Best Advice I can give You for E-mail Fundraising

emal fundraisingIt probably is pretty safe to assume that E-Mail Fundraising is not a flash in the pan, but, rather, will be a major weapon in the arsenal of every email marketing firm in the nation for ad infinitum.  Scattered across the world wide web is tidbits of information and suggestions posted by various e-mail marketing experts meant to help give a better understanding of email marketing.  While each and everyone may be valuable, it could be painstakingly difficult to fetter them out and paint a picture with a broad enough scope to actually let you know how to attain success in this realm.  That’s why, as successful email marketing professional, I thought it would be prudent to take time to share a plethora of suggestions that have helped Pathmaker Marketing LLC in their quest of becoming a successful professional e-mail marketing firm in the realm of e-fundraising.  So, below is a comprehensive “what to do” guide for enjoying E-mail Fundraising success.

1.  TEST – TEST – TEST – Constantly.  In email fundraising there are some variables that you can control and some that you can’t.  What you can control is when you send and how you design your emails and how you design your Landing Pages.  What you can’t control is what’s happening in the news and how people feel about the economy.  As a result, you want to make sure that you are using your very best efforts in the areas you do control in your quest for funds.

One thing you will want to do is run “split tests” – double, triple, or quadruple splits.  You should run these on your creatives, as different versions can have different texts and/or graphics.  You test to see what is working this month or week, and by testing you mitigate against ineffective efforts.  Multiple versions of your email will enhance your chance for success, and serves as a bit of insurance.

WHEN YOU SPLIT TEST BE SURE YOU CAN TRACK RESULTS SEPERATELY. You must be able to tell how much money each email raised separately.

2.  BUILD YOUR INTERNAL FILES – Understandably, your donor file will always give you the most return on any given e-mail.  Next would be your internal prospecting file and finally any external prospecting file.  As a point of clarification, the internal prospecting file are those people who have shown an interest in your organization but have not donated and, as one would expect, are more apt to give than any external list.  In other words, the “priority order” is to solicit those who have given before, those who have shown an interest in you, and lastly strangers.

3.  GET A DECENT ESP – To conduct an E-mail Fundraising campaign you must have an Email Service Provider (ESP).  Basically, there are three types – Entry Level, Intermediate, and Advanced.  There are a variety of things that will differentiate ESPs.  One is the size of your list.  Another consideration is the “billing” process.  Typically, for Intermediate and Advanced ESPs billing is “volume based,” while for the Entry Level ESPs it is “file size” based.  Functionality is another determining factor:  The more advanced the greater the number of functions – especially in the realms of integration and reports.  As can be expected, the more advanced your ESP the more expensive it will be.

An example of an entry level ESP is iContact, and will usually be used when your mailing list is 10,000 or less. Bronto would be a middle level ESP, and is for the organization whose list is 10,000 – 100,000.  An advanced ESP is for lists of 100,000+, and a good example of this would be Exec Target.

4. NO CSS WHEN CODING E-MAIL IN HTML – What is often overlooked is the fact that that if you use CSS it will bestripped by many email clients.  For example, G-mail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and MacMail all tend to strip out CSS.  If your email is driven by your custom style sheet and it gets deleted by the email client you will have a problem.  Your email might show up looking fine, or it might look like garbage.  As a result, you would be better off using “old school” HTML 101 table formats.

5.  DESIGN AND CODE TO 600 PIXELS WIDE – At that width your e-mail will render okay in a number of environments, such as PC, iPad and mobile phones.  If you code to wider you will force people to sideward scroll, which some may consider too much work!

6. PUT MORE EFFORT INTO YOUR LANDING PAGES THAN YOUR E-MAIL ‘CAUSE YOU CAN’T’ TRANSACT ANY BUSINESS IN AN E-MAIL – Remember, no matter how good your email is you can’t take a credit card with it!  If your landing page is “broken,” the whole process is broken.  The e-mail is what “hooks” people, but the landing page is what will “seal the deal.”  Like a good salesman, your landing page is your “closer.”

7.  UTILIZE E-MAIL FUNDRAISING STRATEGIES – Any successful endeavor is the result of developing and implementing specific strategies, and e-mail fundraising is no exception.  Below is a list of strategies that you should plan on employing:

  • E-mails tied to current events
  • Monthly “themed” Email Campaigns
  • Direct Mail/E-mail Combo
  • Media/E-mail Combo
  • “Stand Alone” E-mail Fundraising Campaign

 8.  E-MAIL CAN WORK WITH DIRECT MAIL – Send your Direct Mail offer first.  Then, send an email with the sameoffer seven to ten days later.  This over-all combination will give you lift, as the email will remind people of the mailer they received.

