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6 Unique Online Fundraising Techniques for Your Nonprofit (Part 3 of 6)

Lori Halley 21 November 2007 1 comments

This post has been contributed by Lance Trebesch and Taylor Robinson from TicketPrinting.com


Every nonprofit knows that fundraisers are critical to their existence.  Without donations, no resources are available to support the primary cause or purpose of the organization.  While most traditional media channels have been exhausted, new opportunities have arisen in the online sector.  By tapping into cutting-edge online resources, your organization can achieve fundraising objectives that far exceed established boundaries.  But what are these mysterious online tools and how do you put them to work for your organization?  This series attempts to answer these questions and more by breaking down the vast online resources into six manageable categories.  These categories include:

  1. Social Networking
  2. Online Auctions
  3. Email Campaign
  4. Wiki Pages and Event Calendars
  5. Blogs
  6. Online Raffles


3.  Email Campaign


Why Email for Fundraisers?


1.     Cost effective- Nonprofit organizations more than anyone realize the importance of maximizing the effectiveness of their resources.  Traditional forms of marketing are becoming less justified as the costs associated continue to increase with little correlation to actual results.  Email marketing presents one of the most cost efficient ways for nonprofits to reach their supporters.

2.     Relationships- Personal relationships are absolutely the key to fundraising and email should be used as another channel to strengthen existing relationships.

3.     Fundraising Awareness- No other marketing technique gives you the ability to notify hundreds or even thousands of targeted individuals in a matter of minutes.  Emails can create awareness for fundraising campaigns and call people to action.  Your emails must be compelling and avoid being unfiarly labeled as spam to connect with supporters.

4.     Community- One of the most important functions of email is to provide relevant articles and organization newsletters.  Within the email, provide a link back to your websites’ blog or forum page where they can comment on the article or newsletter.  This will encourage personal involvement and community.


6        Requirements of a Great Email Fundraising Effort


1.     Get Them to Look at Your Email- If you can master this, then you are well on your way.  But how do you get your email noticed with all the ”junk mail” people sort through every day?  Below are some ideas to make your messages stand out.

a.      Tie subject with current headline when possible.  Attaching your email subject to a news headline indicates that the email is current and interesting to the reader.   

b.      Be bold.  There are thousands of fundraisers and even more emails sent every year.  As soon as you realize this, you will understand the absolute necessity to be courageous and make your subject stand out.

c.      Be mysterious.  A subject that leaves the reader wondering will also give him/her a reason to find out more.

d.      Segment and test.  “… The top-performing message had a 15 percent higher open rate and an 81 percent higher click-through rate than the lowest performing message” (Innovations on Online Direct Response Fundraising). Identify what is working and what is not by running side by side tests of emails and measure their performance.


2.     Provide Targeted Information- The most successful email campaigns tailor information to specific customer segments.  Instead of sending a mass email with a fundraiser notification, take time to segment your customers and customize your emails to maximize their effectiveness within each group.  If a person feels an email is specifically created for him/her, they will be much more willing to respond to it.  For a very small organization, manual data updates may be possible.  But as many nonprofits quickly find out, maintaining a database with current customer information is extremely difficult.  Hire an email service provider such as emaillabs, webmail.us, emailhosting.com or a nonprofit specific provider such as Enonprofits.org to do this leg work for you.  For a small nonprofit with approximately 1,000 email recipients, webmail.us gave an initial quote of $15 per month or $144 per year before the 15% discount for 501c3 classification.


3.     Make Privacy a Priority- With the overwhelming amount of spam emails, people are extremely hesitant to give their email address and even more skeptical of companies who are requesting them.  96% of email subscribers view email privacy as important to them and 83% of internet users have avoided subscribing to email newsletters because they weren’t sure the organization would protect their email address (NewsTarget.com). Email service providers and copy (text) on the website which guarantees your organization will not sell email addresses are both important to building confidence.   


4.     Provide Relevant Links- Relevant links within an email which direct to further information gathering will allow you to write emails that are short and to the point.  If the reader is interested in learning more then you have provided him/her with the means to do so.  Do not turn your email into a novel.  Make it short, scannable (bullets or numbers often help), and easy to digest.  For more about email format visit Constant Contacts website.


5.     Ship Emails at the Right Time with the Right Frequency- Do you read emails on weekends?  If you are a typical American, your answer is no.  The time and frequency you send emails are central factors to readers’ responsiveness to them.

·         Avoid weekends

·         Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days to send emails

·         60% of all email is opened between Tuesday and Thursday

·         60% of emails are opened between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM

·         Early mornings are optimal times to send emails

·         Be consistent with the frequency you send emails


6.     Capture Viral Marketing Potential- Include an “email this” button at the top and bottom of your email.  Your supporters care about your fundraisers and want to help make them successful.  An “email this” button gives them the power to make a difference.  In the email, also encourage them to please send to (number) friends.  This may seem childish but it works.  People want to help; let them.


7.     Do Not Ask for Donations in First Email- Relationships are absolutely paramount in fundraising efforts.  You wouldn’t ask for money the first time you met someone, and you shouldn’t in the first time you email someone either.  Start with email newsletters that notify what the organization has accomplished, what projects the organization is working on, and what events are coming up.  Send relevant articles and resources that are useful to the recipients.  Why? Nobody is going to continue opening your emails if they believe all they will contain is a request for money.  After the reader is comfortable with the newsletters, you can then begin notifying them of fundraising campaigns and ways they can personally contribute, but keep these subtle.  Also, remember to send a follow-up email thanking those who made a contribution (for large donations a personal phone call is appropriate).


Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 21 November 2007 at 1:41 PM


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