Integrating Direct Mail with Email Fundraising

Many non profit organizations do quarterly or monthly direct mail appeals, but did you know you can—change that to should—convert these valuable efforts into email fundraising?

Pathmaker Marketing LLC has worked with several non profit clients with highly developed monthly direct mail efforts. We’ve helped them develop and implement strategies email strategies (from snail mail) that have boosted their email income by $100,000-$150,000 per year. Here are five basics you’ll want to keep in mind when converting your direct mail to email fundraising.

  1. Direct mail appeal letters are too long to be sent “as is” in an email. You’ll want to split the direct mail letter into several parts, including email, landing page, and any additional pages necessary to deliver special offers.
  2. Subject lines are extremely important in email fundraising. It’s similar to the teaser on the envelope of your direct mail in terms of enticing people to open the email. Give them a lot of thought, and make them action- and benefit-oriented.
  3. The purpose of the email is to get people to click. Keep the email short and to the point (5-7 short paragraphs in length). Offer several opportunities for readers to click to a landing page or a donation form. Use the landing page to further explain the offer, the benefits of responding, the premium, etc.
  4. Omit site navigation from landing pages. Your purpose is to get people to respond tothis offer. Response will go down if you give them the opportunity to browse the rest of the site. Also, you’ll want to manage where they go so you can track donations from each fundraising email. Landing pages should make it clear what you want people to do and how to do it. Make sure your donation form works properly and all links to it function the way they should.
  5. Test and resend. Split test more than one subject line on each fundraising email. You’ll want to do multiple sends before calling it a wrap. Pathmaker can help you develop and implement this important email fundraising strategy.
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Incorporating Article Marketing into Your Non Profit Online Fund Raising

Article Marketing is nothing new. Ever since there was a printing press, businesses have been writing articles pertinent to their niche and trying to convince publications to distribute them. It helps increase awareness of your business and creates an image of expertise on the author’s part. It helps the publication by giving them good content for less investment than having staff do do the writing, and the publication can charge other businesses for the right of advertising on those pages.

What has changed is how people are using Article Marketing in non profit online fund raising. Most good content sites won’t pay for your article. You still get the good exposure (what amounts to free advertising), and they still get the chance to charge others to pay for that page of your content. But online Article Marketing can turbo charge your non profit online fund raising efforts!

You can use your articles of search engine optimization, for example. Write well-researched articles that fill the needs and concerns of readers of a certain niche of people. Use keywords appropriately, so search engines will find your articles. Be sure to include language that tactfully persuades readers to click to your website. Find websites that cater to that niche, and then dole out your articles to a variety of content publishers. The link back to your website increases your site traffic, and if the publishing site distributes your articles via RSS feeds, the number of exposures to your article—and the people clicking on links to your site—greatly increases.

Another advantage of links to your website from within a widely-distributed article is that search engines rank sites higher in search results when you have more links to your site. This gives you even more exposure than just the article creates.

You’ll need to be sure to link back to pages that convert the visitors to assets (email lists, sales, donations, etc.) Pathmaker Marketing LLC can help you devise a traffic conversion strategy that complements your non profit online fund raising efforts.

Questions to help you be more strategic when incorporating Article Marketing into your non profit online fund raising include:

  • Will you be promoting the business, the website or yourself? Tailor your articles to focus on the one you’re trying to promote.
  • Are you a good enough writer? People won’t read your articles if they aren’t interesting and well crafted.
  • What are you going to write about? Don’t go down any other path, no matter how tempting it is to overcome writer’s block by writing about what’s on your mind on a particular day. Remember that your goal is to appeal to a niche and secure relevant links to your site.
  • Where will you send your articles? Find as many relevant article directories as possible, and make sure they have good traffic. Don’t duplicate the articles on your own site because content sites won’t want to use content that is used in too many places. It could also hurt your own site’s search engine rankings.
  • How much are you going to write? As long as you keep having good ideas for articles in a specific niche want to read, keep writing. When you run dry, don’t write. It will hurt the quality of the content along with your overall Article Marketing strategy. In terms of article length, keep to the 500 to 800 word range.