9.  ADD “READ MORE” LINKS INTO YOUR COPY – Writing an e-mail fundraiser piece is a little different than writing a direct mailer piece.  In the former you might stop a thought in mid-paragraph and put in a “read more,” having your email serve as somewhat of a “teaser.”

10.  STUDY THIS HEURISTIC TO LEARN A SIGNIFICANT LESSON FROM E-MAIL EXPERT FLINT McGOUGHLIN

eMe = rv(o+i ) – (f+a)

The effectiveness of your Message = relevance of your offer (offer + incentive) less (friction + anxiety)

In essence, this is saying that the advantages of your offer and incentive needs to outweigh the recipient’s reluctance to reply positively to your offer, plus the anxiety he might feel in doing so.   “Friction” deals with the ease of your check out procedure.  Asking for as little information as is necessary, and keeping the checkout process as short as possible can minimize it.  Said simply, “Anxiety” is the general reluctance someone might have in doing business on the Internet.

11.  USE THIS FINAL CHECKLIST BEFORE YOU HIT “SEND”

Ask Did my test e-mail:

  • Allow me to go through checkout
  • Have a subject line with no issues
  • Have working links
  • Display Properly
  • Have contact’s name, address and telephone number
Please like & share this blog post:

The Bottom Line to Successful Email Fundraising & Marketing

The bottom line to successful email fundraising & email marketing consists of the following four simple steps to help you stay on track:

4 STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL EMAIL FUNDRAISING OR EMAIL MARKETING

Successful Email FundraisingAn excellent way to communicate, email has become so efficient that it has the U.S. Postal Service trembling in its boots!  But seriously, if you’re still doing direct mail only, you need to add email marketing to your mix of online fund raising tools. And to get the most out of your email fundraising or email marketing program you need to implement the following four strategic steps to success:

1)    Build Your Email House File – The most successful professional fundraisers are using email marketing programs to solicit their house files.  I know this may be a long process to develop these lists, but once you have a robust house file acquisition process in place, your email lists will grow and your efundraising or emarketing communications to those lists will deliver for you maximum results, way above any external list file rentals.

Typically, your house file consists of various sub lists like your customer file (first or two time buyers); your best customer file (regular, large or monthly donors, for example); and your prospecting file of requestors who have asked for call backs, downloaded white papers,  signed up for your newsletters, etc. 

In as much as your email success will mostly be measured in dollars raised, or as a conversion rate percent of the overall send, it stands to reason that a larger size internal file will deliver you a greater number of positive replies, once you’ve found ways to convert the list into sales or gifts.  In other words, make a commitment to building your house file, and then ensure that’s an on-going part of your marketing efforts.

2)    Test, Test, Test – There are several ways to proceed in this realm.  First, you will want to conduct a basic Email Split Test.  This is where you send out two or three different versions of the same email to determine which one(s) give you the best results.  You can test different subject lines, different email creative or different landing pages. By determining which ones perform best, you can fix the under performing ones and/or concentrate instead on the ones that were productive and successful.

A basic protocol we use as a basis for testing fundraising for non-profits is the following:

  1. Short cause-centric email to longer cause-based landing page
  2. Long cause-centric email to shorter cause-based landing page
  3. Premium-centric version email to basic premium (i.e. product Offer) landing page

3)    Evaluate Your “Core Metrics” – Your “Core Metrics” are your central pieces of data that help you make primary decisions regarding your email sending.  There are three major ones, and numerous secondary ones. The majors we use are the following:

a.    Opens (How Many Emails Delivered Were Opened)—this metric is not completely accurate but as a guide it’s good to help you determine the effectiveness of your Email Subject Lines. When your open rates are low concentrate on improving your subject lines.

b.    Clicks (How Many Opened Emails Clicked Through to Landing Pages) —this metric reflects the effectiveness of the email creative itself. If your click through rates is low concentrate on improving your email content (i.e. creative). Usually a good ESP will also provide data on which elements of your creative were clicked on, giving you insights into those things that drive click through for you.

c.    Conversions (How Many Clicks Became Sales or Gifts) —this metric reflects the effectiveness of your landing pages at converting the visitor into a buyer. If your conversion rates are low concentrate on improving your landing pages.

