Archive for the ‘Email’ Category

efundraising1Source: Nonprofit Times

“Urgent.” “Requiring immediate attention.” “Chance of a lifetime.”

These are just a small sample of the kind of messages that appear in the Subject line of an email. Some will get the recipient to open the message. Others are likely to go directly to Trash without being read.

Online and email fundraising are proving to be successful for many nonprofits, but the use of email fundraising is still very much a work in progress. One tricky area is that of Subject lines.

In conversations with many fundraisers and online experts, The NonProfit Times has gained some insight into helpful practices for email fundraising. Here are seven suggestions:

  • Emails and their Subject lines should carry a degree of expectedness.
  • The most important part is the From line because if it’s not familiar the reader probably won’t open it.
  • Including the organization or individual’s name in the From line frees the Subject line to be more dynamic.
  • Be judicious when using words like “urgent” or “action required.” Don’t use them every time.
  • Go light on personalization.
  • Consistency is important, but it’s about making sure subscribers get familiar with the emails rather than saying the same thing.
  • As with much fundraising, testing can help nonprofits learn about their constituents. Content must stay relevant. The biggest factor in open rates is the relative age of the names on file.

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email1Email has become one of the most important means of communication today. And, it will grow in use in the future. However, with the ease and inexpensive nature of email has also come some misuses.

Check out these recommendations to improve your messages:

  1. Your own email address says a lot about you. If you are in nonprofit work, your name should definitely be associated with your organization (e.g. bfreeman@hospice.org). Not only does this build credibility, it also functions as a filtering device for many. If readers don’t recognize the email sender or feel that the organization isn’t legitimate they may never read your message.
  2. Avoid using all capital letters. Online, that’s considered yelling. It’s also harder to read. You don’t want to antagonize anyone by writing something perceived as offensive, especially when you can easily avoid it.
  3. Use both upper and lower case letters. Some folks go to the other extreme and use only small letters. They usually say that it’s easier to type that way. It may be easier, but is not standardized English. Readers often perceive these messages as childlike.
  4. Follow the basic grammar rules. You can even find online help from online services.
  5. Spelling counts, too. Many email-writing systems, such as the one from AOL, have built in spell checkers. Use them. But remember they won’t catch words that are correct but misused. Always carefully reread your text.
  6. Be brief. On the Internet, less is always more.
  7. Follow up on important messages. Call or write another message to make sure that an important message gets through. Although email is probably more reliable than snail mail, mistakes still happen. There is no guarantee that your message made it to the intended person.
  8. When responding to a previous message include the pertinent parts of the previous message so that the person who you are responding to knows what you’re talking about. It’s not fun to receive a message a week later, saying something like, “I agree with you.” The reader probably won’t remember what was said in the first place.
  9. Smileys are nice but don’t use them. Smileys, those appealing little icons that people use like 🙂 to show emotion, are cute but not understood by everyone. Unless you’re sure that the reader knows what they mean avoid them.
  10. When you write a message, start with the person’s name or use the customary salutation, Dear John. You may be sending email to an account that is read by more than one person. Always specify to whom the message is being sent.
  11. Use a signature. In addition to your name you can supply a link to your Web site and add a brief mention of your organization or service.
  12. Although you can use HTML to send fancy looking messages, you never know how they will look at the other end. The best way to send email is by using plain text. It doesn’t look as good, but everyone can read it. If you make each line no more than about 60 characters, it will also look neat.
  13. Remember to send the message. Sometimes we start something and put it off. Don’t forget to actually click on “send”.
  14. Respond to email quickly. When folks send you something, they usually expect an answer the same day.

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Need a consistent and inexpensive way to get your fundraising message out? e-Newsletters are an answer.

Every year, Karen Frost from CKUA Radio is tasked with meeting new people, drawing in more donations, and literally keeping her listener-supported radio station – herself included – afloat. Not an easy job when methods of communication are limiting, marketing budgets are tight, and donors watch closely how every penny is spent.

In the last six months, though, Frost’s fundraising efforts for CKUA Radio have been completely liberated, thanks to a relatively new trend in communicating with donors: the e-newsletter.

“It looks great, it’s inexpensive, and it allows me to communicate much more frequently with our supporters,” says Frost. Those who want to print out a printer-friendly version complete with graphics can do so, or they can email the Web version to a friend. “The e-newsletter extends the footprint of our Web Site.”

Frost, a firm believer in the Pyramid (or 5 I’s) of Giving by James M. Greenfield, tells how the e-newsletter addresses every element that’s so critical to successful fundraising:

  1. Identification: The e-newsletter arrives by email–directly to those customers who have pledged in the past and to new ones who give permission to receive the newsletter. The communication is immediately recognizable as CKUA’s and is so consistent with the look and feel of our Web Site that visitors feel like they’re right at the station with us.
  2. Information: Before discovering the e-newsletter, one mail-out each year–the one required by law to distribute donor receipts–wiped out the entire donor relations budget. Through the e-newsletter, Frost can now send monthly information that is current, responsive and timely. By adding an unlimited number of Web links that go straight to her Web Site, she’s already seen increased communications in the form of basic queries and comments.
  3. Interest: More frequent information increases interest. The newsletter helps Frost educate, inform, and intrigue. She varies the content to meet the interests of a variety of listeners. She can even measure interest in specific topics by seeing (in the backend of the e-newsletter system) exactly what sections of the newsletter her readers care most about.
  4. Involvement: Frost polls her supporters, invites their participation in surveys and encourages them to contact the station at any time. Increased involvement means increased retention.
  5. Investment: Greater involvement usually means greater investment. And the e-newsletter makes giving easier–an online donation form is only a click away! (Thirty-five percent of CKUA’s donors gave online last year!)