As experts in Search Engine Marketing, Pathmaker Marketing LLC, wants to help you create as many good paths to your site as possible, and Article Marketing is one of many. Contact us for a free analysis of your Search Engine Marketing efforts.

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How Important is Grammar in Online Fundraising?

Whether or not proper grammar matters in online fundraising depends upon to whom you are talking. If the reader of your email fundraising letter doesn’t know that it’s “commitment” and not “committment” or that commas always go inside the quotation marks, then it probably doesn’t matter to that person. But some people, espeically those who write for a living, have a hard time getting past those little blunders, and that could hurt response. So here are some grammar basics to use in your online fundraising.

  1. Try to write to the 6th to 8th grade level. It’s harder than you might think, and it requires you to clearly explain yourself.
  2. Use active voice. “I went to the store” is more interesting to read than “I have gone to the store.” It also uses fewer words, which is a good goal.
  3. Compose your non profit websites and emails in an application that checks your grammar, spelling and punctuation as you write (such as Microsoft Word), and then carefully proof it yourself. These programs won’t warn you when you’ve used the wrong form of a word: “fare” vs. “fair,” for example, so you need to be sure nothing is amiss.
  4. Americans don’t usually care if you use formal writing, but you need to decide what form you’re going to use … and then stick with it. For casual writing, which is appropriate for non profit website design and email fundraising, you can easily get away with using casual writing techniques such as contractions (“don’t” instead  of “do not,” for example). Just be consistent.
  5. Another form of casual writing is the use of the word “one” rather than the word “you” (“One should know” rather than “You should know” for example). If you’re like me, you prefer to be referred to as you, not one.The word “you” is much more personal and will get more responses in email fundraising as well as non-profit websites.
  6. Pick a style for your use of dashes and elipses … and stick with it.
    Do you put one long dash between words (commonly called an M Dash)? Do you put spaces before and after the dash? Do you use elipses (three periods strung together)? If so, do you include spaces before and after them? I typically include no spaces between M Dashes and the words they separate, but I do use spaces before and after elipses. Different people will have different ideas on what is correct, but the important thing is to be consistent.
  7. Stay away from run-on sentences and fragments. Run-on sentences are too long and complex. Fragments are fine occasionally, especially when you’re trying to make a case, but don’t over do it.
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How To Use HTML Meta Tags in Non Profit Website Design

I couldn’t believe my ears the other day when someone said, “Why bother with Meta tags? No one even uses them anymore.”

Back up the truck! Sure, Meta tags don’t pull search engine results the way they used to … thanks to lots of people who pushed Meta tag content to the breaking point. But these little bits of information between the “head” tags in your HTML can help improve what people see about your organization in search engines. There are some Meta tag basics you should pay attention in non profit website design and content.

Overall, just remember this.

  • While the Title tag isn’t a Meta tag, it needs to contain not only the title of the page but also a keyword or phrase for which you want people to find the page. This will improve page ranking in search engines. This is the “headline” that shows us in the search results.
  • Meta Description is the information under the “headline” that people will see in the search results (on search engines that support it). It won’t do anything to improve search engine ranking, but it does a lot to convince people to click through to your site. Keep it to 200 to 250 words.
  • Meta Robots should only be used if you don’t want the page indexed by search engines (like when you’re developing it or it is for internal purposes only).

Here’s the format to use.

<HEAD>
<TITLE>Title of Page – short description that contains the most relevant keyword</TITLE>
<META NAME=”DESCRIPTION” CONTENT=”200 to 250 words that succinctly describes your non profit”>
</HEAD>

If you want to use the Meta Robots tag to keep a page from being indexed, place it under the description like this: <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX”>

Meta Anything Else is probably unnecessary.

