How to Get Fundraising Emails Opened
You spend a lot of time, I hope, crafting your gifts of content. You think, plan, prepare and execute. Then, when you’ve gotten the perfect content to share with your friends, what do you do?
Do you wrap it up in a beautiful box so your recipient can hardly wait to open up the gift? Or, do you put it in a mysterious-looking brown bag that, at best, causes the recipient to put it aside for later or, at worst, actively raises his or her suspicions?
You, no doubt, see the problem.
We can all stand to spend a bit more time on the wrapping of our gifts of content!
I must confess that I’m the kind of gal who wraps my gifts in newspaper because "it’s what’s inside that matters" and why waste resources? And too often I applied this same misguided philosophy to sending out fundraising emails. I just didn’t spend much time on the subject line. I didn’t spend much time tracking open rates either. I just hoped for the best, and was happy with my results. But I also left a lot of money on the table. We were really pretty naive back when email fundraising was young. Please don’t make these dumb mistakes.
I’ve got another metaphor just for you. The job interview. Do you think how you craft your resume doesn’t contribute to whether or not you’ll get your foot in the door? Do you think that how you dress and how you stride into the room doesn’t affect your interviewer’s perception of you?
First Impressions Matter
They matter a lot. You can either inspire, excite, alarm, intrigue or otherwise capture your recipient’s attention—or you can slip by completely unnoticed.
Even if your answer to "What superpower would you most like to have?" is “An invisibility cloak”—now is not the time. You want your readers to see your message—and your subject line is a window into your email.
Still think I’m making a mountain of a mole hill? Check out the data about email deliverability and opens, including the fact that:
- 35 percent of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone
- 21 percent of email recipients report email as spam, even if they know it isn’t
- 69 percent of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line
Make Your Email Subject Lines Sing!
Recently the folks at Co-Schedule put together a great little primer on how to write better email subject lines to get more opens.
This stuff is so useful, and so user-friendly, that I’m simply compelled to share the highlights with you, because I truly don’t want to see the content you’ve slaved over go to waste. You need to use every ace up your sleeve to get your emails opened.
There’s a lot of competition these days in folks’ inboxes. People simply will not pay your emails much heed unless you do something to make them sit up and take notice, so it's time to do something about it!
Nine Key Elements
Co-Schedule has come up with "Nine Best Practices for Writing Email Subject Lines."
I encourage you to read the full rationales for each of these practices on Co-Schedule's blog.
Perhaps my favorite is the admonition to use action verbs that communicate what you want your constituents to do after they’ve read your content. Consider some of these:
- "Donate." (good for all fundraising appeals)
- "Join us." (good for events)
- "Enroll." (good for monthly giving; legacy or other giving society)
- "Share." (good for peer-to-peer; crowdfunding; social media advocacy)
- "Tell us." (good to solicit feedback)
- "Learn." (good to amplify on what they already know from a previous email)
- "Double your impact." (good for matching challenges)
I also like the admonition to "write clearly." Don’t get so clever that folks have trouble understanding your meaning. And don’t ever use jargon or acronyms.
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.