Creating an effective email that solicits contributions requires a tone that creates excitement about your organization. The use of email as a medium for fundraising is increasing because the cost is less than mail or phone solicitations, and the communication is immediate. There are ways to create engaging, actionable emails so that you get the results you want: plenty of donations.
Part 1 Part 1 of 3:Structuring Your Email
Write a strong headline. A headline is the first line of an email and functions like a title. Only about 15% of emails are ever opened, so writing a great headline is extremely important for keeping the attention of that 15% and compelling them to keep reading. In fact, in most email accounts, you can read the first line of an email in the field next to the subject, so headlines are not only a reason to keep reading an email, they are a reason to open one in the first place.
- Use active verbs and nouns to grab attention, as well as bolding, centering, and a larger font.
- Make the headline short and to the point, making the purpose of your email clear from the get-go. Compel the reader to think that reading this email will be useful, timely, and very relevant to their lives.
- Answer the question the reader wants to know: What’s in it for me?
- Your subject line can tease the reader, be a call to action, be a current events subject, or be about a local place or event if your organization is strictly community-based.
- A good headline example is, “New York City Challenges State Natural Gas Regulations in Court”
Tell everything in the first paragraph. Get to the point right off the bat. Readers don’t want to be wondering what your email is about halfway through, which is a reason they might delete the email without making any donation. Be very clear in this paragraph what you want the reader to do and why you are sending this email.
- In this first paragraph, you should ask the reader for their donation. Although in person you might want to break it to them gently that you want money, emails demand your “ask” right at the beginning. Make this request easy to see, such as in bold or larger font.
- In your “ask,” tell readers what their money will do. If a small amount will do something if not everything, tell them. For example, if $50 will feed 100 children, you might get more responses than saying that you need $1,000 to build a hut.
- Tell them it’s ok to say no. Statistics shows that more people give when they feel freedom to make the choice about giving, rather than feeling pressured to do so.
- Explain and describe your cause in this first paragraph so that it’s clear that you want the money in order to do something, not just get money for the sake of having money.
Use your microcontent wisely. Microcontent is all the short phrases and subheadings that decorate an email. You want to use your microcontent to highlight your main points so that readers who like to scan through the email before reading feel compelled to read the text.
- Microcontent includes headings, subheadings, the subject line, and links and buttons.
- Use active verbs, descriptive adverbs, and nouns. Your goal is to get them to read the actual text.
- A good heading might look like this: “Donate $50 to Save a Dolphin”
- Make them bold or larger text so that they stand out. They tend to appear at the beginning of paragraphs or new sections.
- Write simple subheadings. You may or may not have subheadings, but they are useful to include when you feel that a heading is too short. Follow the same principles—short, actionable, bold.
Tell a story. Telling a story with your email is more engaging to readers. The body of your email will contain this story. Remember that stories have a beginning, middle, and end. You may want to use an emotionally charged story to compel readers to join your cause financially, one that has actually happened within your organization or as a result of your activity.
Write short body paragraphs. Craft the body of your email in short, to-the-point paragraphs. This is because readers are worn down by the sheer amount of emails they receive. Limiting the length of your email makes you stand out.
- Bring in only one or two main points.
- Be very concise, no matter how many edits and revisions the email needs to go through in order to achieve this.
- Don’t include the history of why you’re asking for money. The uses that you give in the opening paragraph and your story in the body paragraphs are sufficient to explain why you need money.
Provide links and buttons — but stay on-message. It may be tempting to add tons of links to your email, but this can become a distraction and easily derail the reader from your main message — to get a donation. An easy way to provide the curious reader with information without adding many distracting links is to have all relevant information on your website, then include a link to your website only. For instance, if there is research proving your statements are true, instead of linking directly to a long, complicated study for the reader to get lost in, have a link to that study on your website (and make sure the option to donate is prominent on your website).
Add images carefully. You may want to add one or two images to emphasize your point, but this is not necessary. In fact, colors and images can make emails feel like spam. Try to insert images only at the top or bottom, and restrict their use to when you feel an image is absolutely necessary for communicating your point or eliciting sympathy.
- A useful image might be a subject of your charity experiencing the effects of donations, like an impoverished little girl receiving new clothes for the first time.
- Inserting your logo in an unobtrusive location, like a bottom corner, can be an exception to this rule, as it provides instant reader recognition.
Write a direct next step/call to action. The final portion of an email is the call to action, and making it stand out allows readers to scan it before they read all the reasons why they should donate. This serves to inform readers why you’re emailing them so that they stay engaged. Be clear about how to make the donation.
- If a reader doesn’t know why they’re reading an email, they are much more likely to discard an email.
- Make sure this final “ask” stands out from the rest of the email, and be very clear about what you are asking for. Make it have its own paragraph, be in bold or larger/different font, and contain a brightly-colored link or donate button.
