Emails That Don’t Ask – Online Fundraising Done Right

When producing an email for donors, the following are a couple tips for grabbing your supporters’ attention:

  • Keep it short.
  • Provide engaging content (like a video or an awesome picture).
  • As often as possible, make it about the donor.
  • Avoid making an ask in every email.

As is often the case, the online team at the Humane Society of the United States provides the blueprint for online communications with this email sent to donors who gave to prevent the Canadian seal slaughter:

HSUS_SealThanksEmailIn addition to the above criteria, this email is personalized, opens nicely on mobile devices, connects easily to leading social networks for sharing, and is upbeat. The last point is not always associated with animal welfare organizations, but the HSUS understands the value in providing hope along with the more horrific reasons why a person should give to their organization. Especially when your cause is a tough one to face on a consistent basis – poverty, illness, child abuse prevention – it’s important to remind donors that their contributions are making the world a better place.

The focus on email is crucial. According to this Chronicle of Philanthropy piece on the 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, the share of people who made a gift in response to a fundraising email dropped by 21 percent. The article offers a slew of reasons for the decline, none of which suggest email is dead. If anything, the lower numbers are due to a carpet bomb approach and/or a general lack of good data about the donors behind the email addresses. People do read emails and when the message’s content is done right, they respond positively. The key is being personal and offering users something via email. Make it about them, as opposed to always being about your organization, and engagement with your email audience will grow …which leads to gifts when you do make an ask.

OK, now that you’ve made it through my brief tips/rant on nonprofit emails, here’s a video of cute seal pups:

Justin Ware is a fundraising consultant who specializes in online and social media engagement at Bentz Whaley Flessner. To contact Justin, click here.

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