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Online PR Can Expand Your Website and Email Fundraising Reach

When budgets get tight, often the first thing to go is efforts to secure publicity. That’s because publicity is a long-term strategy that builds awareness, trust , and brand recognition rather than securing short-term income. It’s a mistake to exclude long-term goodwill and reputation management even when times are hard. Here are some online PR efforts that you shouldn’t cut even when budgets get tight.

Upload a monthly press release to an area of your website marked “News” or something like that. This shows that your non-profit is alive and active in spite of tough economic times. You don’t have to have huge announcements to justify a press release that is only one page long. Did someone in your organization earn an award? Announce it! Have you added new staff? Announce it! Think about all the things – large and small – that your non-profit is up to and announce something at least once a month.

Find information sites that apply to your niche and get known for providing quality information. Submit your monthly news releases, but also provide short articles that appeal to their readers. For example, Crosswalk.com and Beliefnet.com love to get short articles (500 words or so) on religious topics. Find out who is the right person to whom who can submit your news releases and articles, and develop a cordial relationship with them through phone and email. Learn what they want and fill their need. You can also submit content to Google Knol and Squidoo.

Establish a page on Wikipedia. This online encyclopedia was launched in 2001 and has grown into one of the largest reference sites on the Web, currently attracting about 684 million visitors annually. Volunteer editors from across the globe adhere to strict writing guidelines and know that their content can be edited by anyone else who has Internet access. Most edits consist of corrections to typos, grammatical errors and factual errors. Wikipedia recommends that someone other than the organization submit articles about notable persons or organizations, so write it as factually and non-self-serving as possible, have a third party post it, and you have a good chance of getting it accepted. You might even spend a few dollars to get someone else like Pathmaker to do it on your behalf.

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Are You Employing Web 2.0 Features Into Your Online Fundraising?

Your first question might be, “What the dickens in Web 2.0?” At least that was my first question. Quite simply, the term refers to a way of using the Internet to “build community.” Building community is the process of causing people to feel a sense of ownership in what you do … because they are part of it. The process hopefully will build your email list, increase traffic to your site and convert visitors into engaged participants. This could provide a boost to your online fundraising. Here are some techniques to consider.

Allow visitors to add content to your site. For example, Pathmaker Marketing LLC worked with Gregory Dickow Ministries (and others) to install a couple of Prayer Walls on their website. People can come to the Prayer Wall to submit their prayer requests or praise reports for others to read. They also can read the requests and praises of others and pray for those people as they feel led. The Prayer Wall has become a meeting place for like-minded people to be a part of the ministry along with each other’s lives. 

Integrate social networking into your online mix. For example, you could design a Facebook page to integrate with your site. You can quickly build up your list of friends, which will give you a growing list of potential participants in your cause. Professional networking includes such sites as Linkedin and other sites that appeal to a specific niche (such as authors). Twitter is a social networking site that simply allows you to post updates on what you’re up to in order to keep in touch. Use several of these services to build your participant list and manage your search engine listings.

Start blogging. We’ve worked with clients to install a blogging tool on their websites that is search engine optimized. You create one blog entry of just a few paragraphs that contains the right keywords (that you defined), and the content automatically is posted to the other blogs with those keywords. You’re using what you have in your head to create more than one blog with the effort of only one blog. Blogging is another tool that can boost your ranking in search engines to bring more people to your site for you to convert into assets for your non-profit.

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Writing Techniques for Non-Profit Email Fundraising

Good non-profit fundraising emails have five characteristics.

