People receive so many emails every day that it can be hard to make yours stand out.
But email marketing is essential to any nonprofit’s success, so giving up on it is not an option.
How can you improve your email open, click-through rates, and conversion rates? It turns out, with some well-placed tweaks to your email marketing strategy, you can drastically improve your fundraising success.
Check out these tips to easily boost your email marketing numbers:
- Make your emails visually interesting.
- Segment your email subscribers.
- Optimize your subject lines.
- Send more than just donation asks.
- Remind your readers about matching gifts.
- Monitor important metrics to improve engagement.
More people than ever prefer to correspond via email and make gifts via online donation pages. Making time for these email marketing improvements will make major progress toward meeting your fundraising goals and funding your mission.
1. Make your emails visually interesting.
Have you ever curiously opened a new email only to be met by a daunting wall of text?
Like everyone, your target donors quickly assess an email’s appeal before deciding whether or not to read it, and that wall of text is not likely to lead to many interested readers.
To keep readers engaged and improve your email conversion rate, try livening up your emails with the following features.
Adding colored borders or text to your emails will instantly make them more excited for readers. But don’t just haphazardly slap a few colors on your email templates and call it a day.
Research shows that certain colors spur people to certain types of action, which is why industries tend to embrace different sets of colors for their brands. For some tips on how to incorporate colors into your marketing, see our guide to using color in web design to increase conversions.
Images are essential in making your email accessible and enjoyable.
They can add flair and context to your main message and act as a break for the reader. Some ideas for images to include:
- Beneficiaries of your cause
- Your donors
- Your staff
- Your community
Videos can be a great way to convey complex information to your audience without forcing them to wade through paragraph after paragraph.
However, if any of the video’s information is crucial to your overall message, make sure to include it in the text as well. It can be easy to overdo it with videos, as some people may not feel like watching a video when they first open your message.
Although the above techniques are often more exciting, it is sometimes necessary to include a large amount of text-based information in your email.
Still, it doesn’t have to read like the unabridged Moby Dick! Organize your information into short, punchy sentences, bulleted or numbered lists, or small tables to make it easier to skim the email. Including bold, italicized, or colored text can make your email more interesting without slowing the flow of information.
2. Segment your email subscribers.
Categorizing your subscribers into smaller sub-lists or “email streams” is an extremely useful strategy for improving conversion. This is called donor segmentation, and it can help you drastically decrease your ignored emails by catering content to specific groups.
Common demographic markers like age, location, and income may be the first segments that come to your mind, but you should also try to utilize any more intimate details you have, such as interests, political affiliation, alma mater, and other supported causes. These details can help you appeal to your readers more directly and be more relatable.
But you may not have this type of intimate information about all your donors. There are lots of data you can collect surrounding your donors’ engagement with your emails, and you can then use this information to optimize your email marketing. Examples include:
- New subscribers. Send your newest subscribers welcome emails to thank them and remind them why subscribing to your list was a good idea. New subscribers may not know your nonprofit very well, so send them an email as a sort of introduction so they can decide if your cause is right for them.
- Open rate. Donors who open your messages very often may be ready for a donation ask, whereas donors who rarely open your messages may require a cool-down period.
- Click-through rate. Your email click-through rate, or CTR, is the rate at which email recipients end up clicking the links you include in your emails. This is one of the most important metrics you can measure besides donation rate, because it reveals how many people want to find out more about your cause by visiting your website.
There are a few more important email marketing metrics that this article will touch on below, but by creating segments based on the above metrics and by monitoring metrics for all of your segments, you can maximize your fundraising potential.
3. Optimize your subject lines.
The subject line is the first component of your email that the reader will see, and perhaps the most important. Therefore, it is crucial that you take advantage of it to pull your reader in and set yourself up for success.
Does your nonprofit have an active fundraising campaign?
If so, make sure to put it in the subject line! You didn’t set up that snazzy campaign page for nothing, right? (Check out Donately’s Online Fundraising Campaign Best Practices for more help with campaign pages.)
In these cases, make sure to let your reader know that you are offering an opportunity for their donation to be especially helpful. Include phrases like “special opportunity” or “last chance” to convey a sense of urgency, making your reader more likely to donate.
