Looking Back at 2013's Last Week of Fundraising, Part 1
Also a bit unexpected, only one of the 20 e-mails used my name in the subject line. Five had at least some of the subject line in all caps, three referred to matching gifts, and one began “FWD:” and was a resend of an earlier message with an added note at the top.
Use of salutation and signature block
While 12 of the 20 e-mails began “Dear Pamela,” two referred to me only as “friend” and six jumped right into the message without a salutation. However, all but three had some name on them as the signer of the message, although Opportunity International signed its e-mails with the corporate name instead of a person’s name. On a related note, 17 of the “senders” were an organization name while the other three (from two organizations) had a person’s name as the sender.
This is clearly where I saw the greatest divergence. One e-mail, received on Dec. 28, had 705 words between the “Dear” and the “Sincerely.” On the other hand, the e-mail from Charity Navigator (which is shown above) had only 27 words in the body. Eliminating those two anomalies, the average word count was 161 words. Personally, I think sending an e-mail on New Year’s Eve that has close to 250 words seems like asking a lot from your audience. However, the least readable e-mails of all came from Opportunity International because the copy was centered. Nice photos, but the readability was greatly reduced (in my opinion) because the message was centered with line lengths ranging from five characters to more than 100.
'Above the fold' offers
Although three e-mails didn’t have any obvious places to click to donate that were on-screen without my having to scroll, and five e-mails only had one, two seems to be the prevailing preference as that was the case in nine e-mails. Two had four, and one had six (and considering that it had a word count of less than 90, that was pretty impressive feat). In most cases, the donate buttons were tasteful though obvious; however, two e-mails required me to slide my mouse around looking for that one magic spot where a hyperlink was embedded.
Use of graphics
Four e-mails had graphics that were specific to year-end (clock, thermometer and calendar page), and 13 used photos that were program-specific. One showed a photo of the CEO, and two dispensed with graphics altogether. Personally, the one that stood out to me the most used a less overt program photo and more unusual colors. It’s the second photo above, from the National Park Foundation. Obviously, preferences are personal choices, but this is one I came back to over and over because visually it intrigued me.
So what does it all mean?
Obviously, there are very few “right” and “wrong” things here; these are mostly my opinions, with an occasional “best practice” tossed in. However, by looking at these 20 e-mails with the intention of seeing if there were applications for next Dec. 26–31, here’s what I came away with:
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.