Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 54 seconds

email_fundraisingEmail fundraising provides a low cost alternative to traditional direct mail appeals, but how does your organization stand out in a crowded inbox? Here are five things you should consider before launching your next email campaign.

Subject Line
Sandip, from GoGetFunding, believes a subject line that is personal, simple and informal works best. His organization frequently uses wording like “Latest project and Let’s Do This!” Garland Walton of D O M U S, an organization that works with abused and traumatized youth, employs a subject line that proclaims it "Takes 90 seconds to read!" Garland explains the subject line “reminds readers of our commitment to respecting their time and giving them interesting news in just over a minute.”

According to Garland, DOMUS has an open rate well over industry standards and Garland believes it is because they deliver on their promise of an email that can be read in 90 seconds.

Your subject line draws donors in, but your content is what turns them from a potential donor to a donor. Distinctive content is what sets your organization apart.

Rescue Chocolate sells chocolate to raise money for animal rescue organizations. Susan Rochelson says her organization always includes a discount code in their email so people can purchase the chocolate with a little deal. Rescue Chocolate changes the code each time, so readers have to read each email to get the deal. Brevity is one thing that all fundraising professionals agree on; email and computer use has turned us into a society of skimmers, who no longer have the time or patience to read long blocks of text.

As Pamela Sailor Development Manager or the Providence Speech and Hearing Center says, “Get to the point. In some instances we even state And Now for the Ask:... .”

Arica Rosenthal of Plant Green Recycle advocates consistency. She advises non-profits to send email appeals on a regular basis, but admits coming up with the topics for the emails can be difficult. So, she suggests creating an editorial calendar. With the calendar, there is no scrambling around at the last minute to find a topic for that week’s email and the calendar helps and organization ensure its message is consistent.

The Mechanics
Michael Montgomery of Montgomery Consulting thinks too many non-profits treat an email appeal the same as a direct email appeal. There are several differences but chief among them is that an email appeal runs the risk of technical failure.

Michael encourages non-profits to “devote more care and attention to the mechanics of your recipients will make their gift. The Donate button and what prospective donors see at the other end of the link behind that button is your appeal’s response instrument. You need to make sure they not only work in a technical sense but truly support the strategy, echo the themes and keep the look of your email appeal.”

In addition to making sure any links and buttons inside your email work, you want to make sure your emails arrive in people’s inboxes. Elaine Fogel, President and CMO Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, explains that one of the top ways to ensure that emails get through is to use an email service provider (ESP).

“Many smaller nonprofits still send fundraising emails using their own email accounts and run the risk of getting blackballed by recipients' servers. When fundraisers use ESPs such as Vertical Response, Constant Contact or another provider there's a much improved chance they will arrive in subscribers' inboxes and not be designated as SPAM.”

The Testing
Yes, testing is important enough to have its own heading. “Test, test, test. “says, Deborah P. Blanchard, Director College Communications and Marketing for Lynchburg College. Deborah advises testing the email messages across a variety of email providers. She says, “Emails can render quite differently in mail clients like AOL or Live than in Outlook.”

Michael from Montgomery Consulting agrees but thinks organizations should go one-step further and test view the email on different devices, including the oldest device. Not everyone has access to the latest technology; they may be using a 10-year-old desktop to view email.

Collecting and reviewing the analytics is just as important as the email itself. Deborah puts it simply “Don't do email marketing if you aren't prepared to collect and study information on how many people opened your emails and clicked through to the content.”

According to Deborah, “The analytics tell you when more people open your emails in terms of time of day, days of the week, etc. There is good information out there about what works but the people on your mailing list may not fit the norm. Weekends may very well work better for you than middle of the week. “

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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