3 Powerful Fundraising Strategies for Email

Nonprofits make a huge chunk of their revenue during the last few weeks of the year – from Thanksgiving until December 31st at 11:59pm.

In fact, Blackbaud has found that this year-end fundraising spike happens every year. Check out last year:

What’s your year-end fundraising plan?

The fundraising strategies you employ during year-end should be rock solid. Or at least written down. This means being smart about how you connect with your donors and volunteers – with EVERY channel.

Careful and thoughtful planning is the key to seizing year-end opportunities.

But does email really matter?

If you’ve ever asked for donations on Facebook or Twitter, you were probably disappointed with the result. So many tweets… very little donations.

On the other hand, your email subscribers are probably more likely to donate money via email, if you ask.

Remember, email subscribers are past the honeymoon phase, looking for more. They’re on your email list because they either donated in the past, volunteered, signed a petition, or subscribed to your newsletter.

And yes, people still use email:

  • Over 2.5 billion people on this planet use email. – Radicatti Group (2013)
  • 72% of adults in the US send or receive emails at least once a week, using a smartphone. – Forrester (2014)
  • More than 122 trillion emails are sent every hour. – MarketingProfs (2014)

3 Email Tactics to Boost Year-End Donations

2014 is coming to an end, culminating – for many nonprofits – with the year-end appeals. Here are three tactics that are relatively painless to implement:

1. Engage subscribers before asking for money

The Jane Goodall Institute asked me to vote for their nonprofit in Animal Planet’s 2014 Matching Campaign (see email below). They Invited me to show my support without pulling out my credit card. In fact, all they asked for was “just one click”.

mini-campaign - jane goodall

They’ve engaged me for two reasons:

  • The barrier to entry is low (just one click).
  • The reward from that one click is high (the good feeling from supporting JDI).

If they asked me for a donation, I wouldn’t be as likely to participate. But by engaging me emotionally first, they increase the likelihood that I’ll donate (which I did).

Opens and clicks are gold

Of course, JGI captures the email opens and email clicks.  This information (opens and clicks) identifies me as someone who’s more engaged than, say, subscribers who delete their emails.

They can also segment and tag my contact record in their donor database, CRM and email marketing software. Segmenting their emails allows them to send the right message, to the right people, at the right time.

This strategy can wake up your subscribers, engage them in something that they’re passionate about – without asking for money.

2. Turn New Donors Into Salespeople

The best time to ask donors to share your campaign with their friends is right after they make a donation. The good feeling of giving won’t last forever, and neither will their attention.

NOT asking is leaving money on the table.

The solution is to ask during and after the donation process:

  1. Create a “thank you” page for new donors. Include call-to-actions for social sharing. You can create a Facebook share with these instructions, and create a Twitter share using click to tweet.
  2. Create an email auto-responder that gets sent to new donors, thanking them for their donation (of course) and asking them to share the campaign with their friends.
  3. Reply and respond to comments and tweets about your campaign. Supporting and encouraging these new donors will help retain them.

Again, this strategy kills two birds with one stone: It creates an easy way for you to engage with new donors who are passionate, and also encourages new donors to share your campaign with their friends.

3. Split testing ALL fundraising messages

Imagine if you could get feedback from your subscribers about an email message BEFORE you sent it?   What if they could tell you which subject line they prefer, or which call-to-action they’d click?
Well you can with split-testing.
Split testing (aka A/B testing) is the practice of experimenting with different subject lines, copy, images, etc. The goal of these experiments is to increase open rates and click rates.
For example, consider these two subject lines:
  • “Register for our awesome walkathon”
  • “Don’t miss out on the action, John!”
Which one do you think would get more opens? Your choice, no matter how strong your arguement, is really just based on your gut.
However, split-testing these two subject lines will tell you, based on actual responses, which one is the better subject line.
Split-tests generally follow three steps:
  1. Select 2-3 variations of an element to test, like a subject line.
  2. Use your email software to randomly send test these subject lines with a small percent of your email list, maybe 5-10%.
  3. Send the winning subject line to the rest of your email list.
  4. Check your results (opens, clicks).

Split-testing is the surest ways to increase subscriber engagement over the long haul. It’s active listening, but with your email list.

Back to you

What do YOU think? Comment below.
Interested in writing better fundraising emails? Click here to take my free 5-day course: “Email Marketing and Fundraising Basics”.

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John Haydon