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How To Write Emails That Rock: 3 Tips for Planning and Strategy

July 23rd, 2015 Posted in Email, Fundraising

We are so lucky as nonprofit fundraisers today. We have a huge digital toolbox at our disposal to facilitate giving: our organization’s website, social media channels, text to give, crowdfunding, and, of course, email.

For most digital fundraising methods to work well, we need a direct line of communication to our donors. Email is still our best bet for this. A potential donor might miss your tweet or Facebook post, but your email will almost definitely appear in their inbox. Where it gets tricky is figuring out how to get people to open our emails and take action.

That’s why planning and strategy are really important for sending effective emails. Even before you start writing your next email appeal, take time to answer these three questions.

What’s the goal and message of your appeal?

Your goal should be the specific fundraising target for your email and what you want people to remember after they read it. If you don’t know the goal, you can’t create the best campaign strategy, like whether you should you send just one email or a series of emails that create a story arc.

Your message is the thing you want to communicate to your audience that they will remember and act on. This is the basis for everything in your appeal, and you want it to be clear and concise. If a word, sentence, or paragraph doesn’t support your messaging in a positive way, delete it or find a way to rephrase it so it does support your message.

How many emails are you sending for this appeal?

This question will guide you into developing and figuring out your strategy. Your predetermined goal, plus what else is in your email or communications calendar, determines if you’ll send one or multiple emails for your appeal. Multiple emails, when done right, typically give better results.

Multiple emails reach more people. Three emails per campaign are ideal. If you send just one, odds are good that people won’t see it or they’ll forget to respond. Multiple emails also allow you to segment data and follow up depending on their response, such as who has opened and not opened your email. In other words, not every person is getting every single email—or maybe even the same email. This can have a huge impact on your email fundraising results, not only in increasing engagement and donations but also in reducing unsubscribes.

Multiple emails are a great way to tell a story. If you send three emails within a campaign, you can create a story arc with a beginning, middle, and end, or you can tell different angles of the same story. The first email could tell a client success story, the second from the perspective of a staff member, and the third from a volunteer or a client who can speak firsthand to your program’s success.

Who is your audience?

If you don’t have a good sense of your audience, now is the time to change that. A donor survey is a great way to get to know who they are (demographics) and what they care about (psychographics). Once you have that information, you can write directly and more pointedly to the people you’re trying to compel to give or take some other action.

Think of these questions as a “trifecta of information” that will ultimately guide you to the content of your email campaigns. The more work you do in strategy and planning, the easier the rest of your email fundraising will be.

Adapted from Nonprofit911: Telling Stories Through Email: How to Write Appeals That Rock with Vanessa Chase, founder of the Storytelling Non-Profit.

Adapted by Iris Sutcliffe, Network for Good

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