One big challenge since the e-newsletter, says Frost, is getting the word out that huge donor dollars aren’t required to fund our e-newsletter. “The perception is that technology-based advertising costs a lot,” she says, “but this just is not the case.”

In fact, the e-newsletter is costing about one-tenth of CKUA’s previous efforts. The biggest cost is getting the template designed, but once it’s there, it’s done. It costs every time Frost sends out another issue, but it’s minimal compared to postage.

What’s the biggest reason the e-newsletter has been such a success? Donor-Centered Fundraising, says Frost, “Penelope Burk says ‘Fundraising is not the art of asking but the art of communication that includes asking.'”

For Frost, the key to a successful fundraising campaign will always be finding the right tool to communicate that very sensitive appeal for dollars.

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When you are trying to raise money online from your members, visitors, or other constituents, keep these ten tips in mind:

  1. Ask for money for special projects or other hot items, not for general support – and set a deadline. It’s generally easier to raise money for something specific with a deadline than for institutional support. “Your gift of $25, $50, $100 – whatever you can afford – will help us get these families through the holiday season.” If the gift is tax deductible, say so.
  2. Ask as many people as you can (without spamming). The more people you ask, the more gifts you’ll get. If you don’t have a big list, see if other organizations will send your message out to their members for you. In every email, use a “tell-a-friend” feature to make it easy for people to pass along the fundraising appeal.
  3. Make the “Ask” the main message in your email. While you may be sending a regular monthly e-newsletter and/or activist alerts to the people on your list, when you want money, don’t bury the Ask in a longer message with other items – it won’t get enough attention.
  4. Make sure recipients know (and like) the sender of your email. In the “From” line, use a celebrity or your President or Chair if that makes sense, or just use the name of your organization.
  5. In the “Subject” line, make sure it’s clear why you’re writing – and don’t be deceptive.
  6. Keep the copy short and punchy, and give people links to the donation page within a few lines of the top. Repeat it every paragraph or so. (Some people get the idea and just want to click to the donation form.)
  7. Make sure the content of all your messages – fundraising, informational, activist – is interesting and useful to readers, not just to staff and board. Track clickthroughs, so you know what gets read, and send email surveys from time to time.
  8. “Ask” everywhere you can – on your Web site, in your emails, in the “signature” at the bottom of your email messages, and offline too.
  9. Build your list. Via every channel – meetings, events, parties, at the workplace, in your emails, and on your sites – ask people for their email addresses, so you can build your list. Put an email signup form on every Web page, and include a link at the bottom of every email.
  10. Test all components; To: and Subject: lines and various “Ask” amounts. Email makes it easy, quick, and cheap to test different messages.

Good luck.

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Email is the killer app on the web! Without a doubt, the use of email is the more commonly used and highest responded to use of the Web. Of the 63% of U.S. citizens who use the Web regularly, a full 93% read email nearly every day.

There is such a thing as the “Email Savvy Organization” according to Michael C. Gilbert of The Gilbert Center, and it’s possible to identify the systems and practices that characterize it.

  • Collects email addresses through their Website, often on the front page.
  • Publishes one or more email newsletters to its stakeholders.
  • Can survey its stakeholders online and capture that information.
  • Can raise money through email.
  • Has an email strategy.

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Email is an awesome tool to use in your Holiday and year-end fundraising appeals. Writing good email starts with the basics of writing good copy – you must have a story to tell, offer a compelling reason to give, and use clear and persuasive language. Here are five steps to writing email that will be read:

  1. Your subject line is key to email success: Capture your readers’ attention and convince them that your email should be read. And do this in 1 to 2 seconds. Given the difference in browsers, limit your entire subject line (including spaces) to no more than 50 characters. Here are some examples of great subject lines:
    • Send a blanket to Indonesian flood victims
    • The movie President Bush doesn’t want you to see
    • Before Christmas: It’s beginning to look a lot like justice . . .
  2. Make your email scannable – this means. Write short sentences and short paragraphs. Provide numerous links to your donation page. In addition to copy, use a graphic insert telling your readers what to do. Use bullets. Don’t overuse bold and italics. Don’t use underlying (that’s just for hyperlinks).
  3. Keep it simple and short – this means: Use as few words as possible to state your case; limit your key points to one of two. Avoid the history of your appeal (this isn’t the time for background information)
  4. Be aware of “preview panes” – this means: Most readers won’t get past the part of your email visible there. This first impression is critical to your success. Treat those top few inches of copy and design as precious real estate. Tell your whole story right there.
  5. Keep the medium in mind – this means: Emails tend to be more causal than print. Salutations and closing are typically more relaxed: Hello Bill. Email copywriters tend to use more causal terms than in direct mail. For example:
    • Direct mail: We were truly overwhelmed by the generous response to our request.
    • Email: Wow! You overwhelmed us (and that’s hard to do)!

Remember the key to good writing is: specific, clear and forceful

Contact us for some professional help putting together your year-end fundraising campaign.

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Email is the killer app on the web! Without a doubt, the use of email is the more commonly used and highest responded to use of the Web. Of the 63% of U.S. citizens who use the Web regularly, a full 93% read email nearly every day.

There is such a thing as the “Email Savvy Organization” according to Michael C. Gilbert of The Gilbert Center, and it’s possible to identify the systems and practices that characterize it.

  1. Collects email addresses through their Web site, often on the front page.
  2. Publishes one or more email newsletters to its stakeholders.
  3. Can survey its stakeholders online and capture that information.
  4. Can raise money through email.
  5. Has an email strategy.

Would you like to brainstorm an email strategy for your organization? Just check out 501cWeb.com

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