With people’s lives getting busier, it’s imperative that we communicate as clearly and concisely as possible, if we are to reach them at all. When you contact donors – especially via email – remember this and be brief and to the point.
Another factor to consider with people’s hectic schedules is that they often don’t have time to read all of their messages, brief or not. For year-end giving, studies have shown that several, short emails over the final month or two of the year can serve to be successful reminders. For those who read them all, the repetition is more effective, and for those who may not have read everything, the market penetration is increased. Because each message was deliberately concise, most people did not feel overwhelmed or annoyed at the recurrence.
When a recipient reads an email, they must know who is writing, what they have to say/offer, what (if anything) they want, and how the respondent can act – immediately! If there is any confusion or delay, the reader has moved on or deleted the message. Worse than that, if s/he feels deceived, they will unsubscribe or hit the SPAM button. Clarity is essential.
Just as recipients open direct mail over the trash can, always realize that email is being opened with a finger on the [delete] button. You have a few seconds to escape oblivion and get your message viewed. It helps to make a concerted effort to place yourself in the constituent’s perspective.
For example, most frequently, the subject line is composed last and the least amount of effort is given to this bit of writing, when it is actually the most crucial piece of editing. The subject is the first thing the recipient sees when deciding whether or not to open the email. It’s advisable to test various subject lines with different segments of your email list, since you can then determine which ones yield a better open rate.
Also consider what name and/or email address you use to send your message. Too many organizations pay little attention to this detail, and send messages from [firstname.lastname@example.org] or other impersonal addresses. Just as with direct mail, obvious form letters have a much lower yield versus something with a personal touch.
For year-end messages, no doubt you are asking constituents to contribute, but be sure to give them a reason to give. Tell them a (short) story about who will be helped, affected, influenced, etc. by their gift, and/or has been in the past. If they can’t feel that their gift will have an impact, why bother?
Specific suggested ask amounts in the email should help boost your overall average gift. Also make certain that your [donate] button in the email correlates to an online giving form that has the same ask amounts listed on the email. You don’t want to undercut one with the other – or make your campaign look inconsistent.
Create a separate online giving form(s) for your email campaign, that is distinct from your website’s [Donate Now] eform, so that you can track the statistics, measuring the success of each appeal(s) independently.
Speaking of testing, there are several things you should test on your email message prior to sending it out: Test your overall message text deliverability by checking your spam score. It’s also important to send your email to several different email clients, such as AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, etc. to see how it is received, formatted, etc. – both in HTML and only in text. Something that many people don’t consider is testing to see how their emails will read when received on various handheld devices. Again, viewing should be in both HTML and text, particularly because many handhelds don’t display all HTML visuals.
One great way to tell a compelling story is through video, and many email campaigns are now adding video components to their appeals. If your organization chooses to do this, consider getting a YouTube Nonprofit Account, which will allow you to embed a (donation) link within your video. (You don’t want people to see your wonderful, heartwarming story, and then have no means to act! Neither do you want to require them to take 3 – 4 additional steps, searching for your donation page!)
Take a crucial look, through your donors’ eyes, at what you’re offering and how appealing, how long, how much, etc. you are asking them to do. Can you improve, redesign, reduce this process by several steps, sentences, or other means?
Each task you take on means less work for your recipient. Further time spent tracking and testing your modifications will help you know what works best at your organization. When constituents have so many choices about where to spend their time and money, it is a wise investment for organizations to streamline their processes so that the simplest, fastest and most convenient choice becomes obvious to the donor.
Keep the base of the pyramid strong