Five Tips to Fundraise from your E-Newsletter

By: Andrea Ball, Executive Director, AFG

With most communications and member interactions currently online, the majority of the country is combating E-fatigue. How do you stand out and engage, without annoying your intended audience with E-communications?  The struggle has never been more real than in 2020, but the opportunities have never been greater. An excellent way to connect is an E-Newsletter.  It offers more chances to connect than just “making the ask”, it allows for better interaction than social media, and less commitment than a Zoom meeting. 

Regardless if you are a communication veteran, or a beginner at creating newsletter content, a few simple tips can improve your marketing. Anyone can write copy but the real challenge is engaging your reader, so they open your messages consistently.  Email marketing is effective, when coupled with compelling stories, educational articles, and several ways to engage. Here are a few tricks of the trade that will help you rise above the rest to the top of the inbox!

1. Your subject line needs to stand out

Email action conversions will only happen if your email is opened.  The first way to make that happen is a short and strong subject line.  Almost 70% of readers, will make the decision to delete or open based on a subject line.  Write a subject that will fit on a mobile phone screen, as many people choose to read emails on the train, or while waiting for an appointment.  Use compelling words to intrigue a reader to learn more.  For example…  Train Hits Car on Tracks does not induce interest like, Horrific Crash of Train and Small Car Causes Traffic Snarls.  Same words but different sensation for the reader.  Secondly, consistency is key.  ZZZ E-News: as a header prior to the subject in all e-mails makes you a trusted source.

2. Keep your goals in mind with each communication

What is your end game?  With every article, you should be driving your message towards that goal.  Are you looking for more social media followers?  Do you want donations for a particular goal, like a capital campaign?  Do you want to grow your readership base or website traffic?  With every member interaction, keep this objective in your mind and focus on it.

3. Develop a Schedule and Be Brief

Be sure that you deliver what you promised and keep it short and to the point.  Three to five articles is a good goal for an E-newsletter and selecting a schedule and sticking with it is also very important.  If you tell people you are sending a monthly email, do it consistently and on the same day each month.  I recommend distributing on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.  I also recommend sending a Thanksgiving/Giving Tuesday/Holiday Appeal to leverage end of year generosity.  

4. Take No for an Answer Graciously… Sort of

If you send unsolicited newsletters to your entire membership, respect those people who choose to unsubscribe and remove them. However, I recommend waiting a week and giving them a call or sending them a personal email saying, you noticed they unsubscribed and you just wanted some feedback from them on why they left or how you can serve their communications needs better.  In many cases, they will come back (perhaps offer an abbreviated schedule or monthly highlights format vs. weekly E-blast.) I also suggest using a distribution service like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact to help manage the process of distribution, unsubscribes and additions.  Another idea is to double check if your email will be susceptible to spam.  Send an email test on a service like

5. Incorporate visuals to go along with personalized written content

People like pictures and personal stories.  They especially like pictures and stories of people they know (or about themselves).  Adding them to your social media, E-newsletters and website engages readers. Leverage your members, your board of directors or causes that your organization supports to tell the story of where donor money goes.  This will not only invest readers in your cause, encourage them to read more, but it will also compel them to take action that you request.

Even those who scan emails can still get an idea of your message when videos and images are present. Many people are visual learners, so these things can help subscribers understand and retain the information you are providing them. It can also help your newsletter feel more organized and less like blocks of text.

6. Take time to measure the results

You can craft great content all day long, but ultimately, your goal is converting your readers to givers and the best way to do this is to measure your results.  Many distribution programs, like Constant Contact, will give you great analytaical data on click-through rates, bounces, social shares, unsubscribes, and forwards.  Use these numbers to decide on future distribution schedules and editorial planning.  Also, make your newsletters publicly accessible on your website, via social media and incentivize readers to share it to their own email lists.  For example…  “Share this email by Friday to be entered to win a free Starbuck’s gift card or offer a social media member shout out with a link to all members to share your email using a #hashtag #NewsfromZZZ.  Using data to refine your E-news plan is a key success driver.

Remember, you have one chance to engage, make a call to action, and convert a donor with each email and increase the probability that they will open it at least once.  If it doesn’t happen immediately, the good news is, you can always try again next month with new content and great photos, and remember to also use these five tips consistently.  Patience and steadiness in the E-newsletter process will eventually guarantee donor success.

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