4 E-mail Fundraising Campaign Best Practices
E-mail can be an invaluable fundraising tool given its low costs and quick turnaround. But just because you send your donors an e-mail doesn’t mean they’re going to respond to it. You still must practice good e-mail etiquette to make your campaign a success.
One organization that found tremendous e-mail response in the past year was amfAR, The Foundation for AIDs Research. Earlier this year, amfAR took home the E-mail Renewal Package of the Year awarded by the Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association for its holiday/year-end renewal e-mail.
The e-mail, which we’ll break down next week in Today in Fundraising, was created with the help of online nonprofit marketing agency SankyNet. Here Paul Habig, executive vice president of SankyNet, shares some best practices for a successful fundraising e-mail campaign.
Timing is everything
Every fundraising direct marketer has been well-schooled in the importance of recency, frequency and monetary metrics. Of particular importance in e-mail is frequency, including timing.
If you bombard your donors with e-mail solicitation after e-mail solicitation, you’ll find yourself quickly being ignored — or worse yet in the junk folder. And if you don’t nail the timing, response could suffer.
“Timing is very important in any e-mail campaign,” Habig says. “And then also spacing out your campaigns.”
Devise a strategy to hit your donors’ inboxes when the need is visible and/or when donors tend to give. For example, if something newsworthy happens around your organization’s mission, send an e-mail campaign at that time to capitalize on the newsworthiness of your ask. And hit donors a few weeks before the giving season, when they’re primed to give end-of-year donations.
Segment, segment, segment
“Segmentation is really an important facet for e-mail marketing — making sure you’re not over-e-mailing certain segments, paying attention to response, and removing segments who just gave from follow-up e-mails when appropriate,” Habig says.
Coordinate various different messaging to different types of donors as well, he adds. There are countless ways to segment e-mail donors, whether it be age, income, giving history, types of e-mails they respond to, etc.
There is a big difference between an e-mail appeal and direct-mail letter. People have short attention spans online, especially when slogging through their seemingly endless e-mail messages during the work day. They need to be able to scan something quickly, understand the message and be able to respond instantly.
Too many words and no easy-to-find call to action can spell doom for your e-mail.
“I see a lot of e-mails out there where organizations are a little verbose,” Habig says. “Make sure you’re not overwhelming someone. The eye online does not do the same thing as it does on print, and if you overwhelm a visitor, you’re going to lose them with too much text.”
Habig suggests limiting your text to less than 100 words if possible, ideally somewhere in the 40-50 range to stay "above the fold."
And in those words, make sure there are appropriate callouts — a “Donate Now” button, text link, bold and larger fonts for the call to action.
“Make sure there are places your eye will go to take the action you want donors to take when you’re designing an e-mail,” Habig says. “Someone needs to be able to really quickly scan it because a lot of times when we’re online, a donor is scanning a document, not reading it start to finish. So the main message must jump out at someone.”
Make sure your e-mail campaign is part of an even bigger multichannel campaign with a cohesive strategy, Habig says. Keep the message and branding consistent, and supplement e-mail with other offline and online channels to make the most of your campaign.