Did you know that e-mail is one of the most powerful tools at your organization’s disposal? When it comes to fundraising technology, so often the talk revolves around social media, crowdfunding, and your website. All of those things are important. But in my experience, the single most important component in your online fundraising arsenal is e-mail.
Why Email Matters for Growing Your Fundraising
E-mail is so powerful because it is so easy (and cheap) to use. Unlike paid online advertising or direct mail, you don’t have to spend much to get your fundraising message directly into the hands of your donors and prospects. Unlike crowdfunding or your website, it’s not hard or intimidating to set up a new e-mail campaign. And unlike social media, when you send an e-mail you can be reasonably sure that your donors will at least see your message.
To be sure, social media is important for your fundraising program. Social networks are a great way to stay in front of your donors, prospects, and friends. But the vast majority of people who are connected to you on social media won’t see any particular message you send out. Social networks like Facebook will only show your post to 5-10% of those who follow you (unless you pay for advertising).
With e-mail, on the other hand, your faith-based non-profit can be sure that the vast majority of those you send it to will at least see the e-mail in their inbox. Most people check their e-mail several times a day, with many reviewing their inboxes constantly on their mobile devices. E-mail is a surefire way for your church or other faith-focused organization to stay top of mind with your donors and friends.
How to Use E-Mail to Grow Your Fundraising
Because e-mail is such a powerful tool, you can use it in a number of different ways in your fundraising program.
When it comes to cultivation and stewardship, your organization’s e-mail newsletter should be the backbone of your donor communications program. In order to be successful, your e-mail newsletter should be sent on a regular basis (at a minimum, once every other month… though once per month is preferable). The newsletter should be interesting, enlightening, and keep donors up to date on what is happening at your non-profit.
I also like to tell non-profits that they should not be raising money – at all – in their e-mail newsletters. When you make subtle asks in your newsletters (or include donate now buttons), it ruins the idea that this is a cultivation-only mailing… something meant to build a stronger relationship between you and your donors. Instead, what should have been a relationship-builder becomes an ask… but not a good ask. E-mail newsletters are never as effective at generating donations as stand-alone e-mail asks.
For that reason, you should be sending out a regularly-scheduled e-mail newsletter, and separately sending out e-mail appeal letters that solicit donations. Many non-profits have found that sending out multiple e-mail appeals per year works best, meaning that 2 or 3 times per year you send out a stand-alone fundraising solicitation to your list. This stand-alone solicitation is the e-mail equivalent of a housefile donor appeal letter… and is written in much the same way, albeit shorter to account for shorter attention spans online.
When sending out e-mail appeal letters, you should also test whether sending flights of e-mails (2 or 3 e-mails with the same theme and same ask, sent within a week or two of each other) to see if they are more effective. Because e-mail inboxes are getting more cluttered each day, many organization have found sending out flights of e-mails to be the most effective way to generate donations online.
Remember, e-mail is one of the most effective online fundraising tools your faith-focused organization has at its disposal. Use e-mail to cultivate and steward your donors, to build relationships with them, and to solicit financial support several times per year.
Written By: Joe Garecht
Joe Garecht has almost twenty years' experience in non-profit fundraising. He is the President of Garecht Fundraising Associates and previously served as the Founder of The Fundraising Authority, one of the world's largest providers of online fundraising classes and seminars.
He has served as an executive director, development director, and consultant to thousands of non-profits worldwide. Joe is the author of How to Raise More Money for Any Non-Profit and several other books on non-profit development. You can find him online at Garecht.com.