When it comes to convincing people to become monthly donors, our approach to email is all wrong. At least this is what I get to thinking sometimes when having conversations with fundraisers about email campaigns.

We tend to measure the success of email campaigns by looking narrowly at a single email. We optimise our campaigns within those narrow limits and decide what works, and what doesn’t, within those parameters.

But the truth is that while a single incisive ask can be effective, the bulk of our leads and cash donors will not choose to become a monthly donor after that first phone call, email or letter.

Instead of sending an email appealing for their help and forgetting about those individuals who do not immediately become monthly donors, marketers must focus on building enduring relationships with cash donors and leads, slowly convincing them to become monthly donors.

The success of an email campaign should no longer be judged within the confines of a single email, but through a succession of emails that work collectively. This is a massive shift for some charities who used to measuring and attributing the success of a campaign by a single interaction.

In the past this happened incidentally. A donor might at first give a cash gift, receive some news updates and eventually decide to become a monthly donor at stage when they receive an email asking them to become supporter, a letter in the post or possibly a phone call.

We would then attribute our success to the phone call, letter or email. Measuring the performance of fundraising became limited to that final interaction without an understanding of the importance of those prior steps.

We ignored the importance of those preceding interactions that were so critical to the final conversion, because we never measured them or recognised the financial value of those communications.

Emails with less blunt demonstrations for support were viewed derisively because fundraisers, looking at the immediate value of a single email, measured low conversion rates and failed to look at how an email might work within a broader set of interactions and communications that when measured as a whole delivered superior results.

If we understand the importance of those interactions we can build a communication programme that aims to nurture these individuals, that does not rely on chance communications to provide them with the information they need to become supporters of our charity. We can create a thought out, considered approach, developing a series of targeted emails that gently nurture and grow these relationships, that are targeted to the needs of our audience, with the final goal of turning casual interest into active support for our causes.

So how can we create an email series that can convert these individuals? First, you must accept that there are many different types of donors who give for many different reason and there is not one approach that works for everyone. Every one is at a different stage of the buying cycle and everyone has different motivations.

Your email series should provide content that nurtures the growing relationship with your charity, helping your cash donors understand the value of what you do, educating them about your work and giving them the knowledge they need so that they are able to make the decision to become regular monthly donors.

Tailor your email series to gradually build more trust and rapport with these donors. Help them start to understand the unique value of your organisation.

When you’re sending out this series of emails, be sure to logically connect each email to the next one. You want your audience to gain a well-rounded understanding of your organisation, not receive disjointed messaging.
However, it’s worth remembering that it’s very unlikely that people will read each and every email in the series, and that they’ll often skim what they do read, so be sure that each email doesn’t rely too heavily on information from the previous one — they should be able to stand on their own.
When it comes to creating an email series for cash donors and leads, there’s no exact formula for how many emails to send or what to say in each. As a simple guide, aim to send 3-5 emails, 7-10 days apart with your top-performing content and then iterate, measure and refine your process until you have found the best approach for your charity.
Start with a special thank-you note. Make sure to send this one within 24 hours of a donor’s first interaction with your charity.
The next email should be delivered fairly soon after the first and should solely be about the impact your organisation is having on the world. Include video or other visual content that depicts how the support you receive enables the good work that you do.
Your reader obviously cares about your organisation — otherwise they would not have subscribed, signed a petition or made a cash donation. But chances are they may not be aware of the full depth and breadth of your work. Your follow up emails should seek to educate them about what you do and why your work is important.
Start the education process by sharing the very best content your charity has produced that focuses on how their donations will help by sharing interesting stories
Now that your readers have learned a bit more about the impact you have on the world, it’s time to start getting them more deeply involved.
You want people to get accustomed to being asked to take action on your behalf. This might start with something low barrier — like watching a fun video or sharing a compelling graphic on social media or perhaps a piece of interactive content— and then follow with the monthly donations ask.
  • Adam

    For a non-profit with which I am involved — Jewish Family Service of San Diego — I believe that a blog can be an effective fundraising tool. Has there been any research about the effectiveness of emails with a link to a blog?