Similarly, you can use phrases like “We’re so close!” to convey to your reader that you have almost reached your fundraising goal and their donation could push you over the top. Especially for smaller amounts, you donors are less likely to feel like their contribution is just a drop in the bucket if you frame it as an important step in your fundraising process.
Another option is to put the focus of your subject line on the beneficiaries of your cause instead of the nonprofit itself. Reminding the reader that you are driven by people rather than profit will set your message apart from the other marketing emails that likely fill their inbox. Try something like, “You gift could change a life—donate now.”
4. Send more than just donation asks.
One of the first things you should do when you bring email marketing into your fundraising strategy is to make sure your online donation page is up to snuff.
But while linking to your donation page is extremely important, not all of your emails should be donation asks. Your donors want to know about what’s going on around your organization and to see how their donations are taking shape in the community, even when they haven’t donated in a while.
Below are five types of emails you can send to add some variety and break up the stream of donation asks:
- Newsletters. Newsletters are one of the best ways to keep your donors engaged with your cause. Routinely send a short newsletter outlining major events in the organization such as fundraising milestones, events, and staff achievements. This will remind your donors that your nonprofit is always working for its cause.
- Infographics. Stats and figures are a great way to concretely show your donors how their money is making a change in the community. But when it comes to presenting those figures, almost everybody prefers visuals over boring lists and tables. Infographics are also great for quotes and other short, impactful statements.
- Event invitations and reminders. If a scheduled event is coming up, make sure your donors don’t miss it! An event is a great opportunity to get to know your donors personally and to put a face to your nonprofit.
- Ways to get involved (besides donating). If your donor doesn’t want to donate any more right away, they may be willing to get involved in other ways. Offering them opportunities to volunteer or links to online petitions will keep them engaged even when they don’t feel like taking out the checkbook.
All of these practices will keep your donors engaged without getting burnt out on donation asks, which will ultimately lead to more, and bigger, donations for your nonprofit.
5. Remind your readers about matching gifts.
Many companies offer what is called a matching gift program, in which the employer will match their employee’s donation for certain causes and up to a certain amount.
One of the biggest problems surrounding matching gift programs, however, is that not many people know about them. Email marketing is a great opportunity to improve your donation revenue by helping your donors learn about their companies’ matching gift programs.
By introducing them to a product like this matching gift tool from Double the Donation, you can make it easy for them to get all the important details they need, such as:
- Eligible nonprofits.
- Minimum and maximum donation amount.
- Matching ratio.
- Submission deadlines.
Imagine instantly doubling your donation revenue! Many companies will match gifts as large as $15,000—that’s a lot of extra funding for your cause. Help your donors take advantage of matching gifts to get the most out of their donations.
Nonprofits that don’t make an effort to utilize matching gift programs are seriously missing out, because when your donor uses their company’s matching gift program you will receive two donations for the price of one, so to speak.
6. Monitor important metrics to improve engagement.
We already touched on open rate and click-through rate, but there are a number of other important metrics that can tell you how your email marketing strategy is working and where it needs some adjustment.
Some of the most important ones are:
- Unsubscribe rate. This is definitely a number you want to keep down! If lots of people are unsubscribing from your email list, it is time to rethink your strategy.
- Bounces. A bounce is when your email doesn’t make it to your intended recipient for some reason. It could mean the address no longer exists or that the inbox is full. Lots of bounces mean it is time to clean up your email list.
- Complaint rate. This metric measures how many people marked your messages as spam. Try to make your messages feel more personal and less like form letters to keep this number down.
- Share rate. You are doing something really right if lots of subscribers are sharing your emails with their friends. Keep it up!
You can’t improve your email marketing if you don’t know what needs improving. Tracking these important metrics will keep you on top of your email performance so you can always be at your best.
Email marketing can be a hard skill to master, as you have to keep your donors engaged without annoying them. Use the above tactics to increase your fundraising revenue by improving your email outreach.
Guest Author: Andrew Barry
Andrew is the head of marketing and customer success for Donately. After getting involved with nonprofits at a young age, he discovered a passion for helping the organizations that are making the world a better place. Knowing how vital online fundraising has become, his goal is to help nonprofits raise more money online each year! In his spare time, you will find him cooking up dinner, playing with his dog or cheering on Boston sports teams.