A sub-item to consider regarding conversions is the average amount of each sale or gift, which, will also affect your overall results and thus can help you determine the over-all value of your various Split Test groups and online fundraising efforts.

…And a Bonus Step to a Successful Email Fundraising program:

4)   Fuss Around to Optimize – I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to continue tweaking your programs, looking for pockets of opportunity in the data, and searching for ways to optimize your efforts and their results.  Figure out what people are clicking on and accentuate the positives, then eliminate the negatives! Keep a document of lessons learned as well, so you can refer back to things you have gained over the years that you can build on in the future.

Email marketing is a proven and effective way to enhance your ephilanthropy, so use these four principles to accelerate your email marketing efforts, and call Pathmaker Marketing in Phoenix at 623-322-3334 if we can be of any assistance to you. Or read further about this topic on our blog about email fundraising.

Please like & share this blog post:

23 Best Practice Tips for Successful Email Fundraising #16-19

16.  Test, test, test.
Some studies show that vertical banner graphics outpull horizontal banner graphics in online fund raising. But the only way to truly know is to test everything. Test headlines, test body copy, test graphics, test calls to action.  Testing is the only way you can confirm or disprove your theories about what should work in email fundraising and what shouldn’t. Once you start testing you may be surprised with the results.

17.  Eliminate all CSS from your email fundraising code.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) code is great for web pages but it doesn’t work in non profit email fundraising. Many email clients will strip it out, like gmail, yahoo and hotmail, plus some macmail systems.  You’ll read advice about using “inline” CSS in email to get around the problem, but truthfully, that’s just for people who are willing  to concede that their emails won’t render properly in various email accounts.  Stick with coding your emails up in plain, old-fashioned HTML 101. Then test the rendering of your code across multiple email clients, fix up any issues, then test again. Once you have templates that are golden you can reuse your proven code by simply swapping out graphics and copy blocks for the next email fundraising effort.

18.  Optimize your graphic sizes and pixel widths.
You’ll get better response to your non profit emails if people stick around long enough to read them. You need to make sure your jpg or gif graphics are fully optimized for the web to improve load times. One software we use to do this is the Advance JPEG Compressor 2008. Also, shoot for pixel widths of 600-650 for emails and pixel widths of 900 on landing pages to optimize presentation widths. Design Horizontal buttons starting at 375×80.

19.  Indent paragraphs.
While it is common practice to not indent paragraphs on the Internet, studies show that the eye prefers to see indented paragraphs. You want to make your emails and landing pages as eye-friendly as possible, so put a little effort into indenting your paragraphs.

Please like & share this blog post:

23 Best Practice Tips for Successful Email Fundraising #9-11

9.    Include a Web Preview link.
Some people’s inboxes may default to NOT display graphics in their email client. To address this issue, always include a hyperlinked line at the top that says something like: “Can’t see the graphics? Preview online.”  link this line to a published version of your email fund raising letter online.

10.   Your emails must link to well-crafted landing pages.
It is important to have your emails connect to landing pages that are well-crafted, namely:  1) they offer more information about your cause; 2) they have a carefully engineered checkout process. By providing more in depth information about your organization’s needs on the landing  pages, your readers will get answers to issues un-addressed in your email copy.  By designing checkout pages that contain minimal friction and mitigate against anxiety and tension about doing business online, you’ll reduce abandonment and increase giving.  For more details about reducing friction (time it takes to complete the process) and anxiety (concerns about providing sensitive information) search our blog for posts on the subject of Best Practices for Landing Page Optimization.

11.  Eliminate landing page navigation in your online fund raising.
The only navigation you want on your landing page are links to (1) your checkout page and (2) possibly, if you are offering a premium, a page that tells more about the premium. This keeps visitors focused on your email fundraising offer rather than allowing them to get sidetracked while browsing your site. If your higherups insist, you can provide back door methods to your home page by hyperlinking your header of footer graphics, for example. Make it covert though, not overt, or your online fund raising will suffer.

Please like & share this blog post:

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.

Please like & share this blog post:

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.

Please like & share this blog post:
Get Notified When a New Blog is Posted!
CLOSE
Get Notified Each Time We Post a New Blog
CLOSE

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)