Email is an enormously powerful communication tool, but you won’t fully benefit from that power unless you follow a few tried-and-true best email practices. These are all based on looking through your donors’ eyes, and considering how your messages will appear in their inbox. Here are five principles (with examples) to guide you in composing the best fundraising emails:
1. Write a Compelling Subject Line
The subject line has only one purpose, and that is to make your users open the message. Avoid listing dates, times and places in that line, and instead think in terms of the reader’s curiosity and self-interest. Short subject lines (under 15 or 20 characters) are better than long ones, and a sense of urgency is useful. Personalizing the subject line is also a good tactic, if your software allows for it.
- “Can I ask you a favor, [name]?”
- “4 reasons we need your help today”
- “Can these children count on your support?”
- “Today is the last day of this vital campaign”
2. Pay Attention to the Preheader Text
Many email inboxes are set up to show a brief preview of the message contents. These few words can often make the difference between deleting and opening. In addition, they function as a sort of subliminal message, because even if your email isn’t immediately opened, the user will see the preview text every time they check their inbox. In general, you should expect that the first 40 or 50 characters of your email will show up as the preheader text. You can use this text as an extension of your subject line, since they’ll be seen together.
Subject Line: [Name], Are you ready to fight hunger?
Preheader Text: Here are three ways you can help today.
3. Make It Easy to Donate
Of course your best fundraising email will include a call to action, but you have to make that action as easy as possible to take. Best practices includes highlighted text that links to your site’s donation page, as well as a graphic “Donate” button in the message. It’s also valuable to link specific donation amounts with the effect they can have.
- “Your donation of $50 today can help 10 households have clean drinking water.”
- “Yes! I want to preserve 1 acre of wildlife habitat!”
4. Don’t Confuse Newsletters With Fundraising Emails
When you care about a cause, you want to tell your audience every detail about how important it is. Too often, this understandable urge causes fundraising emails to turn into long newsletters. While newsletters can also include a request for memberships or donations, fundraising emails have a single purpose: to raise money. Your email should only be two paragraphs long, with a concluding sentence.
First paragraph beginning:
“If you don’t think hunger exists in our city, meet Tara. She had no problem losing weight after her second child was born, because she ate only one meal a day in order to afford food for her children.”
Second paragraph beginning:
“Your donation of $25 can help keep our food bank open seven days a week, so that mothers like Tara never have to go to bed hungry.”
5. Use Analytics to Target Your Message
Your organization probably relies on donors at all economic levels. The email you write to a major funder with deep pockets should look different from the one that you send to a family of modest income. Similarly, you’ll speak to a 20-something tech worker and a retired veteran with different language. Tracking software can help you segment your email list into separate demographic groups, while watching click-through rates and other metrics can help you fine tune your messaging.
Writing your best fundraising email can make all the difference in whether your donors respond or just delete and move on.