The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

3 Smart Year-End Email Fundraising Strategies

Editor’s note: Want more email fundraising tips? Join us on Tuesday, September 26 at 1pm EDT for a 30-minute webinar, #NFGTips: Your Email Strategy for Year-End. Can’t make that time? Register anyway and we’ll send you the recording. Click here to save your spot!

In my last article I discussed the importance of getting all your year-end ducks in a row.

Today we’re going to take a quack at assuring your year-end email series gets opened and acted upon.

A quack at it?

Yes! Because I’m guessing you don’t have your ducks lined up to make this year’s email appeal worth all your effort.  What do I mean? I mean the majority of folk receiving your email will simply hit ‘delete.’ And that’s just not going to pay your bills.

You need to get all your email duckies in a row. And I know exactly which three are missing.

I’ve been in that duck pond. I know where your world-wide webbed feet are taking you.

You’re painstakingly wordsmithing the appeal message… agonizing over just the right tag line… angsting over which photo is the most compelling… meticulously crafting your killer call to action… thoroughly assuring your donate button link is working… worrying about your colors and type face… and distressing about how you’ll measure your results. All essential things. But your email is still going to drown.

Yup. Your poor little email is just a sitting duck for that delete button.

Unless… you shift some of your energy to three simple, yet too often overlooked or back-burnered, things:

  1. The “From” line
  2. The “Subject” line
  3. List segmentation

Let’s Start with the “From” Line

This is arguably the most important part of your email. According to a Constant Contact study, 64% of people open emails because of the organization it is from; compared with 47% of people opening emails because of what’s in the subject line. To avoid having your precious email wind up in the trash bin, you need to use the ‘Just Ducky! ’ Rule. And the ‘From’ line is at the heart of this rule. Let me explain.

When folks see an email from you in their inbox you want them thinking “That’s just ducky!  An email from _____. She always has something interesting to say.

Whose emails do you open first? Chances are good that when you open your email box a majority of the messages are of little interest to you. You don’t know who they’re from, they look like junk, or they’re coming from someone who doesn’t interest you enough to compel you to open their message.  If you have time, maybe you will.  If you don’t, maybe you’ll hit “delete.”

Who the email is from is often what motivates people to open it.  Your email should come from a person or brand your targeted reader knows, trusts and, ideally, likes.  Often this will be the E.D.  It could also be another beloved staff member or lay leader. Even when you have a trusted brand, you’ll likely get a better response from the person at the brand. People give to people, not institutions. If you’re not sure about this, it’s certainly something worth testing!

Don’t duck out on this responsibility, please. Think about who the email is coming from before you begin to write.  Don’t leave it until the very end. Too often no one thinks about it; then the IT person or the administrative assistant is assigned to “launch” the email. Typically they do one of two things: (1) simply launch the email from a corporate account, or (2) innocently ask “Who’s it coming from?”

The first is not so good, because it’s a thoughtless approach.  The second is not so good, because it’s an afterthought (and I’ve seen more than one occasion where the appeal was delayed because it took awhile to find a signatory or to create a new “from” email account that would work).

Put a feather in your cap by planning ahead so that when your reader opens their inbox they exclaim: “Just Ducky!”

Let’s Make your Subject Line a Real Firequacker!

The subject line is the window into your message. 33% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone (Source: Convince and Convert).

To be a great e-mallard you’ve got to give the reader a reason to open the email. Waddle you gonna do about this? You’re gonna make your subject line one or more of these things: urgent; intriguing; exciting; specific; useful; compelling; emotional, shocking or funny (even daffy). That’s what it takes to get folks flocking to you.

Here are a few real examples:

Four pounds, that’s what’s up

This led to email about how a food bank client had gained weight after receiving nutritious food at an on-site pantry at her senior apartments.) Intriguing/Funny

Abandoned by budget cuts, they’re counting on us

This led to e-appeal to fund home care for seniors who were losing critical lifeline services due to budget cutbacks). Urgent/Specific

Why the cheerleaders shaved their heads

This led to a message from Indianapolis Colt’s coach Chuck Pagano, who was battling leukemia. Shocking.

Get into your donor’s head as much as you can, and try to make it about the donor rather than your fundraising goals. For those who’ve given in the past, how about a simple:

 Did you forget you made this possible?

This also has the subtle psychological benefit of reminding them they already did something. (Remember, one of Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence is “commitment and consistency.”).  Compelling. Specific. Intriguing.

Is it all over between us?

This was suggested by grassroots fundraising guru Kim Klein. Emotional. Compelling.

You have only a few seconds to capture attention. Subject lines with less than 50 characters have open rates 12.5% higher than those with 50 or more, and click-through rates are 75% higher. So generally plan to keep your subject line to 50 characters or fewer.

For more inspirations, check out some holiday email subject lines here. If you happen to use MailChimp they have a  free tool to test the strength of your subject line. They also help you add emoji’s, and they suggest words that will negatively affect your open rates – You may be surprised – two of them are: ‘Help’ and ‘Reminder.’

You can find a whole duck boat-load of ideas – many of which are as good as they’re quacked up to be — in 200 More Email Subject Lines from End of Year Fundraising. Just avoid those that could be coming from any nonprofit (e.g., “Just 48 hours left” is not great. “48 hours left to rescue drowning ducks” is better).

But don’t mislead. That will make you a dead duck. Folks don’t mind being teased a little, but they don’t like being lied to. If folks open your email, but then see it’s not at all about what you promised, they’ll toss you right out.

While we’re at it, consider your pre-header.  That’s an extra tool to convince your subscribers to quack open your email. What is it? It’s the snippet of text at the top of your email (or a link to the online version) that your subscribers see first, sometimes even before they open the email. Because even if you get your email open, studies show that 51% will delete your email within 2 seconds of opening it.  Aargh!

Most email clients display the pre-header right after the subject line. This means if you’re using images, you absolutely must include an ALT description of the image for those folks (most) whose images are blocked. Talk to your IT folk if you don’t know what I’m talking about. And keep in mind the typical inbox preview pane will only show 30 to 40 characters (the typical mobile device shows around 15 characters). So make your lead-in count.

Segmentation can Make or Break your Campaign.

Imagine you’re an animal rescue agency. Half of your supporters love dogs; half love cats. Wouldn’t it make sense to devise tailored messages for each segment?

The same holds true for folks who gave big gifts vs. small ones. And folks who gave for the first time vs. ongoing donors.

You want to tweak your appeal slightly to show people you know them.

You also want to customize your asks (and your donation landing pages) to match the language in your appeal.

The more specific and targeted you can be, the better.

Once you get these three things nailed – “From” and “Subject Line” plus List Segmentation – getting your email opened will be like water off a duck’s back.

Hasn’t this been pun?

 

Want more email fundraising tips? Join us on Tuesday, September 26 at 1pm EDT for a 30-minute webinar, #NFGTips: Your Email Strategy for Year-End. Can’t make that time? Register anyway and we’ll send you the recording. Click here to save your spot!

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About This Blog

Lisa Bonanno
Vice President of Digital Marketing

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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