Nonprofits are reaching more people through digital channels than ever before. While some experts were quick to declare that the fundraising email was past its prime during the social media boom, the data says otherwise.
Email lists grew by 11%, a growth rate surpassed by the growth of major social media platforms (Facebook 13%, Twitter 15%, Instagram a whopping 44%). – mr benchmarks
While email revenue grew 24% in 2017 and accounted for 28% of all online donations, open email rates and click-through rates for fundraising and public support declined.
However, the reality of how non-profits can move forward is complicated. Emails about fundraising are challenging to get ‘right.’ And what’s “good” can ultimately vary widely in terms of profit and terms of audience segments.
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Why should you choose email fundraising?
A. They are accessible/affordable
Email marketing is generally free for smaller non-profits (or non-profits with smaller email lists). Even as your email list grows in size, email marketing remains very cost-effective, especially when compared to other fundraising methods (e.g., fundraising events).
Email marketing is the best marketing with an ROI (return on investment) of 4400%, meaning $44 is raised for every dollar spent.www.campaignmonitor.com
B. They are easy to ship and deliver fast results
The most popular email marketing services are pretty intuitive and straightforward – most don’t require you to know even a single line of code. Professionally designed templates, copy and paste features, and other easy-to-use editors have made sending emails easier than ever.
One of the main concepts of email fundraising is its quick deliverables. Your non-profit can recruit customers, donors, supporters, and volunteers faster than any other method.
C. They are versatile
Emails are an excellent tool for online fundraising, provide information, mobilize volunteers, promote job openings, and increase your visibility.
How do you write powerful fundraising emails?
There’s no simple formula for writing fundraising emails that will guarantee success, but we’ve rounded up our top tips for writing email samples that stand a good chance:
1. Sort your database
By segmenting your donors and targeting your email marketing to different segments, you can increase donor retention and donations.
There are several ways you can segment your donors. Some of the most common segments are age, donation size, last donation date, and donation frequency.
The classification of donors is mainly aimed at providing relevant content to smaller groups of donors. It prevents your donors from experiencing the frustrating feeling that your content and communication are not personally relevant to them.
Segmenting your donors allows you to customize your tone and information and encourage your donors to work with your non-profit in a way that suits them. A donor who has repeatedly donated to your organization over the past months and years should receive a different email than someone who just signed up to your email list.
2. Create a strong subject line
35% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line.
A great fundraiser email isn’t really that great if it’s not opened. That’s why it’s essential to create a subject line that makes your emails stand out in the inbox.
Here are some tips to improve the subject lines of your fundraising emails:
- Keep the subject lines short, preferably 4-15 characters.
- Create a sense of urgency with words like “urgent” and “important.”
- Keep it accurate. While you can undoubtedly get very creative with your subject lines, they should always relate to the content of the email. Misleading subject lines are not allowed and are even banned in some countries.
- Intrigue your readers or ask a question – this can help you increase the open rate.
- Try personalizing the subject line by using the contact’s first name.
- Include the sender’s name.
- Test on different days and times of the day, and don’t forget to do lots of A/B testing to see what performs best by creating several fundraising email samples.
- Try to avoid the word ‘we.’ ‘We’ is a faceless entity, and ‘I’ is a person who wants to talk to ‘you’ and ‘me.’
- Use rhyme, lists, alliterations, and more. These perform well. But above all, think of something else and be creative.
MailChimp found that the following words were terrible for open rates:
- Percent discount
3. Make sure your format is right
Our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. Very few people read long, lengthy emails, even if they’re great. Most people skim over the content. In addition, the time it takes for an average user to make a judgment is 50 milliseconds – not even one full second!
In addition, the importance of well-formatted emails is more significant than ever as more and more users move to mobiles.
More than half of emails are read on a mobile device. And some studies even claim that number is even higher.
Here are some tips for getting your fundraising email samples properly formatted:
- Keep it short, just a few paragraphs – preferably two or three.
- Limit the paragraphs to 2-3 sentences.
- Choose descriptive headings and subheadings with active verbs and lively nouns. These will grab the attention of your supporters and encourage them to actually read the text.
- Carefully craft the message in your sample snippet.
- Ensure the fundraising email sample looks good on mobile screens – the text should be large enough to read quickly, and all links should be easy to click.
- Make sure your fundraising email isn’t overcrowded and that its sections are surrounded by plenty of space.
- Pick one font and stick with it.
- Limit yourself to three colours, keep the backgrounds light, and use the colours only as accents.
- Use big and bold imagery in your fundraising email samples to immediately engage and deploy your contacts.
- Always include your organization’s logo in the header of the email.
- Include your organization’s contact information in the footer, and the unsubscribe option.
Make sure your donation page is optimized for mobile, so your donors aren’t faced with a complicated, difficult-to-use form.
4. Tell a compelling story
A good story is often the foundation of a successful fundraising email. People are “programmed” to respond to stories.
Stories have always played an essential role in human history. For thousands of years, we have used stories to convey knowledge, teach, share experiences, and connect with others.
Research at Stanford University found that we remember information better when it’s conveyed as part of a story (up to 22 times better than facts alone).
Not only do we remember stories better than facts, but they also evoke emotions and make us act. This is why storytelling is an incredibly powerful tool for non-profits – which, of course, have no shortage of compelling stories to tell. Storytelling gives the reader a glimpse into your world and reminds them why your mission is so important.
Here are some ways you can tell stories in your fundraising email:
– Make use of a protagonist, a hero. It is easier to connect with a person who has a name than with an anonymous group of people (e.g., poor people in Somalia).
