Email is often the primary way nonprofits communicate with their donors and there’s a reason for that. It’s fast, easy, relatively inexpensive, and almost everyone has an email address. You can quickly get a message out to a lot of people.
Email, unlike social media, is something you can control. You don’t have to rely on a social media algorithm to hope your message ends up in your donor’s feed.
But email is not a miracle mode of communication because you’re not the only one using it. People get hundreds of emails a day plus messages from other sources such as social media. It’s information overload to the max and it’s easy for your messages to get lost in the melee.
Here’s what you need to do to make your email messages stand out.
What’s your intention?
What’s the purpose of your message? What do you want your reader to do? Maybe it’s to donate, volunteer, attend an event, or contact her legislators. Maybe you’re sharing an update.
Think from your reader’s perspective. What would she be interested in or what would make him take action?
Keep it simple and stick to one call to action.
A good subject line is crucial
A good subject line is the key to getting someone to open your email message. If he doesn’t bother to open it, all your work has gone to waste.
Give some thought to it. Instead of Donate to our Spring Appeal or May 2018 Newsletter, try Find out how you can help Jason learn to read or Thanks to you, the Tyler family has a home of their own.
Short and sweet
Your next step is to get your donor to read your message. Keep her interested. Remember your email is one of hundreds your donor will receive that day, along with whatever else is going on in her life.
Make your messages short, but engaging, and get to the point right away.
Keep this in mind when you send your e-newsletter or updates. You might want to consider a two-article newsletter twice a month instead of one with four articles (and it’s unlikely your donors will read all four articles) once a month.
Make it easy to read and scan
Besides sending a short message, use short paragraphs, too. It needs to be easy to read (and scan) in an instant. Don’t use teeny tiny font either.
Be personal and conversational
Write directly to your reader using clear, conversational language – no jargon. Address your message to a person – Dear Linda and not Dear Friend.
Use an email service provider that lets you segment your lists so you can personalize your messages. For example, you’ll create different messages for current donors, potential donors, and monthly donors.
Send your message to the right audience
You may want to reach out to as many people as possible about an upcoming event, but you’ll have better luck concentrating on people who will be interested, such as past attendees. Just because email lets you communicate with a large audience, doesn’t mean you should.
Your audience isn’t everyone.
Be a welcome visitor
If you communicate regularly and do it well, your donors should recognize you as a reputable source and are more likely to read your message.
Make sure people know your message is coming from your organization. In the from field, put DoGood Nonprofit or Jennifer Smith, DoGood Nonprofit. If you just put a person’s name or firstname.lastname@example.org, people may not know who it’s from and ignore your message.
Only send email to people who have opted into your list. Otherwise, you’re spamming them. Some people will choose not to receive email from you, and that’s okay. The ones who do are interested in hearing from you. Give people the option to unsubscribe, too.
If you’re using email to send a fundraising appeal or event invitation, you’ll probably have to send more than one message. Try not to send messages to people who have already responded.
Be mobile friendly
Many people read their email on a mobile device. If your message isn’t mobile friendly, you’re missing out.
Your email messages can stand out in your donor’s inbox if you give some thought to them and do it well. Here’s more information about communicating by email.