Good ePhilanthropy Practices: Email Fundraising

An important non profit technique for ePhilanthropy is email fundraising. The first step you need to take when considering email fundraising is to find an Email Service Provider (ESP). Pathmaker Marketing LLC can help you find an appropriate ESP for your ePhilanthropy efforts. We also can help you develop and implement appropriate strategies. 

There are some basic tips I want to share that will help you evaluate the effectiveness of your non profit email fundraising and newsletters.

Good ePhilanthropy Emails

  • Speak to the reader rather than yourself. You know you’re speaking to readers when you identify the benefits of your offer to them and use the word “you” more often than the words “we” or “our.”
  • Can be skimmed. Your direct mail letters may be many pages long, but your emails need to be just a few paragraphs. Your reader needs to be able to scan the email in a few seconds and see in headlines, subheads, bold text, link text and graphics what you want them to do and why they should do it.
  • Are focused. Don’t send the reader off in too many directions. You want readers to take a specific action, so keep your email to that one ask. And give them several opportunities to click to take that action. Words like “go here” and “learn more” are better than “click here,” since “click here” could get your email sent directly to spam jail. You can use “click here” in images though.

Non-So-Good ePhilanthropy Emails

  • Are too formal. People buy from people they know, trust and like. Your readers may not know you, but you want your emails to sound like they do. You want to write your fundraising emails as if you were speaking to the reader in person. Use informal language, short sentences, and—I can’t emphasize it enough—the word YOU.
  • Bury the action step. If your readers have to read the whole email—and scroll and scroll and scroll—to know what you want from them, you’ve missed the mark and need to consider a rewrite.
  • Are confusing. And that means you’ve covered too many topics, written too long of paragraphs, or offered too many action steps. You need to stick to one topic and one action step.
  • Aren’t well designed. Don’t use the same generic templates your reader could find in their own word processing software. Invest a few bucks into a design that compliments your non profit branding materials.
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Philanthropy Goes Online

A couple of trends are making it vital that non profits, churches and ministries add ePhilanthropy to their fundraising strategies. The “older” donors that filled non profit coffers are now disappearing and being replaced with a new generation of “older” donors: Baby Boomers, who are typically much more connected to the Internet than their predecessors. Also, with the cost of everything going up, online fundraising reaps a healthier ROI than many offline approaches. Email fundraising is a great ePhilanthropy strategy.

Don’t abuse your donors by sending too many emails, but also don’t sell yourself short by being too cautious. Your email list needs to hear from you at least once a month, preferably twice. You can ask for lots of small donations, especially recurring donations. You can also offer premiums, especially if you offer premiums in your direct mail.

In fact, Pathmaker Marketing LLC can help you convert your regular direct mail into a cost-effective ePhilanthropy email fundraising effort. Call us at 623-322-3334 to schedule an appoint to find out how.

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23 Best Practice Tips for Successful Email Fundraising #20-23

20.  Call to Action Buttons, especially in emails, should be graphics rather than text.
Since buttons include text like “Click Here,” and those words could get your email flagged as spam, it’s best to put action words into graphics. Make your call to action buttons nice, easy-to-read graphics.

21.   Include CAN-SPAM requirements in your email fundraising.
CAN-SPAM requires: 1) a company name and physical mailing address at the bottom of your email 2) a permanent unsubscribe option (variations abound here, but we like to use “Update your Email Preferences” rather than “Unsubscribe.” Make sure this link takes people into a two-step process, whereby first they go to a landing page to update their email fundraising preferences. On that page they can permanently unsubscribe. If you go to a one-step process many people may click the unsubscribe option unaware that this will forever remove them from future email from you.

22.  Lighten up the border around your emails.
Borders around emails looks really nice. The only problem with them is that there is often important words put in the area outside the email, where your border will be. If you use a dark background, the text won’t be legible. You might be thinking that you could just use a lighter font. Not so fast! Not all email clients include the border. If you use light text, but the email client strips the border out, then your reader still won’t be able to see the required text. In other words, if you use borders see how they impact your CAN-SPAM copy, preview copy, and so forth, before you get too enamored with how it looks.

23.   Use Absolute links in all your email fundraising efforts.
Absolute work in every environment, whereas relative links will only work in the environment where you originate them. Save yourself unanticipated hassles, and ensure your email fundraising efforts can be seen in any environment by using absolute links.

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23 Best Practice Tips for Successful Email Fundraising #12-15

12.  Design harmonious headers and optimize your graphics.
Design attractive email fundraising headers and footers that are harmonious to your landing pages and web optimized. These are much more professional looking than plain text emails. But if the file sizes of your graphics are too large, your emails and landing pages will load too slowly, and you’ll lose people, so optimize your graphics.  Create harmony between your email graphics and your landing page graphics so there’s no confusion when click throughs begin to occur.

13.  Use fonts that are proven as easy to read.
Headlines and body copy are extremely important. Since you have a limited amount of time to capture your reader’s attention and move them to action, you don’t want to waste time making things hard for them to read. Only the first letter in each headline word should be capitalized (not all caps). Copy headlines should be designed in Times New Roman or Arial font because they are universally, the easiest to read. Body text should also be at least 12 point type and in Arial, which is the easiest to read, or Times Roman, which is next easiest.

14.  Create an eye path that leads you to a destination.
Use bold text, photos and graphics to break up the page into smaller, easy to read chunks that move people to read all the way to the bottom. It’s often the case that an “F” pattern is used to help envision a page layout:  the best real estate for email fundraising is upper left running across the page (hero shots and headlines, for example) and the worst real estate position is lower right.  Buttons should be action oriented (e.g., Click Here), and the text on them should be large enough for middle-age eyes (at least 12 point).

15.  Stay away from reverse text in your email fundraising.
Studies show that reverse text (white on a dark background) is much harder to read. You should avoid it if at all possible in body copy, on graphics, etc. Your online fund raising efforts are likely to suffer if you insist on using it.

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23 Best Practice Tips for Successful Email Fundraising #6-8

6.    Give your readers multiple paths to the action you want them to take.
Some experts say the typical email should have nearly 20 ways to click through to your landing pages.  I’d shoot for having at least 5-10 for starters. Start by providing at least three ways where people can click to your donate page, and make these online fund raising links (text or graphics) benefit and action oriented (e.g., Click Here to Help Save Lives, Read More Now , Get More Details >>, Go Here to Help).

7.   Develop Dedicated Landing Pages.  
Sometimes I like to think of it this way: If you are trying to get the attention of a kid in a candy shop, most likely you will fail because they are distracted by all the goodies that surround them. Likewise, don’t send email fundraising out that takes people back to your homepage, whereby they can give easily distracted from your primary purpose, which is to get the gift.  Take them instead to a dedicated landing page that includes few, if any, links to the rest of your website – you lose people when you let them browse too much, rabbit-trailing all over the place.  Some folks like to think of building a greased chute that’s keep your online fund raising path speeding people to one destination.

8.   Improve response with well-chosen premiums.
If there is a premium, your email fundraising should clearly describe the value of the item and how the reader can get that premium. If their gift of $50 will get them a book, what will they learn from this book?  What often motivates people is what they will learn, discover, experience, etc. No matter how altruistic and selfless they are, your reader wants to know what’s in it for them. People generally give to your non profit because they want to make a difference, and you need to specifically tell them – in words that address them directly – the difference they’re making. You also need to succinctly assure them that you will use their funds appropriately and efficiently.  Having said that, a well-chosen premium is like a bonus on your offer. It doesn’t hurt to sweeten the deal with something that looks appealing.

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23 Best Practice Tips for Successful Email Fundraising #3-5

3.    Write an action-oriented headline that carry through the email fundraising process.
Your headline should lead people toward the action you want them to take but still speak directly to what’s interesting to them. Plus, your email subject line needs to flow onto the email headline which flows onto your email landing pages. They don’t have to be exact, but harmonious enough so that people know they are where they belong when they open the email and click through to any landing pages. This avoids confusion, which can lead to process abandonment, and instead carries your message through to the end objective in online fund raising: a gift.
  


