Online giving has grown by 23% over the past year, and a significant slice of that online revenue (28%) was generated through email-based marketing.
There is a catch though: stats also show that response rates to email campaigns have shrunk by 9%. So while email campaigns should still demand a strong focus of your fundraising efforts, they now require more sophisticated strategy to produce fundraising results.
Fundraising emails can be hard to get right. Since every nonprofit’s donor demographic is different, there’s no one-size-fits-all template you can copy and paste that will guarantee the donations pour in. However, you can tap into the best practices below to increase your chance of success.
1. Create an irresistible subject line.
Though your subject line may be just a few words, it should not be an afterthought to your campaign. People’s inboxes are flooded with emails demanding their attention at every hour of the day. Without a compelling headline, your meticulously written fundraising letter will be pushed down their inbox into obscurity.
Experiment with these tips for your next email subject line:
• Keep it short and simple (10-30 characters, or about 4-8 words).
• If appropriate, add an emoji or two to stand out among an inbox’s endless blocks of text.
• Address your donors by their first name to establish a sense of familiarity.
• Ask a question that arouses a "can’t help but click” curiosity to increase your open rate.
• Appeal to your contacts’ sense of urgency with time-sensitive words like "last chance” and "hurry”.
• Perform A/B testing with varied subject lines (and at different times/days) to see which receives the best response.
• DO NOT be misleading or deceptive with your subject lines just to get a click! This damages your contacts’ trust in your organization in the long run.
2. Cater to an increasingly short attention span.
This is an era of infinite content at our fingertips and more screen time than ever. As a result, your potential donors do not have the attention span nor the time to read your detailed, elaborate letter — amazing as it might be.
Most people skim over an email’s plain text and only read the subheadings and bolded content. With the rising dominance of mobile this behaviour is becoming increasingly common, so the formatting of your email needs to be intentional and on-point.
Try these tips to optimize formatting in your next email:
• Limit paragraphs to 2-3 sentences for "skim-ability.”
• Include your organization’s logo in the email header for instant brand recognition.
• Stick with one font — preferably a sans serif (it’s easier and quicker to read).
• Use brand colours as accents only and keep your background light.
• Include plenty of white space — resist the urge to cram your email with information!
• Prioritize formatting to look stunning on mobile. Donor transactions completed through mobile increased 50% in 2018, and half of all nonprofit traffic came from mobile users, so make sure your content formats well on these screens!
3. Pick ONE call to action — and go all in on it.
There’s a misconception that sticking to a single call to action means making your ask only once. Actually, it’s recommended that you highlight that one CTA 3 times throughout your message. This presents readers with the decision to give at multiple touchpoints throughout your email, depending on which part of your message they resonate with the most.
Supercharge your next call to action with these tips:
• Ask in a variety of ways (ex. a large, clearly visible "Donate” button; links to your donation page within your copy).
• Use bright colours! Green and orange CTA buttons perform best, but your colours will depend on your brand.
• Keep your CTA phrase short; 2-3 words is best (ex. "Support The Movement” or "End Child Illiteracy”).
• Use first-person language to increase sense of personal involvement (ex. "Pledge My Support” instead of "Pledge Your Support”).
• Include plenty of white space around your CTA so it not only stands out visually but is also easier to tap through to your campaign website on mobile devices.
4. Use a database to personalize emails by donor demographic and behaviour.
Personalizing your message for your reader is paramount. How likely are you to even open a letter in your mailbox addressed to "Dear Sir/Madam” or "Resident of Unit #401” … let alone actually read it? It may be an obvious example, but it highlights the importance of customizing your tone and content to resonate with the person reading it.
It’s easy to address your contacts by their first name through an email marketing service like MailChimp. However, you will likely want to further refine your segmentation process by age, donation size, donation frequency and last donation date.
An all-in-one software platform like DonorEngine automatically generates emails based on donor behaviour so you can engage with your audience in a tone that’s appropriate for where they’re each individually at in their donor journey.
Email is still an effective medium for raising funds. But, gone are the days when you could spontaneously write up an email without much rhyme or reason… and still get a high rate of opens and clickthroughs.
Every day your contacts receive requests for their time, funds and attention. Determined to rise above the noise? Get creative (but stay concise) when crafting your subject line, the storytelling in your message, and your call to action.
Above all, be sure your messaging is highly personalized! You can take advantage of a software like DonorEngine so that your email campaigns resonate loud and clear with your readers and converts them into motivated repeat donors.
Statistics sourced from: