This is the 4th article in our year-end follow-up strategy series.
So your appeal is in the mail and you are ready to think about emailing a follow-up to your donors. We all know how to email! It shouldn’t be that complicated, right?
Except that when you do sit down to get started, you may realize there is actually quite a bit to figure out.
For instance, if you’re unfamiliar with your email software or if you’ve inherited an email list that either wasn’t managed well in the past or doesn’t integrate with your donor software, determining where to start can be overwhelming. I’ve dealt with this before and it isn’t pretty.
Or you may begin to wonder, “How many emails do I send?” or “When is the best time to send them?” You’ll need images. You’ll need a ‘donate-now’ button. You’ll need new stories to tell.
It is enough to make you think twice about even starting.
Here is a brief guide to get you over the hurdle. The really good news is that once you pull this off, you’ll officially have created a “multichannel fundraising campaign!”
Step 1: Create your email list
From your year-end appeal mailing list, segment out:
1) donors who have at some point given you their email addresses AND
2) have not yet made their year-end gift.
Create a separate lists (or segment) for this particular email series (rather than blasting it to everyone on your email list who may or may not have received your direct mail appeal). This way you can construct a targeted message reinforcing the direct mail appeal they will have already received.
Make sure to tag the names of these particular donors in your database, so that you will be able to evaluate response rate later. At the very least, you can keep a separate spreadsheet so that you’ll know who you sent it to. Also, this is the time to design a test of your email follow-up’s effectiveness.
Step 2: Map out your timeline and draft your message
I recommend sending a series of 2-3 emails with messages that support your original direct mail appeal. The email should use graphics that are familiar to your reader and repeat the basic message.
This schedule has worked well for me:
Email #1: December 15 – Remind your donors to make their year-end gift by December 31st. Repeat the message from the direct mail appeal.
Email #2: December 31st (or the last business day before) – Communicate urgency.
Email #3: January 15th – Thank you email.
Before you start drafting your message content, brainstorm the following for each email:
- What emotionally compelling story will you use.
- Decide which images to use.
- Pick one specific action to ask of your donors when they read each email. Don’t ask them to do more than one thing in a single email.
Step 3: Craft a message for each email
Here are your most important things to remember:
- Your emails two jobs are to (1) get opened and (2) convince your donor to click a link to your donations page.
- Write a headline that will get your email opened and read.
- Keep it brief!
- Relate it to your original appeal letter’s message.
- Use an emotional trigger.
- Lead your readers toward one specific action.
Step 4: Test your message
Before you hit send on that email, and particularly if you are using your email software for the first time or if you’ve personalized your email for each recipient, you will want to send yourself and a few colleagues a test message. Have several people proof it carefully before it is widely broadcasted. Print it out and read it yourself! Also, don’t forget to view it in different browsers and from some mobile devices (like an iPhone) to see what it looks like.
Step 5: Send it out!
Step 6: Track your Results
You ultimately want to know who made a gift as a result of your email. Most email programs have all kinds of metrics available for you to consider like number of clicks, number of opens, number of unsubscribes, etc…
Several days after each email is sent you’ll want to:
(1) Record the number of donors who opened your email.
(2) Record the number of donors who clicked through to your website/ donations page.
(3) Of those who clicked through your email, who actually made a gift?
Sometime in January, you’ll also want to note:
(4) Which donors made a gift without clicking through the email to your donations page? For instance, a donor still wrote a check, even though your email may have prompted their gift.