different groups, you want to be sending the same information through different tactics and channels to all of your supporters. 

You need to coordinate your email messaging with your direct mail campaigns, website updates and social media messages. Each tool you use should support your cause and reinforce the brand of your nonprofit organization. Try to create messaging using a single software system that can be easily accessed by anyone in your nonprofit who needs to communicate with your donors, volunteers and other interested parties.

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