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More Is Better: 4 Steps to Boost Your Email Fundraising

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Do you have a feeling that your email fundraising programme isn’t as effective as it could be?

Based on my experience, you are probably correct. You could be raising more.

Also based on my experience, I think I know why: You aren’t emailing your donors often enough.

That’s not true of everyone, but it’s true of most. In fact it’s typical for many fundraisers to be sending just one fundraising email per month. If that’s what you’re doing, you are leaving a lot of revenue on the table!

Here are four important ways you can talk more to your donors about how they can make the world a better place by donating to your organisation…

Have more email fundraising campaigns

If you have four or fewer email campaigns a year, you should consider adding more.

It’s common for organisations to send emails only for Giving Tuesday, Calendar Year-End, and maybe one or two more, such as a Tax appeal (for countries that have a tax year that’s not the calendar year-end).

Those are good campaigns, but you can almost certainly do more.

If your email list is very small and not very responsive, I don’t recommend you put too much time into writing new emails. But if you have more fundraising campaigns in the non-digital world – email, events, or others – you really should create email versions of those campaigns.

No need to reinvent the wheel for those re-purposed email campaigns. In fact, you can basically import your messaging into email, adjust the writing to fit the email world, create a relevant landing page, and presto: You have an email fundraising campaign! The most difficult part is writing the subject lines.

Send more emails for each fundraising campaign

If an email fundraising campaign consists of just a single email, it’s barely worth doing.

Doing this need not be a heavy lift for you. There are a couple of ways to stretch your email content and get the most value from it:

  1. Resend emails. That is, send them the exact same thing again, maybe changing the subject line, especially in high frequency campaigns.
  1. Repurpose your emails – maybe tweaking a couple of elements like a photo, headline, swapping out some paragraphs, or tweaking the format, but not writing a new email from scratch. You can take your original email and create a series of increasingly shorter and deadline-focused messages.
  1. Keep it simple: Plain-text emails may not look exciting in your portfolio, but they do very well in fundraising.

Let me show you what a high frequency email fundraising campaign can look like: For their recent Giving Tuesday campaign, the American Jewish World Service https://ajws.org/ sent a total of 24 emails (that I received) between 17 November and 4 December. They used many different communications tactics and timings, all aimed at engaging different people in different ways.

Two things I should point out about this: I don’t work with AJWS, so I don’t know how much money they raised in this campaign, but you can be sure that sophisticated digital campaigners like this would only be sending this many emails if it was working for them. Second, you may not be as digitally advanced and as well-staffed as AJWS … so take their example as an inspiration, not necessarily, “we must do this.”

You might be worried that all this email will annoy your donors. But remember, your supporters don’t actually read or remember every email you send. And they aren’t comparing them to each other. What looks like a lot of repetition from your point of view may not look at all that way to them.

Organisations seldom get any blowback for the repetition – but those emails will raise you extra funds.

And remember you are a nonprofit. It’s your core business to ask for money to make the world a better place. Furthermore, your supporters signed up to your email knowing this. Of course, you should monitor your unsubscribe rate, and see if you get any feedback on emailing too often – and then weigh those things against the income you receive. A little bit of negative feedback is okay if you’re raising lots of money to help your beneficiaries.

Send more email between fundraising campaigns

How would you feel about a “friend” who only calls you up when they need something, and never offers anything in return?

Many charity-supporter relationships are like that. All they do is ask.  We know from life experience that good relationships are built on regular connection and plenty of reciprocity.

You need to engage your supporters regularly, value them, and try to reciprocate – to add value to their lives – if you want to be top of their minds when it’s time for you to ask them to donate.

The way to be more connected is to build a varied cycle of engagement, where between financial appeals, you share quality stories, ask for input, share useful information or events they might want to participate in, and engage them in conversation.

You can build this connection and trust in a variety of ways, including:

  • Links to interesting or useful videos.
  • Challenges to take action in ways other than donating – such as signing petitions, taking surveys, advocating with government or corporate officials.
  • Asking for feedback.
  • Links to blog posts that are relevant.
  • Non-monetary asks, such as volunteering, participating in events, etc.

The secret ingredient: relevance

As with any kind of fundraising, it works best when you connect with donors’ lives, values, and aspirations, you always do better: better campaign performance, better engagement in all channels, better retention, more upgrading and likelihood to include you in their wills.

Make sure your emails are really aimed at your supporters, not at what you and insiders think is important. Of course, this is a much bigger topic than can fit into this blog post … but make sure your donor love quotient stays high in all your emails!

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 jam-packed session will help you leap forward in your online fundraising mastery. Sessions are coming up soon! More information here. 

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