Top 6 Mistakes for Email Fundraising

email_fundraisingNo matter how much you avoid it, it happens. An email fundraising mishap makes you want to recall all the emails that you have just sent to your donors!. The efficiency of modern technology can be a double edge sword to wound its wielder if you are not careful. The moment you press the send button, all those mails will be in the inbox of all your recipients and if they contain things that are broken, problematic, or included stuff you are not supposed to say, there is no way to bring them back. Hopefully for you that doesn’t mean “Hasta la Vista, Baby!”

Well if you get a next time to send, you can take some simple steps to avoid the worst issues, and that is why I would like to share with you the things that you should avoid in your email fundraising campaigns. Here they are:

1. Failure to personalize – An email with a “Dear Friend” in the opening is a good candidate for deletion. I mean, try to put yourself in the shoes of your donor — why do you think he should support your cause AGAIN if you don’t even know his name? With all the digital information available online, it’s just a sign of sloppy email fundraising not to be able to use the FIRST name. Usually, I ALWAYS have the First name personlization utilized in the BODY of my email. In addition, I use Subject line personalization on resends to non-opens to create something different at first glance.

2.  UNDER soliciting your donors – Yes. I said UNDER! Most fundraisers might be scared about running too many campaigns at the same time and asking too much from the same donors. They typically worry about people unsubscribing because they find your email in their inbox too often. Well,  I know that can occur, but in my experience most clients err on the side of too much caution. So I’m proposing the reverse is true. The main problem is undersolicitation. My typical rule of thumb is to send out fundraising emails at the same time every month – I prefer the 15th through the 30th. I also Split Test at least 3 email variations and send every 3-4 days during that period of time. That means you could be emailing up to 5-6 times in two weeks. Then we stop any soliciations for two weeks. I’ve found this system works well, and have used it for over 4 years to help one client raise over $725,000.

3.  Failure to test through checkout – The #1 thing that can go wrong with any email campaign is that your checkout process doesn’t work. That’s why you MUST send yourself test emails in advance and open, click through them, and complete the checkout process to be sure it works.  The meltdown scenario is you don’t test through checkout and you send 150,000 emails out to see Page Not Found error messages on your forms two days later!  Ouch.  There are mistakes and then there are mistakes. Overlooking a typo in the Subject Line is a major blunder, but a broken or busted checkout process is the #1 ALL TIME Biggest Show Stopper Mistake ever. That problem stops everything dead in its tracks, so test your checkout process religiously to make sure you capture the gift or donation.

4.  Failure to keep up with the times – Are you still relying solely on email that only renders on the PC? You can multiply the power of your campaign if you include with it full social sharing on Facebook, Twitter. Use Addthis. Harness the power of social media for your emails. ALSO, don’t overalook mobile either. This is rapidly becoming a required component of any email fundraising campaign. This will make your life much easier because it will complement what you cannot include in a garden variety email. Ease of communication, ease of donating, seeing videos and pictures all add to the overall power that you cannot accomplish with email alone.

5. Only use the shotgun approach – Trying to cover all campaigns in one single mail is what you call the shotgun approach. By definition a shotgun is best used in SELF-DEFENSE cause it sprays “shot” in all directions. Instead, try to be surgical in your approach and by that, I mean try to limit the scope of your campaign. Use rifles or pistols that can hit specific targets. The way to accomplish this is by getting better DATA from your donors. Make sure your Profile Management pages are functional — use them and/or surveys to harvest more information. As your database grows, you can better segment and focus email sends on specific interests, groups, demographics, or behavior patterns of your donors.

6. Failure to TEST – At the end of the day, all the email marketers in the world can tell you what they think will work, but even the “experts” are only speculating unless their guesses are backed up by real time results. Get around the guessing by testing. Try this and that. Test this and that. Testing helps you find out what really works. Constantly test. Because even when something works one month, it may not work the next, because our results are a combination of two things: those things we control, and the outside forces we do not control. As you test, develop a Lessons Learned document which will give you guidance going forward in regard to things that have been proven to work at one point in time.

Although there are still plenty of “oopps” in email fundraising that are in my list, these six are the most frequent and sadly, the least avoided. Taking these to heart will prevent you from committing them again. Just remember that the moment you press that “send” button, there is no way to get those mails back.

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