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4 Almost Magical Ways to Get People to Read Your Fundraising Emails

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It’s a painful truth we don’t think about very often: If people don’t open our emails, they won’t respond to them, no matter how brilliant they are …

… and most people don’t open our emails.

You can change that by applying some small but important tactics to your emails. By getting more people to open, you can make all the difference to the success of your email campaigns. Here are four things to pay close attention to that will really help:

Subject Line

This is the largest success-or-failure factor in email fundraising. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your campaign is – if it doesn’t get opened, it might as well not have happened at all.

The two most important ways to create an effective subject line are to maximise relevance and intrigue.

Relevance matters for all communications, really. People zero in on things that matter to them and screen out all other things. There are many dependable ways to make a subject line relevant to your audience.

You might link it to a high-profile event or news story that’s big in public awareness right now, for example:

Disaster Update: Hurricane Idalia

Afghanistan earthquake: emergency

Or you might connect to life experiences or values that resonate with your audience, for example:

Simple test for dementia on the horizon

Last Chance for Your FREE online Will

James, free dolphin pics!

Intrigue is also effective for subject lines. A great way to make a subject line intriguing is to make it cryptic or imply a question that requires opening the email to answer:

James: Something’s burning

No Carpenters

Re: Coke  vs. Pepsi??

Here are several other approaches to making subject lines intriguing:

  • Fun/humour:
    James: Meow’s the time...
  • Personalisation:
    James: The Hollows Family are inviting you...
  • Emojis:
    Meet a Muslim Artist 👋 Alaa Saeed.

While emojis can help your subject line stand out in the inbox, it’s important not to overuse these, and test how your specific audience responds to them.

A final thought on brevity: It’s important to keep most of your subject lines brief, as email clients, especially on mobile devices, will often cut them off after a few words. If your subject line is going to be longer than a few words, that’s OK, but make sure you front-load the important keywords so they’re visible on all devices.

“From” Name

The “From” name is often the first thing your readers see in their inbox, even before the subject line. It should usually be recognisable and trustworthy, so your supporter understands who the email’s from immediately, without having to think.

But you can get more creative with it. Here are some different options for From Names with their pros and cons:

  • Organisation name: The most recognisable for people, but also the most impersonal.
  • Name of a representative – a real person – from your organisation: More personal, but fewer people will recognise them unless they’re really high profile or a pillar of the community.
  • Person’s name + Organisation name: Personal AND recognisable but gets a bit long so often won’t be visible on mobile devices and even desktop clients.
  • Something else creative, such as a call to action or campaign name: Like Christmas [email protected]. This may grab attention but is not recognisable and may be confusing for your supporter. Feel free to test this approach, but make sure it’s a good fit for the campaign, for example if you’re tapping into a hot topic or making a strong offer like a match.

Preview Text

This often-overlooked little bit of text is visible below or beside the subject line for most email programs. It can work alongside your subject line to create a powerful one-two punch to grab your readers’ attention and get more opens.

If you don’t create your own preview text, the default is usually the first line of text in the email. That’s why it so often just says:

Dear James,

Don’t waste it on uninteresting identifiers like this:

Issue 027 Nature Newsletter edition Issue #027

Instead, take control of that important bit of text, making it engaging and aligned with the subject line. Don’t necessarily give away the whole story of the email, but use it to enrich what you’ve done with the subject line, like these:

Subject line: You’re helping give kids the best start in life 💙

Preview text: Thank You!

Subject line: Death by hanging
Preview text: Mohammed could be executed any day ... add your name

Email Timing

When you send your emails can make a real difference. Most important is the message and its relevance. If it’s responding to a real-world emergency or high-impact breaking news, you should get it out ASAP, while the story is hot.

Outside of that scenario, think of who and where your audience is, their daily schedule and experience.

  • Tuesdays to Thursdays are safest, as people aren’t away for long weekends and you’re avoiding the weekend of people in different time zones.
  • Mid-mornings or mid-afternoons – when people have cleared their morning pile of work or have come back from lunch – are often good times for response.
  • When running multi-email campaigns, schedule different emails for different times to suit the varying schedules of different people in your email list — so you’re trying to reach everyone at least once at a time that works for them.

Want more up-to-the-moment help for digital fundraising? Take our all-new and completely FREE online workshop, 3 Email Fundraising Mistakes That Cost You Tons of Donations. Featuring digital Fundraisingologist James Herlihy, this single session will help you leap forward in your online fundraising mastery. Sessions are coming up soon! More information here. 

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