If you’ve not yet jumped into the amazing world of digital fundraising, there’s no time like the present! Digital channels offer so many ways to connect with donors and drive revenue, and email is undoubtedly the biggest player in the digital realm.

Whether you’re writing standalone appeals, stewardship pieces to show your donors some love, or following up on a direct mail piece as part of an integrated campaign, email offers us amazing opportunities to share stories with your donors and raise funds for your cause with just a few clicks.

But simply sending your direct mail letter via email won’t cut it. Email fundraising is very different from direct mail, and knowing how to adapt your message to a different medium is key to using your (already-limited) resources wisely.

Luckily, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to help your message get read, and get results!

Tip #1: Optimize for mobile viewing.

The huge shift to mobile is one of the biggest changes in digital fundraising in the past 5 years. The majority of Boomers now own a smartphone, and use among the Civic generation has also grown. If the majority of your subscribers aren’t already reading your messages on a mobile device, they soon will be. And that means it’s no longer good enough to think mobile-friendly, you’ve got to think mobile-first. If your emails aren’t optimized for mobile viewing, you’re likely leaving money on the table.

Here’s how to write with mobile in mind:

  • Keep it short. Nothing gets your email deleted faster than a giant wall of text.
  • Break it up. Use short paragraphs, bullet point, buttons, photos – anything you can to get away from large text blocks (see above).
  • Ask early. Your call to action should come within one swipe of the screen.
  • Be mindful of the complete donor journey. Once donors click to give, are they taken to a donation page that’s also optimized for mobile? If not, that’s a surefire way to tank your conversion rate.

Tip #2: Get personal.

My brilliant colleague, Holly Wagg, recently wrote a blog about personalizing your appeals for better asks. If you missed it, you can check that out here. The same is true for e-appeals. Most email clients allow some form of personalization in their templates, and some let you include pretty much whatever you want.

Personalizing your emails is key to connecting with your donors – and there are so many ways to use this information! Put a donor’s first name in the email subject line, refer to their last gift or the campaign they first donated to, or include their city in the call to action. Adding simple elements like this can really make a mass email feel like it’s directed at just one person.

One quick word of caution, remember to avoid the “Dear <First Name>” trap. While most email clients let you insert a salutation, this one in particular tends to trigger spam filters. After spending hours crafting an appeal, that last thing you want is to have it miss the inbox completely. We’ve had great results using donors’ names more casually within the body of the email, but try a few different options to see what works for you.

Which brings me to….

Tip #3: Test, test, and test again.

I’ll admit it: I love A/B testing.

For folks who are just getting started with digital fundraising, A/B testing refers to splitting your list into segments and testing various elements to see what performs best with your particular audience. You can test with a small group and send the “winning” email to the rest of your subscribers, or split your list evenly and use the results to craft future emails.

A/B testing is a great way to boost some of your email metrics that might be lagging behind (and if you’d like to see how you stack up against other organizations in your sector, check out the latest M+R Benchmarks Report). Looking to increase your open rates? Try testing your subject line, preview text, or pre-header – all things that will be visible right in the inbox. You could try variations on the length, tone, personalization, even using emojis. And if you’re looking to boost your click-through rate, play around with things like body copy length and tone, the call to action, link and button colour, images…the possibilities really are endless.

Email is not one size fits all and testing gives you the perfect opportunity to find out what works for your particular donor base, then use this information to guide your email strategy.

Have you tried some of these methods for your email subscribers? If so, I’d love to hear about your results in the comments below!