Help! I Don’t Have an Email Fundraising Strategy

What’s a good balance of impact stories and fundraising appeals in our email strategy? I’m not sure how to balance the mix of asking for money and talking about what we’re doing. We’re currently sending direct mail appeals but don’t really have an email plan.

My preferred balance is listed below. I recommend sending a personalized communication to every member of your contact list every 14-21 days or 26 times per year. Throughout the year during specific campaigns, frequency should increase to 2x a week or more.

Sound like too much? Before you file this under “wouldn’t work for my organization,” remember that only one of every five recipients will open your emails (on average). To make sure your message is reaching your audience, I encourage you to use all available channels – text, phone, personalized video thank you messages, handwritten notes, etc. WHY? Nonprofits who used two or more different types of communications (e-mail, direct mail, or text) have a higher median donation total, and a higher median average donation amount (learn more here).

For now, in most cases, your personalized communications will be sent primarily through email. With the exception of major or urgent news, I recommend using no more than 500 words in each email. Be flexible and take the time to understand the results of each appeal. If you lack fundraising software that tells you this info at a glance, check Network for Good’s out. Finally, don’t hesitate to introduce a formal process for gathering feedback on your communications. Invite 10 – 20 contacts across all segments of your list to participate in a year-long study. This will pay dividends and go a long way to ensure your message is resonating with your audience.

Here’s a formula that works for my clients:

  • Ask – Fundraising Appeals (30%)
  • Thank – Inform/Educate (30%)
  • Report – Impact Stories  (30%)
  • Other – reserve 10% for special events, rare occasions, once in a lifetime opportunities, etc.

Good luck and go get em!

Ask a Fundraising Coach is Network for Good’s weekly advice column, where Personal Fundraising Coach Andrea Holthouser tackles your toughest challenges in the world of fundraising, nonprofit management, donor relations, and more.

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