4.    Create urgency with your email fundraising copy.
What will happen if the reader doesn’t give a donation as a result of this email? Will hurting people continue to suffer? Will dogs like the one described above continue to be abused or homeless? Your reader needs to visualize the results of both helping and not helping.  Appeal to your readers’ senses in our copy if you can: smell, touch, taste, sound, and sight. Be urgent, but don’t cry wolf just to overstate the urgency or consequences; they’ll see right through that ploy after you’ve done it once or twice.

5.    Include clear calls to action in your email fundraising.
Your readers need to know specifically what you want them to do. Should they give $50 now? Should they sign a petition today or take a survey in the next few moments? Use active words to clearly describe the action you want them to take. Tell them exactly what they need to do now (e.g., click here). Include “click here” or “call or click” phrases in your copy, but particularly in your graphics, since words like “click here” can raise your spam score. Put these onine fund raising calls to action in graphic buttons that link to the place where the reader can take the specific action you’re requesting.

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23 Best Practice Tips for Successful Email Fundraising #1-2

Email fundraising is a proven internet marketing tool that can help your charitable organization raise substantial online donations.  When properly executed, an email fundraising campaign can provide your ministry with a additional source of ministry revenues, an engaged donor base, a regular branding tool, and in some cases, even improve your offline fundraising efforts.

Email campaigns can be very effective at online fund raising, sometimes providing up to 35% of a ministries total annual fund revenue.  Plus, they are relatively efficient at raising funds because the costs to email can be generally lower.  Of course, it’s a myth to think that email is free, given that there are typically costs associated with writing copy, developing HTML email and landing pages, getting proper rendering in multiple email clients, blasting and beyond.  

There are many important factors and techniques to apply to create effective email fundraising campaigns. You need to do some up-front strategic thinking. What are your campaign needs? What goals do you want to accomplish? Who is your target audience? Who will be receiving this email, and what Is most likely to move them to the action you want them to take?

Once you have a clear strategic outline of what you want to accomplish through email fundraising, here are some practical steps to follow to assist in the over-all effectiveness of your online fund raising campaign.

1.    Make them personal.
Speak directly to your audience using “you” centric statements instead of the less personal “we” or, even worse, “one.” Personalize your email fundraising if possible, inserting First Name data in your Subject lines and body copy.  You are more likely to engage your readers if you speak to them individually, not collectively. This, of course, also means you need to understand who your audience is, what inspires and motivates them, and what causes them to take action.

2.    Engage the reader’s heart.
People often give to causes and non-profits that fulfill an emotional need in their own lives. Your readers gave you their email address because they trusted you…thought your non-profit worthy of their time and attention…believed in your purpose in life…saw how they could make a difference in the world through you, etc. When you ask for their support, you need to tell them through a short, heartfelt, and compelling story how your non profit is making a difference and why you need their support.

One school of thought says that your heartfelt story needs to be told in no more than one or two short but effective paragraphs in the email, with an option for readers to get more details by clicking through to your landing pages.  Another school of thought says that you can tell your whole story in the email, with the click-through process going straight to your checkout process. I’ve seen both methods be successful.

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Good Non Profit Website Design Principle #2 of 5

Like the television commercial where the married couple had to take showers in public water fountains, not having a home is a major headache. Can you imagine the headaches resulting from this crazy scenario?

“What’s your name, sir?” “I don’t know.”
“Where do you live, sir?” “I don’t know.”

This leads us to the next principle of good website design:

Good Non Profit website Design Principle #2: To avoid wandering around nameless and homeless on the Internet, resolve the essentials of selecting your name and address.

To accomplish Principle #2, every non profit website design needs answers to two critical questions: “What’s your address?” and “Who’s your host?”

1. What’s your address? Otherwise known as your domain name or URL, your website name is an essential ingredient. Examples of world-renowned domain names include google.com, wikipedia.com, flickr.com, and yahoo.com.

Practical Tip #1: Choose a domain name that is your company name or brand, or default to the closest derivation, and get all the extensions (.com, .org, .net, .info).

First Choice: Pick your company name or brand name as your domain, if possible, e.g., generalmills.com or cheerios.com. Or select both, but promote the one you go by publicly. People will attempt to search the name by which they remember you the most.

Second Choice: A derivation of your company or brand name. Pick short domains over long ones, and memorable/pronounceable names over acronyms, unless you go primarily by your acronym. For example, firstchristianchurch.com is preferable to fcc.com, but if you’re widely known as FCC, then get fcc.com. Better yet, get both.

