Fundraising and email, they obviously go together, right?
Don't just cross your fingers and hope your fundraising email works
Your fundraising appeal is, hopefully, out the door. Fundraising email messages are being sent to support your mailing. And, it’s likely, you’ve got some social media posts to add to the mix. With fingers crossed, you’re hoping for the best to meet or even exceed your fundraising goal.

My most important thought for you: Do not expect people to give just because you sent them an email.

If you don’t believe me, listen to very smart folks at M+R Benchmarks. Download their annual study reviewing trends that shape nonprofit digital programs.

Their report noted that while total online fundraising grew by 23% in 2017 and nonprofit organizations are reaching more people digitally, your online activity likely needs more attention.


Data from the 2018 M+R Benchmarks study released last spring is incredibly relevant right now:

To start with, just about every individual email metric declined:

• Open rates for fundraising and advocacy emails shrank by 1%.

• Fundraising email click-through rates went down 6% (to 0.42%).

• Page completion rates were down 6% for fundraising messages (to 17%) and 4% for advocacy messages (to 76%).

All those figures contributed to declining email response rates. For fundraising messages, response rates dropped to 0.06%; for advocacy messages, response rates dropped to 2.2%.

So: a single fundraising email sent by a nonprofit to a single subscriber was less likely to be opened and less likely to generate a click, an advocacy action, or a donation.

That 0.06% response rate means nonprofits had to send a fundraising message to about 1,667 recipients just to generate a single donation.

What to do? Especially if you have a small email list?

1. Remember it’s ALL about relationships. Always.

Hold a thank-a-thon for 15 minutes at your December board meeting. Phone as many donors as possible. With you and your board members making calls, you’ll make it through a substantial list.

Make it fun. It’s okay if it’s noisy. Let your supporters know you appreciate what they’ve done. If you don’t know who to phone, review last week’s post.

And for goodness sake, get an accurate email address from the person you are calling – IF they actually answer. In most cases you’ll likely be leaving a voice mail message.

2. Update your website homepage. This is especially key if you have tons of volunteers or events, i.e. you have lots of people visiting your website.

Make certain your home page is different this time of year with your fall campaign story, photo, and/or video. And please make it EASY to find your donate page.

Check out this fun example from Bridges of Hope that nearly doubled their goal because it was continually updated for 60 days:

3. On ALL emails sent with a email service, change wording from unsubscribe to Opt-Out, Manage Email Preferences, or Manage Your Subscription Here.

You’ll see an immediate increase in your open rate.

I, personally, filter all emails with the word “unsubscribe” into a folder called “Review for Deleting.” I only check that folder once or twice a week. Other people I know filter unsubscribe emails completely so they never even see them.

4. Make some calls to invite a contribution. Yes. Ask. Actually invite an investment in the work you know that person already loves.

I received a call in late October from someone, I’ll call Renee. I wasn’t planning to give to her or her effort. But, she called. We had a fun “catch up” conversation for less than 5 minutes. She invited my support during our very enjoyable call. Before she even asked — while we were talking — I had made an online contribution.

Two things that worked:

1. She called. It was personal for her and me. We deepened our relationship.

2. She said she and her team had a goal of raising $5000 in 15 minutes – a truly fun sense of urgency I wanted to participate in – because she and the project mattered to me.

Send a postcard to help with fundraising email
Image credit: Community Action Duluth

5. If your donor list is mainly mailing addresses, send something in the mail, one more time — to current donors who’ve given less than $1000 prior to 60 days ago.

What to send: A post card with an update on your goal, a short story, photo of the person highlighted in your appeal AND even a reminder about what’s left on your matching gift.

Don’t forget to REMOVE the names of people who’ve already given.

Final thought: Before you think you’re finished with fall fundraising, even if you have everything all queued up and ready to go… pause and think through your strategy for these final fundraising weeks of the year.

You DO still have time to significantly increase giving when the lens you look through is relationship-building.


The 6 organizations that participated in the summer Ignite Your Fundraising Results Program class collectively raised more than $300,000 in 7 weeks!  That averaged around $50,000 per organization in NEW money. Register for the Winter 2019 course and learn how to find new money. Web class begins January 22nd.

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