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.
16. Test, test, test.
Good non-profit fundraising emails have five characteristics.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.