– Use simple, human language. Stay away from the jargon.
– Collect convincing visual materials for your fundraising email samples that fit the story.
– Tell stories that directly reflect the impact of your donors’ contributions. Tell them exactly how the money will be used and what the outcome of their donation will be.
– Guide your readers along the emotional route of the story.
– Paint a mental picture with your words and appeal to all the senses. We mirror the experiences of others, whether through seeing, hearing, or reading.
– Make sure your email answers the questions: why should I care? How can my donation help? What do you want me to do/how can I help?
– Focus on a specific program or initiative. Don’t include information about everything you do in one email.
5. Use a single call to action
Using a single call-to-action doesn’t mean you only ask once in the email. Many fundraising experts even recommend asking readers three times. However, don’t confuse your readers. If your goal is to raise funds, don’t ask your readers to sign up for an event, volunteer, and read your blog.
Ask in different ways.
For example, you can add a prominent “donate” button to your email that directs your readers to your donation page or links to your page.
Plus, you don’t want your recipients to read your fundraising email and wonder what it’s all about. Don’t beat around the bush and ask your question in the first two paragraphs, if possible. If you wait too long, many of your readers will simply move on to the following email in their inbox.
The results of 42 studies combined in a meta-analysis of more than 22,000 participants showed that if you give people a choice not to donate, the chance that they will donate almost doubles. Ask your readers to donate, then add a variation of the following sentence: “But you’re free to choose either.”
6. Show a tangible impact
Creating a story and an emotional story involves:
- Presenting your readers with a problem (possibly through a story from one person).
- A solution (probably your organization’s service).
- Inviting them to be part of the solution (call to action).
To really get your readers to donate, it’s essential to clearly show how their donations are going to make a difference. Link the donation amounts to specific outcomes/results.
Millennials are very likely or likely to stop donating if they don’t know if the donation is making an impact (78%), the organization asks for support too often (73%), or if they didn’t feel a personal connection with the organization (72%).
To motivate your donors to give, show them what their donations can achieve through specific examples. Show them that $50 can help buy school supplies for a student from a low-income family or that $200 provides the materials needed to organize a river clean-up.
7. Create an effective closing
One of the biggest challenges in writing powerful fundraising emails is tone.
It can be very difficult to strike a balance between detailing the consequences of inaction (e.g., “Without donations like yours, more children will live without food and clean water.”), which can cause feelings of guilt and can discourage readers from giving and have a positive and uplifting tone.
Thank your donors in advance and tell them again why their contribution matters.
During the close, be particularly confident about why you are asking for donations. Now is the time to really connect and align with your donor.
8. Make it easy to donate
Since the main purpose of a fundraising email is to raise funds, it is essential for your readers to donate. Even if your email was perfectly crafted and your call to action was inspiring and compelling, if your readers find your call to action and your donation process complicated or confusing, you will lose them. If it’s hard to read and work with a website, let alone make a donation, users will give up before they even start.
By using an online donation system like Whydonate, you guarantee your donors a hassle-free, optimized donation system – resulting in more donations. The donation pages of Whydonate are simple, beautiful, and fully customizable. As a system, Whydonate is safe and secure and much cheaper than other tools on the market. Whydonate offers many other features that can help you raise more money for your non-profit. Here are a few:
- Suggested donation amounts with descriptions to make your donors feel good because they know what they are going to contribute to.
- Appropriate donation platform program for the employer.
- Recurring donation options. Place a repeat donation option on your form to see higher retention rates.
- Optimization for desktop computers, mobile phones, and tablets.
- Accept donations on your Facebook page.
- Donation’ thermometer’ to encourage more donations.
- Multiple payment gateways (iDeal, Credit Card, PayPal, and many more payment methods).
Giving your donors the opportunity to sign up for a recurring donation program is a great way to boost your donations. It also helps your non-profit make better financial projections and plan accordingly.
9. Track and evaluate your emails
Sending a fundraising email is only half the job. What comes next is just as important.
Keeping track of some essential email KPIs (key performance indicators) is crucial if you want to know whether your fundraising emails are successful or not and what you need to work on to increase their effectiveness.
Here are some KPIs to track:
- Delivery rate (the percentage of your emails that reach their destination);
- Unsubscribe rate (the percentage of recipients who unsubscribe from your mailing list)
- Open rate (the percentage of recipients who opened an email from your organization)
- Click-through rate (the percentage of recipients who click on a link you placed in the email)
- Conversion rate (regardless of whether the person has completed the action after clicking the link in your email. For fundraising emails, this is usually a donation)
If you’re interested in other digital KPIs your non-profit should track, click here to read our article.
Don’t forget to show gratitude for the donations. This indicates that your organization appreciates the support of your donors and that they are valued no matter what. There are many ways to thank your donors after they have made a donation:
- Sending a follow-up thank-you email;
- Send a nice thank-you card;
- Put one or more of your donors in the spotlight on the social media platforms;
- Invite a donor to a special event or give them a gift.
Creating a powerful fundraising email is hard work. Segmenting your audience, choosing the right messages for each audience, selecting the right imagery, using the best words, getting the tone right – there is so much to consider.
While implementing the professional procedures and tips we’ve shared above can get your organization on the right track, the reality is, there’s no real formula for the perfect fundraising email. Every donor is different and every situation is unique.
Remember, it’s absolutely critical to test every tip and update your email fundraising strategy accordingly. Repeating this process is the only way to know what works best for your non-profit truly.
For more tips, check out our latest and most popular non-profit blogs to keep you up to date with the latest information and tools for the non-profit industry.