Consider hyphens as a backup option, e.g., first-christian-church.com.

Avoid plurals unless you can’t obtain the singular derivation. If you select a derivation like Mysite.com or TheSite.com, be sure to advertise your site as such.

Ideally, try to find a domain where you can get all priority extensions. If you’re in charge of non profit marketing, you may want to promote your organization using .org, and then choose .com and .net as your backups.

Alternatively, if you select .com first, then use .org and .net as backups. (These choices may vary in different countries.) Picking up all domain extensions will give people the widest access to your site—in other words, they can type any of the extensions and still get to your site because you have them all. It also serves to stop your competitors from snapping up the closest variation.

Here’s a good online reference for picking domain names:

2. Who’s your host? Your website host will be the entity that stores the files (text, graphics, photos, videos, etc.) that make up your site. When someone views your site on the Internet, the host computer “serves up” your pages, based on the computer code written by whomever programs your website. Because they “serve up” the pages of your website for people to view, your host computer is often called a server.

Here are some online reference sources for finding a good hosting company:

best-webhosting-2008.com/  tophosts.com/

Before deciding on a host, it’s critical to determine the kinds of attributes you want your website to contain. For example, do you need ecommerce, databases, or email fundraising features?

Here’s a good article on the top 9 things to look for in a web host:
tophosts.com/articles/000488.html

Here’s a good article on the most commonly asked questions:
http://www.tophosts.com/faq.html

For more help on this subject contact Pathmaker Marketing.

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Good Non Profit Website Design Principle #1 of 5

As promised in my last post, I’ll be giving you a series of five principles that will help you avoid major non profit website design headaches. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Principle #1: Clarify your objectives to avoid conflicting voices.

If you don’t know what you’d like your website to accomplish, it may end up with conflicting messages and voices. These conflicting voices can lead to standstill, gridlock, and internal strife as your ministry strives to fulfill its mission. Webmasters are often pulled in numerous directions for no apparent reason on unreasonable timetables. Clarifying your objectives will eliminate these headaches and enable your team to form a crystal-clear perspective on why you want to have a web site. In order to accomplish Principle #1, you need to be able to answer the question…

What is the Primary Objective of Your Website?

It’s entirely possible that you may have multiple objectives. If that’s the case, rank them in order of priority so that you understand which ones are the most important to achieve.

Practical Tip #1: If you have more than one website objective, reduce your list to your top two to three goals and prioritize them. Focus on accomplishing your top priorities first, then progress to other subordinate objectives.

Practical Tip #2: Record your website objectives on paper so that if there are any changes in your website personnel, your new staffers will know the original thinking behind your site.

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Social Networking Web Sites

Even if you don’t frequent them, you’ve probably heard sites such as MyspaceFacebook and Linkedin.  You may see these sites as youth-based social circles for kids to interact with each other via the Internet.  But you can take advantage of these sites to benefit your non profit fund raising program.   

These sites are known as social networks … places for individuals to interact with each other and share information.  These sites can be very useful tools for building contact groups and relationships with specific communities and markets.  

One of the greatest features of these types of sites is the amount of interaction you can have with your network of friends.  For example, if you are an author, you can send out an announcement to all of your friends about your newest book release.  In a sense, you can use these sites as mini press releases.  So, not only are you able to connect and share information at a lightning speed, but it is also free!  All it takes is a little bit of time and energy on your part.  The more time you put into it, the more you can get out of it. 

Social networking sites also offer many amazing features—from bulletin boards to blogs to event calendars.  Features like this help to keep your network informed. You can also have direct links to your newsletter sign-up sheet (for email fundraising),your website and web stores through social networking sites. These sites can be used a sampler of what your site actually offers. A newer development with these networks is that they are now available through cell phones using the 3G networks.  This means that there is a constant connection between you and your social network, fan base or friends, which ever you feel most comfortable calling them.   

A bonus with social networking is its link development or link building abilities.  This helps to drive traffic to you or your cause and assists in your online fund raising needs.  I highly recommend social network web sites and services to improve your sites overall popularity and link rankings.

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