Email is one of the nonprofit sector’s most effective fundraising tools. Yet in today’s world, nonprofit leaders run the risk of having their emailed appeals ignored or deleted by busy people who just don’t have time to read everything they receive.
A fundraising email cannot accomplish its goal if the recipient does not open it. That’s the root of the need to improve the “open rates” of emails sent to your list. Here are simple ways to boost the open rate of your emails and make your fundraising efforts more effective:
Start by asking ‘why?’
Before you send anything out, you must always consider your message from the point of view of your recipient. Ask why people will want to open your email and respond positively to your message. If you can’t answer that question, you need to go back to the drawing board.
In addition, one of the most compelling ways to entice email readers is by using the subject line to pose a question. This question then becomes a teaser because it causes the recipient to open the email to answer the question posed in the subject line.
Optimize your subject line
Your subject line often determines whether your message gets opened or deleted. It should grab the recipient’s attention. Contrast the two following subject lines, which might be used by a charity that provides gently used interview attire to needy job candidates.
Snappy interview clothes make the difference in interview success
Dressed for success — and a brighter future
The first example is fine, but it’s a bit clunky. By contrast, the second has less information but “teases” the reader to learn more about how the organization helps people to land a job and how the generosity of individuals can change somebody’s life.
Keep it concise
A too-wordy subject line will end in an ellipsis in some email programs. This is especially true for smartphone viewers, and it’s sure to annoy people who are reading their email on the fly.
Your email subject line needs to be clever and concise. Don’t try to cram all the facts into the subject line, because chances are, they won’t fit. Ideally, a well-composed subject line acts as a teaser that gets the reader to open it to learn more.
Be brash and bold
The best email campaigns are straightforward, giving the reader a mental command to do something. The email messages provide a clear call to action with a deadline, both of which can appear in your subject line. Including a deadline helps recipients to prioritize your message, which is a great start toward getting them to take the action you want.
Segment your list
Segmenting your email list lets you customize your emails to times and places where they are likely to be favorably received. In addition, segmentation can help you to craft more individualized appeals: What works for recipients in Peoria might be a lot different than what works in Portland.
Segmentation also lets you add demographic interest (age, gender, locale, profession, etc.) to your appeals, which can form a key part of the message in your subject line.
Use graphics properly
Most of us have received emails with that telltale red “X,” which happens when your email preferences aren’t set to receive a particular kind of graphic. If your emails fall into this category, recipients might get into the habit of deleting them without even opening them first.
To avoid this, be sure to use graphics formats that work with most email platforms. In addition, make a few test runs of your email. You can do this in your own office by setting up email accounts for your organization on the largest email platforms, and double check to ensure that emails display properly on mobile platforms.
Keep key elements of your email message separate from the graphic image. If your image displays improperly, the important facts will still be there in text form.
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- Travis Balinas, "Seven Types of Unconventional Email Subject Lines That Increase Open Rates," OutboundEngine.com
- Jack Padovano, "Best Practices to Increase Email Fundraising Response Rates," IPM Advancement