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11 Takeaways on Email Best Practices for Fundraisers

Production Solutions

Recently, I had the pleasure of moderating an educational session for the DC chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP DC). The three speakers were Moira Kavanaugh Crosby, President of MKDM, Karen Gallardo, CFRE, Senior Director of Gift Planning & Major Gifts – AARP Foundation, and our own Leah Ibraheem, Senior Digital Services Manager, PS Digital.

The AFP DC Board with session speakers

The AFP DC Board with session speakers

The topic of the day was email, specifically, what nonprofit organizations can do to optimize their email cultivation and fundraising programs, including tips and best practices. We had almost 100 attendees, and many, many wonderful and thought-provoking questions.

In case you missed it, here are 11 key takeaways from the educational session:

  1. Email isn’t dead! Neither is Facebook, telemarketing, direct mail, or any other marketing or communications channel. In fact, channels work cumulatively – you now have more ways than ever to reach your donors, supporters, members, and prospects.
  2. If your email newsletter needs a table of contents, it’s too long! Think about how much content your audience can absorb, and also look at your click history. If there’s content in your email newsletters that never gets clicked, consider eliminating it.
  3. Email cultivation is about sharing with your audience in an intimate way, person-to-person – what you’re working on, what their money is doing, how the people, animals, and things served by their favorite organization are getting on these days. Create great stories and watch your engagement rise.
  4. Test! Subject lines, landing pages, frequency, time of day, header images, etc. You’ll be surprised what you learn.
  5. Don’t worry if you’re a small shop using an inexpensive email tool. Moira showed us a great-looking campaign that performed with excellent results…in Constant Contact.
  6. Many audience members were challenged by lack of creative design tools and experience. By planning ahead, you can make efficient use of your designer’s time. Leah and Moira both shared that they use PowerPoint, MS Word, and MS Publisher for simple design work, and these tools will suit their needs in the place of Photoshop.
  7. It’s never too late for incremental improvement. Karen shared the journey of the AFP DC chapter through several newsletter iterations resulting in the version they have now, designed with the collaboration of our staff at PS Digital. Find one thing you can do to improve your emails today, do it, and keep going from there.
  8. How many messages is too many? Many audience members were worried about over-messaging. Leah suggested working across your organization to truly understand what kind of email is going out, when, and setting up a schedule accordingly.
  9. Don’t forget deadlines. Moira showed us how the last two messages of year-end campaigns, sent right before the campaign deadline, generated significant portions of her clients’ revenue.
  10. Don’t be afraid to send another reminder. Also, be creative. December 31 isn’t the only deadline you can use. Moira created a very successful campaign with an August 31 deadline particular to her client.
  11. Do make sure you’re mobile friendly. With more than 51% of emails now opened on mobile devices, make sure you’re testing your email creative on phones and tablets as well as your regular computer.

Thanks again to Karen Gallardo of AARP and to Tycely Williams, AFP DC Chapter President, for generously hosting this session. We were so glad to have the chance to share with this audience, and we’re looking forward to doing it again in the future.

Want to know more? You can download the slides here.