Creating stirring content for fundraising emails is challenging enough without taking on the added difficulty of making it eye catching and engaging. From intriguing subject lines to fundraising progress thermometers to a personal sign off, there is a lot you can do to make that extra connection with a donor through email. In the second class in our Email Fundraiser's Toolkit, we took on the individual pieces of an email, what makes them stand out, and how you can design your own. However, making it all work together in a campaign is rarely without some trepidation, so we answered a number of questions here that we hope you find useful.
Can a “too relaxed” voice hurt a campaign?
It is important to be careful to have your voice match your message and the medium. While emails are definitely a “more relaxed” medium than direct mail, you don’t want to take it too far. A voice that feels too extreme will not be effective in motivating your readers to donate. Use your best judgment—if something feels off, odds are it is.
Is there a tool or website we can use to make a thermometer?
If your online tool doesn’t provide a thermometer or progress bar, you can try obtaining a separate one. Here are a few places to get you started:
Where would you list the tangible results?
Presenting the tangible result of a donation is key to motivating your constituents to act. How and where you present this information will vary based on your overall story and approach. Weaving it through the narrative will feel seamless if done right and can be very powerful. If you are looking to list a series of results based on varying gift amounts (ex. $50 will feed a family for a week; $200 will feed a family for a month) you should think about placing that information on your donation landing page. This will help motivate your donors when they are choosing how much to give to the campaign. We have also seen successful lists included in the email itself, mostly either on the side bar or a super short list in the ps.
Is there value to having our executive director as the sender of an email even if they did not compose it? Should I still include a photo next to my signature, or photo of the person/people featured in our email(s)?
The person who actually crafts the letter does not need to be the one who publically signs it. We see this all the time in direct mail where the development staff will compose the letter and have the ED sign it. It is best practice to have the email from line be consistent with the signer of the letter. So if it is your ED signing the letter their name should be in the from line as well. Including a picture or scanned signature (or both) in the signature line helps to personalize the communication, just make sure there is consistency from top to bottom. And as with the Literacy Volunteers example from the class, if your ED is signing, but the story is about another person you can include their image as well, but be mindful to make it clear who is who both in location of the images as well as with the title of the photo.
How do you know you're not exceeding the reasonableness (and tolerance) of what the recipients are willing and interested in receiving from you?
If you send too many emails to your list you will know. You’ll see a spike in unsubscribes and SPAM flags if you cross a clear line. While it will be somewhat gradual, when you start to see people fleeing from your list in larger than expected numbers you should pull back. Keep in mind, more people than normal will unsubscribe from your list in response to any given fundraising appeal, so an initial jump in response to your campaign should be expected, but any increase should be investigated. You should also pay attention to feedback form your constituents, if you are concerned about the volume, call a few constituents—volunteers, board members, staff, random donors—and check to see their reaction.
Should thank you emails go to the whole list or rather on a 1:1 basis that's personalized and specific to their gift?
You should be thinking about thanking your donors in a few different ways. First, and perhaps most straightforward, when they make a donation online your donation tool should send them an individual tax receipt. The more you can customize that receipt, the better. Second, you should plan to send a thank you to your entire list reporting on the campaign as a whole. Letting everyone, donors and non-donors, know about your successes can only improve your next campaign, and who knows, maybe some of your non-donors will donate in response. Additionally, you should consider a personal thank you to every donor initiated by your organization. Hand written thank you letters in response to online donations are a nice touch, thank you calls from your Board can be very compelling, and of course, a personal email thank you will work as well. Depending on the number of donations you receive you could consider setting a threshold for the additional thank you, say only sending personal notes to donors of $50 or more. But I tend to lean towards including as many personalized connections as possible. You never know, that $25 annual donor might lead to your next big bequeath.
Do you know any statistics on the effectiveness of organizations switching into email fundraising annual campaigns from snail mail campaigns?
Please don’t abandon your direct mail campaigns for an email-only approach! All signs point to the success of integrated campaigns above all else. Direct mail will often trigger an online donation and frequently emails will remind a donor of that direct mail envelope on their coffee table. Email fundraising is a new way you can connect with your donors, but you shouldn’t see it as a replacement for your direct mail campaign, but instead consider it in compliment. Joanne Fritz presents a nice case for the staying power of direct mail and the value of adding in email to the mix. She also links to some helpful statistics, check out her argument here: http://nonprofit.about.com/b/2013/02/19/no-escape-from-direct-mail-fundraising.htm