  1. They are personal. Speak directly to the audience using “you” statements instead of the less personal “we” or, even worse, “one.” You are more likely to engage your readers if they connect to you and believe you know and understand them. This, of course, means you understand who your audience is, what inspires and motivates them, and what causes them to take action.
  2. They engage the reader’s heart. People give to causes and non-profits that fulfill an emotional need in their own lives. Your readers gave you their email address because they thought your non-profit is their path to making a difference in someone’s life or in some challenge. You need to tell them through a short, heartfelt, and true story of one specific person (or thing or animal) your non-profit has helped and how. This story needs to be told in no more than one or two short but effective paragraphs.
  3. They create urgency. What will happen if the reader doesn’t give a donation as a result of this email? Will people like the one described above 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: smell, touch, taste, sound, sight. And don’t overstate the urgency or consequences; they’ll see right through that.
  4. They include a clear call to action. Your readers need to know specifically what you want them to do. Should they give $50 now? Should they sign a petition now or take a survey? Use action words to describe the action and what’s in it for them. Tell them exactly what they need to do to take this action (e.g., click here). Be careful. Words like “click here” or “go here” could get your email flagged as spam. It is best to put these kinds of words in graphic buttons that link to the place where the reader can take the specific action you’re requesting.
  5. They communicate value. If there is a premium, they clearly describe the value 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? It isn’t necessary to state the monetary value of the item. What motivates people is what they will learn, discover, experience, etc.

Remember, the things that inspire you to work at or own your non-profit are probably the same things that inspire the people who gave you their email addresses. 

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Email Landing Pages That Convert Visitors to Assets for Non Profits

In a previous blog, I emphasized the importance of non profits designing fundraising emails that link to dedicated landing pages on your website. Here are 5 tips for designing and writing landing pages that convert visitors to assets to your charity.

  1. Eliminate site navigation. The only navigation you want on your landing page are links to (1) your action page and (2) possibly, if you are offering a premium, a page that tells more about the premium. This keeps visitors focused on your offer rather than allowing them to get sidetracked while browsing your site.
  2. Design a header that matches your email header. Don’t use the same design as your main site unless that is the design you used in the email header. While organizational branding is important, you can design website landing pages with compatible yet different headers.
  3. Write an action oriented headline. The headline should lead people toward the action you want them to take but still speak directly to what’s in it for them. The headline also needs to be similar to or even the same as the headline and/or subject line in the email. This avoids confusion about whether or not people clicked to the right web page.
  4. Use fonts that are proven as easy to read. Headlines should be in at least 12 point Times New Roman or Arial font. They should not be all caps (capitalize only the first letter in all words of the headline except articles). Body text should be at least 12 point Arial.
  5. Lead visitors to the action you want them to take. Explain the offer, but don’t over explain. Explain the benefit to the visitor. Include the Who, What, Why, How and Where. Use at least 500 words that are written to “you.” One of the most common mistakes I see is organizations writing to themselves rather than the people they’re trying to sell. Have at least 3 places where people can click to the donate page, and make these links benefit and action oriented (e.g., Click Here to Help Save Lives).

In another blog, I’ll explain specifics writing techniques for non profit e-appeals and landing pages.

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Non Profit Email Design That Works

Here are 5 tips for writing and designing fundraising emails for maximum results for non profit organizations.

No matter how altruistic and selfless they are, the reader wants to know what’s in it for them. People 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.

  1. Use action words to get response. In your buttons, use words like “click here,” “learn more,” “get more,” etc. Be careful, though, because “click here” and “go here” in links (rather than graphics) will get your email flagged as spam. All of these links should go to a dedicated landing page that doesn’t include links to the rest of the website – you lose people when you let them browse too much.
  2. Headlines 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 on their eyes. Only the first letter in each word should be capitalized (not all caps), and Times New Roman and Arial fonts are the easiest to read.
  3. Design attractive email headers and footers that are web optimized. These are much more professional looking than plain text emails. But if the file size of your graphics are too large, the emails will load too slowly, and you’ll lose people.
  4. Be sure to include a web version for people to view if they can’t see the graphics in the email. Put a link at the top that says: Can’t see the graphics? Preview Online. Put the entire email on a web page.

Put these basic tips into use, and you’ll see improved click through to your landing pages. In another blog, I’ll provide tips for landing page response.

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