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7 Best Practices for Year-End E-Appeals

November 20th, 2012 Posted in How Not For Profits

Since the end of the year is quickly approaching, I thought I would review an e-appeal that I recently received to shed some light on best practices for email appeals (a.k.a e-appeals).

There are mixed views about e-appeals. I personally love email. Think about this fact for a second. If your organization is making asks via social media, there is no guarantee that you have someone’s undivided attention. In the average view of a Twitter homepage, there could be as many as 7 tweets in your immediate view. Not to mention the fact that it is constantly updating. Competition for attention = not good.

With email there is much less competition for attention. It’s likely that once someone opens your email, it’s the only email they are reading and so you have their full attention. I think this is just one of many great benefits of email marketing, but that’s just my two cents. If nothing else, it’s definitely worth collecting emails especially as the future of direct mail seems to be a question mark. Email lists are the modern snail mail lists.

An Email – Examined

Below you’ll see an e-appeal that I received several weeks back. The image is a bit small, but you can click on it to make it larger and have a read through.

Now, here’s the appeal with my red ink + commentary, which I’ll explain below the image. You can also click to enlarge this image.

The Language + Words You Choose Speak Volumes

*note: the numbers below correspond with numbers in the second image.

1. Subject Line
I can’t stress enough just how important email subject lines are! The rules of great copywriting apply – it needs to peak the recipient’s interest. The subject line should be part call to action and part informative. After all, the function of the subject line is to give the reader a preview of what’s to come. The subject line of this email is “Women Matter.” I have to say, given that I didn’t recognize the name of the sender and how vague the subject line is, I considered deleting this email. A better alternative could have been using the name of their campaign, “Help One Woman.”
Mail Chimp has a couple of good articles on email subject lines and open rates.

2. List Segmentation
Take note of this underlined section in the email. It reads, “You’ve given to us before; your time, your clothing, maybe even money…” This suggests to me that the organization does not have a clear idea of who they are talking to so they are making the mistake of talking to everyone. List segmentation still applies if you’re using email! Yes, it can be a bit more work to separate out donors from volunteers from general community members, but it is worth the effort. The more you can tailor the language to your audience, the better. The recipient will feel that you are directly talking to them.

3. Transition
Not even two sentences into the letter and there is a very transparent statement about what’s to come. Now, I’m not sure what the results of this campaign were, but my guess is that this statement either worked in their favor or worked against them. Very early on in the email, they are giving the reader the option to self-select out of reading the rest. It is my personal opinion that this could have undesirable effects. It’s much better to keep the reader through to the end.

4. Case for Support
Just as with any direct response piece, it is important to build up your case for support leading up to the ask. The key with email is to make the case short, concise and powerful. E-appeals tend to be shorter than a typical direct mail letter.

5. The Ask
ALWAYS make sure you include a dollar amount in the text. However, don’t use language that undermines the confidence of that ask or gives the reader a reason to doubt what you are asking for. For instance, “We hope $12.50 a month isn’t painful to you…” The word “painful”  is one of those questionable words. Wouldn’t you rather have the reader associate positive words and feelings with giving? Absolutely!

6. Impact
This is something that I think this email lays out well – what the contribution means to the people the organization serves. “$12.50 a month = $150 a year = hope and support for one woman in transition. This woman impacts her children, her community, . . . the world.” Alternatively, a quote from a client is also a good way to demonstrate impact.

7. Donation Button
If you’re going to make a call to action, make sure there is an easy way for people to fulfill that call. A button or an embedded hyperlink in the email.

There you have it. A few best practices to get you started on your year-end e-appeals.

Vanessa Chase

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