April 29, 2021

A guide to successful email fundraising

Since the introduction of social distancing, businesses have grown increasingly reliant on digital revenue and the charity sector is no exception. With such restrictions on in-person fundraising methods, it is arguably more important than ever for charities and nonprofits to create a successful email fundraising strategy.

Charities will always have the advantage of a person being emotionally invested in their cause, given that their marketing lists usually consist of previous donors. Nevertheless, it can still be tough to make a single email stand out. In 2019, it was estimated that while the average person receives over 120 new emails per day, they’ll ignore all but 25% of them.

With programmes like Mailchimp, it is tremendously easy for email fundraisers and marketers to cast their net wide. But if you are to expect donations, you must focus on quality as well as quantity. So how can you craft a fundraising strategy that means your emails don’t go straight to spam?

Keep it personal 

Taking a personal approach is a sure-fire way to improve email conversion rates. This usually involves, at the very least, addressing the recipient by name. But many charities have embraced what is referred to as ‘hyper personalisation.’ This involves crafting your email around something specific to that one person. 

Take birthday fundraisers, for instance. These have skyrocketed in popularity on Facebook, which as of 2019 has raised over $2b for charity. If you have access to donors’ dates of birth, consider sending emails that ask whether friends or loved ones may be interested in donating.

You should also look to implement ‘segmentation’, which involves categorising your recipients based on key demographics (e.g. age, gender and location) as well as their giving status. For instance, are they long-term patrons of your charity or have they just donated for the first time? 

While segmentation is not a hyper-personalised approach, it allows you to tailor your email to a particular group of people; if you speak their language and address issues that matter to them, you stand a better chance of getting donations.

Embrace storytelling

One of the reasons why emails may be considered ‘spammy’, is because they lack nuance or depth. Fundraising isn’t simply about turning up, cap in hand, and expecting a flood of donations. It’s about getting people behind a common cause and making connections through honest and authentic storytelling.

Do your readers want to know about a person in need? Have you already made a difference thanks to donors’ generosity? People will be much more likely to give if there is a ‘character’ or perspective they can empathize with. Your charity has a powerful story, so be sure to share it.

Build a human connection

One of the challenges of email fundraising is that if not done well, it can seem impersonal. Therefore, if you are to inspire a donation you must form an emotional connection to the reader. So speak to your readers like humans, and focus on crafting a compelling subject line and preview message to build trust with your audience and create that initial spark of interest 

The sender counts just as much as the reader. With 68% of people deciding whether to open an email based on the sender, you need to build a rapport. Using the name of a staff member, fundraiser or a funding beneficiary, rather than the charity title, reminds the reader that behind the emails there are real people. 

Create an effective call to action

Every email should have a call to action, one that hooks your reader from the get-go. This is your make-or-break moment, so choose your words carefully and wisely. For instance, you may want to take a more up-front approach such as “donate now”. Alternatively, consider calls to action that tie directly into your chosen cause, for instance, “help a child” or “plant a tree”. These may be less clear in their intent, but as an emotional ‘hook’ they could make all the difference.

Need help figuring out a specific call to action? A/B testing is a simple and effective solution. Start by sending out two identical versions of the same email, the only difference being the call to action. For example, one email could have the call to action ‘click to donate’, whereas the other would suggest donating a specific amount of money. The subsequent difference in engagement (and donations) between the two emails will allow you to determine which call to action is more effective going forward.

Let’s make a difference 

Now is the time to up your email game and connect with the people who can truly make a difference. It’s a combined effort, so attention to detail when crafting your fundraising emails is key in inspiring your readers and increasing donations. 

At GoodBox, we specialise in technology that helps maximise proceeds for charities and fundraising organisations. We’ve helped support some of the biggest charities to make the most of their fundraising, having raised over £5m since we started in 2016. If you’d like to find out GoodBox can help you, get in touch to find out how we can help you make a difference.

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