With only a few weeks left in 2016, it’s time to start planning your year-end fundraising campaign. While you’re brainstorming social media, drafting your direct mail appeals, and setting up your online donation platform, don’t forget email—it’s a medium to communicate with your supporters that can really deliver.
Marketers have found that email has a great return on investment–The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reports an ROI of 3800%, and found that marketing emails have a higher conversion rate than social or direct mail. Technology market research firm The Radicati Group reported that a message was five times more likely to be seen when sent via email vs. posted on Facebook.
Results like that are important at the end of the year, which is hectic for everyone. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, which is why using emailing best practices is especially important when crafting your year-end fundraising emails.
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Before you hit send on your year-end fundraising email, ask yourself these seven questions:
1. How many emails will be part of the campaign?
While it would be great if you only had to send one year-end fundraising email on December 1 and then everyone opened it and made their gifts promptly, plan for several throughout the month. Many people leave their year-end giving until the last possible moment (12% of all annual giving happens on the last three days of the year), so don’t hesitate to remind people on December 30 and 31.
While each email should contain the same essential message and be able to stand alone, think of this email series as a way to build on the story you’re telling. Whether it’s an update on how much money you’ve raised so far, a picture of your work in action, or simple ask, consider how it all goes together.
2. Would someone open this?
You put a lot of effort into your year-end fundraising email. What a pity, then, if no one opens your emails to read those messages. The difference between an open email and a skipped one is often the subject line. It’s your first point of contact, and it’s got to inspire your recipient to open the email.
It’s a tall order for a short piece of text, but you’ll get the most out of it if your subject line is:
Shorter subject lines tend to get better results.
Whenever possible, use active words in your subject line to capture interest. Try out a question like “Can we count on you?” as a subject line–it immediately prompts an answer.
It’s tempting to be clever and mysterious, don’t get so creative that you obscure the point. The function of the subject line is to inform the recipient of the email’s contents.
Emails that are left to open later are often emails that are never opened. Try words like “now,” “today,” and “before X day” to convey urgency.
According to Campaign Monitor, emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.
3. When will I send these emails?
There is a healthy debate among marketers over when the best time to send an email is. Constant Contact has found Monday morning at 6AM gets the best results for nonprofits, but there are other opinions out there, too. Your audience may have its own particular quirks.Theonly way to know is to test. Try out different send times and days, and see what you discover works best for your supporters.
Frequency is also important. You want to stay current and top-of-mind, but you don’t want to become a spamming pest. Segment your list so people only receive messages that are relevant to them.
4. Who is this email from?
While your supporters probably don’t believe you’re typing out each individual message just for them, nobody wants to feel like they’re getting a form letter. One of the ways to make your emails seem personal and relevant is to choose an actual person to be the sender, rather than the organization. Campaign Monitor found that 68% of people reported choosing whether or not to open an email based on who it was from.
5. How does this email look and work on a smartphone?
At this point, maybe we should just assume all of our emails are going to be read on mobile devices. We’d be at least more than half right, 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices. Make sure your email template makes sense on a mobile screen, and make double-sure it’s easy to make a donation from a mobile device. Everyone is too distracted at the end of the year to take the time to problem solve making a donation.
6. What does this email look like?
Your supporters get many fundraising emails at the end of the year. Make yours stand out with eye-catching pictures, your logo, and an easy-to-read design. Consider making your call to action a simple button instead of a text link, to simplify making a donation even more.
“Your supporters get many fundraising emails at the end of the year. Make yours stand out.” tweet this
7. What is the one thing I want people to do in response to this email?
I know, you have volunteer opportunities and you want to update your donors on your programs, and that is fantastic. You should definitely do those things– but not in your year-end fundraising email. Fundraising emails work best when you ask for one thing. A single call to action makes it easy for your donors to know what to do.
Your donors are already receiving approximately a million messages during the month of December. Don’t let your year-end fundraising email get lost.