Many organizations are moving away from sending annual appeal letters through the postal service’s “snail mail” service. For many, email is becoming the preferred method of reaching out to their donors. Before making the leap to electronic gift requests, think through the following:
- Do you have email addresses for those on your list? If not, begin collecting them and plan to start sending email appeals in 2018.
- Are you currently staying connected to your donors via email? Are they accustomed to receiving emails from your organization?
- If you are currently communicating via email, what is the open rate on your emails? It will not matter how well-written your appeal is if no one opens your emails. By using an email system, you are able to track who opens your emails, who forwards them, who clicks links, etc.
Once you have this information, you are ready to make the decision whether or not to use an email appeal. Keep the following in mind when writing an email appeal:
- Use a catchy subject line to ensure the email is opened. It is probably not a good idea to use a subject such as, “Donation Request.”
- Ask for a donation at least three times in your appeal. People tend to skim emails so you want to be sure they understand exactly what you want them to do and that they take action.
- Use emotional triggers to connect with your readers. Stories are great emotional connectors.
- Use short paragraphs and bullet points so the email is easy and quick to read.
- Stay away from buzz words, jargon and acronyms.
Above all throughout the email, create opportunities for the reader to partner with you. Instead of focusing on needs, focus on opportunities. Just the very word opportunity is more likely to get people excited about what the organization is doing. Opportunities sort of turn the need into a privilege. You are offering someone an “opportunity” to be part of the solution…..you are “allowing” them to be included.
Once the letter is written, scan it yourself. How many times do you use the word “you?” Using the word you helps the reader to connect and identify themselves as part of your solution. It actually invites them in, so use it frequently when it fits.
Use a powerful closing to wrap up the letter.
- Thank donors in advance for their support.
- Give them a little reminder about why their support is so important. (What is the opportunity they get to be part of?)
- Create urgency. The last thing you want the reader to do is to put aside your email or delete it. You want them to take action right away.
Think about the timing of your letter and when it will be received. Research is showing that the best days and times to send email are Tuesday through Thursday either first thing in the morning or between 1 and 3 pm. And, one of the great benefits of using email…you can resend it to those who did not open it the first time around (because we all get busy and miss emails sometimes).