- If readers have to click the button or link, tell them to do so. If they have to reply to the email for further instructions, tell them to do this is no uncertain terms: “Click the button to save a monkey right now!” or “Hit your reply button this very instant and type the phrase ‘donation information’ into the body.”
- It makes more sense to readers to be able to click a link right then, and you will likely get more donations this way, so try to provide a link or button to your organization.
- Set up a website or online donation page so that readers can contribute online. This is what readers expect from a donation email anyway.
Keep it short. If your email is long, it’s not easy to scan. Keeping paragraphs and headings short will ensure that your email gets a proper scan before the reader decides to continue reading or not.
Part 2 Part 2 of 3:Keeping Your Audience in Mind
Keep the tone more casual than a letter. A formal letter sent in the mail from an organization to an individual is often formal and distant because of the mode of communication. However, an email, like a blog, is less formal in its tone.
- Use second person “you” when addressing the reader.
- Use familiar expressions to help the reader relate to you, like “It cost an arm and a leg,” or “He was knee-high to a grasshopper.”
- Use direct, honest, open language when addressing the reader so that they feel connected and see you as authentic.
Make words easy to read. Use basic fonts and streamline the visual appeal of the email. Don’t try to use a fancy, cursive font—just a basic serif font will do. And don’t use two different fonts for the headings and text. Simply bolding or making some text larger than others will emphasize points just fine.
- Your email should also be easy to read from a language standpoint — your writing should be at an 8th-grade reading level. Don’t get too wordy or complicated. Your writing should be clear, mistake-free (no grammar or spelling mistakes), and easy to read.
Sign up for an email service. If you want to make sure that your emails are being opened, or determine what kind of people read your emails more than others, you don’t have to wait for replies or donations. If you sign up for an email service like MailChimp, you can measure a whole list of different metrics each time you send an email in order to tailor your emails to your actual readers.
- You can review metrics like click-through rates, open rates, and read reports.
- Open rates are especially helpful for determining what subject lines are popular, increasing how many people read your emails.
- Another reason an email service is helpful is if you regularly send mass emails asking for donations, your email provider may become suspicious, even cutting you off as a suspected spammer. It also takes a lot of time to compile lists, break down your send-to list to fit the requirements of your email account (most email providers set a limit of around 50 recipients per email), responding to individuals, and dealing with emails that come back from inactive email addresses.
Make sure your list cares about your cause. Regularly review your email list to make sure you are sending it to people who are more likely to read it, especially ensuring that people who have expressed interest are on it. Your metrics will improve this way, and you will waste less time.
Personalize by segmenting. Use a different tone with different groups of donors. For example, if you have a group of people who regularly respond to your emails, send them an email with a personal tone. Compile another list of readers you know don’t usually open your emails with a less formal tone. And have an email with an explanatory tone for first-time emails.
- With an email service provider, you can also customize individual emails with the names of your addressees, like “Dear Henry.”
Include data that supports your fundraising. To keep your audience engaged, you may want to provide them with encouraging data showing them how their money worked or is going to work. This information can go in the opening paragraph or the call to action, or both. People like to give when they know they are already doing good things.
Say thank you after receiving a donation. Don’t forget to send personal thank-yous to donors after you receive a donation. This is a simple act that can guarantee a repeat donation in the future. You want to send this email as promptly as possible; look at it as a type of receipt.
- If you get a large amount of donors each month, you may want to consider creating a template so that you can paste it into an email draft and quickly customize it.
Part 3 Part 3 of 3:Building an Email List
Don’t buy an email list. Selling and buying a list of email addresses of potential donors is illegal according to the CAN SPAM Act of 2003. There are companies that will allow you to “rent” a list for one-time use, but this can be very expensive, as you will likely have to buy thousands of email addresses to see even small returns. It is probably better to put that money toward something else and look for more solid ways to build your email list.
Collect names at events. Any time your nonprofit hosts or is involved in an event, make sure you provide a way for people to sign up for your email list. Put out a pen, a clipboard, and a few sheets of paper with space for interested parties to write their name and email address. Make sure the paper states that they are signing up for your email list.
- Try a raffle or contest to get more names. At the event, try hosting a raffle or contest for those who sign up to your email list.
Use social networking. Make sure your nonprofit has a strong presence in social media — from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram. It is easy to reach people through social media, and if you have compelling content, people may begin sharing your posts or calls for donations. Ask your followers to sign up for your email list so they never miss an important announcement.
Make it easy. Your website should give visitors the opportunity to sign up for your email list. It doesn’t need to be flashy, but it should be easy to find and sign up.
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- Do not make your email too lengthy. Long fundraising email messages are not as effective as concise ones. Thanks! Helpful 10 Not Helpful 2
Things You’ll Need
- Computer with Internet access
- An email account
- Optional: an email service provider like MailChimp