Email Fundraising Done Right (It’s Easier Than You Think)


Email Fundraising Campaigns are in trouble. This last year, conversion rates declined 25% even though non-profits sent out 72% more appeals. And this isn’t the first year email donation rates have declined; it’s actually starting to become a trend.

These scary statistics might lead you to believe that Email Fundraising is a dying medium. But that’s not true. More likely, the issue lies in email campaign execution, which is a fancy way of saying: non-profits are probably sending bad emails.  More emails don’t mean more donations, especially if the emails aren’t expertly crafted. Actually, extra emails will probably just annoy your donors and strain the relationship.

So how do you fix this? How do you ensure that you are sending emails that delight prospects and entice them into donating? By following important email campaign best practices.

Email  Fundraising Campaigns 101:

Cut Your Email List

A big email-marketing list can be a source of pride for marketers (whether you work for a nonprofit or for-profit company), but sometimes streamlining your list can yield better results. For example, think tank Centennial Institute cut their email list by 75% and was able to increase open rates by 225% and click rates by 117%.

Want similar results? Ensure your list is filled with active subscribers by paying attention to the data. Some high-level metrics to watch out for:

  1. Hard Bounce: a notice that an email is undeliverable
    • Delete all contacts that caused a hard bounce
  2. Soft Bounce: a notice that an email can’t be delivered now, but maybe delivered later
    • Delete emails that cause many consecutive soft bounces
  3. Inactive subscribers: Subscribers who haven’t opened your email for a defined period of time (usually three months)
    • Consider removing these subscribers (this might hurt a little – but it’s worth it)

Increase Open Rates

When an email arrives in an inbox the recipient sees three things: sender name, email subject, and preview text. You should optimize those three things to increase open rates.

Here’s how:

  1. Sender Name: Send the email from a real person at your organization and not a generic email address
  2. Subject Line: Subject lines should not be longer than 50 characters. It should also be a simple description of the email, nothing fancy.
  3. Preview Text: The preview text should work with the subject line and provide a quick summary of the email’s contents.

Increase Email Click Through

There are four things you can include in emails to increase click through.

  1. Personalization: Personalize emails by adding recipients and referring to past programs to which they have donated. Segment your donors based on certain characteristics and write different emails for each segment.
  2. Concise and compelling copy: Make your emails short and easy to scan. Use bullet points and short paragraphs. No one wants to read an essay.
  3. Images: Pick out an image that compliments the content in your email. For example, if you are asking users to download your NPO’s impact report, include a picture of the report.
  4. CTA (call to action): Make sure your email has only one goal and the CTA reflects that goal. Don’t forget to follow the CTA best practices outlined below:
    • CTA should be visually striking (obviously placed, big, boldly coloured)
    • Brief (no more the five words)
    • Action-oriented (Use words like “Donate” or “Learn more”)
    • Easy to understand and clear (be honest about what’s on the next page)

If you follow these best practices, think about creating compelling content and A/B test your emails, you’ll be able to create emails that donors actually respond to. Focus on quality, rather than quantity, and your campaign will be a success.

Be successful in your email fundraising

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More Resources

How To Write The Perfect Donation Request Letter (Estimated Read Time: 3.5 mins)
How To Write An Amazing Donation Thank You Letter (Estimated Read Time: 3.5 mins)
Image Cred:

Image 1: flicker, Jurgen AppeloImage 2: flicker, Cuba Gallery, Image 3: Alan van Roemburg