What should fundraising emails be like?

You might be surprised what works to raise funds online.

In short: Simpler is more effective.

Here are three tests from NextAfter that just might make you want to rethink how you do online fundraising:

Test #1: Simple and personal

How a radical redesign of an email appeal and donation page affected donor conversion rate.

This was a “radical redesign” of an email and its landing page, including:

  • Much simpler email — text only instead of the more designed control that had logos, a photo, “Donate Now” buttons
  • More personal tone in the email that addressed the donor directly and colloquially.
  • Simplified landing page: No photo, less design, overall less content.

Result: 272% increase in donor conversion. At statistically valid quantity.

Test #2: Person-to-person subject line

How a more personal subject line affects open rate

Control subject line: “Make this bold statement”; open rate, 16.9%.

Test subject line: “Checking In”; open rate, 33.6%.

That’s nearly 100% increase in opens.

Test #3: Nix the video

How having a text based donation page and email vs video affects donor conversion rate

In the digital world, it’s all about the power of video, right?

Maybe not. Look at this test:

Control landing page led with a 3-minute video that made the case for a donation. Conversion rate: 0.65% conversation

Test landing page: Text based (basically the same message as the video. Conversion rate: 4.1%.

That’s a 527.54% improvement.

What does all this tell us?

Something like this: Keep your fundraising emails simple, uncluttered, and personal. Make them feel like they’re from a person, not an organization.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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