Email is a great fundraising tool. Whether you’re sending a stand alone fundraising email or running a multi-channel fundraising campaign, email has the potential to help your non-profit reach its fundraising campaign goals. Plus, in an annual giving program email helps you scale your relationship building efforts during those in-between campaign periods.
Creating a fundraising email campaign is key for growing a relationship with a constituent when building a deeper emotional connection with your donors. Telling stories in your emails can help you achieve that. In this post I will share with you 5 easy-to-follow steps in order for you to use a story in your next fundraising email.
5 STEPS TO USING A STORY IN YOUR NEXT FUNDRAISING EMAIL CAMPAIGN
Telling a story in an email is a very cost-effective way to share your non-profit’s stories. All it takes is a bit of text and sometimes a picture that can express more than words. Here are the steps you can follow to build your next fundraising email that tells a story.
STEP 1. SELECT THE STORY YOU WILL SHARE
As fundraisers, we have so many stories to tell. But how do we decide which story to tell in a fundraising email? Before selecting a story, it is important to understand what your main goals are by sending out the fundraising email campaign and what you would like to achieve by telling this story.
I recommend you to read this article I wrote on why setting non-profit communications goals & objectives, follow these tips and you’ll create the most engaging email fundraising campaign. And if you need help getting organized, be sure to download a copy of the monthly content planner kit.
There are 2 things I recommend you to consider:
- Funding Priorities: You have to know what it is that you want to get funded during the year.
- Know your audience: By knowing your audience, you can create calls to actions that are attractive to them. Some articles you might want to read about knowing your audience:
- 10 Ways to engage your nonprofit’s audience using stories.
- 5 Ways to use your audience persona to tell a better story
STEP 2. DECIDE IF THE STORY WILL BE CONTAINED IN THE EMAIL OR IF THE PEOPLE CAN READ MORE ON A LANDING PAGE
Depending on which route you go, the workflow will be slightly different. For instance, if the story is contained in the email it will probably be shorter and you won’t have to worry about linking to a website page that has the rest of the story.
Here’s an example of an email that gives a snippet of the story while encouraging donors to click through to watch a video.
STEP 3. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE
Writing copy for a fundraising email isn’t rocket science, I promise. Use shorter sentences and paragraphs to keep the eyes moving through the email. While storytelling is about rich details, focus on conveying one key emotion. Anything that does not support that needs to go! In terms of word count, if you’re telling the whole story in one email, aim for 500 to 750 words. If you’re going to include a link to read/view the rest of the story, keep the copy to about 250 words – short and sweet!
A great piece of advice I got from my dad when writing an essay at school was “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell them, tell ‘em, then tell them again.”
These are my 4 key tips to write an engaging fundraising email:
- The first 120 to 150 word of a fundraising email are powerful
- Start with a paragraph that hooks readers
- Build a narrative and strengthen the argument
- Build a bridge between the message and the call to action
Read the full article on How to Write Fundraising Emails that Hook Readers and learn more about these tips.
STEP 4. FORMAT WITH AN IMAGE
We’re visual beings and it’s been consistently proven with tests that an email with an image performs better. I would recommend choosing a large image and placing it about half way through your email to break up the text and keep eyes moving down the email.
Also, be sure to hyperlink your image to your donation page as people will try to click on it.
STEP 5. SEND AND EVALUATE
Once you’ve sent out your fundraising email, build in time for evaluation. This is one of the most important exercises you can do in fundraising and communications. There really is no point to doing what we do if we are not going to be reflective and find ways to improve how we work.
A GREAT EXAMPLE OF A FUNDRAISING EMAIL
Source: Variety, The Children’s Charity
The following fundraising email is from Variety BC, who happens to be one of my clients. Variety is a non-profit fundraising organization that funds grants to kids throughout the province so they have whatever they need to thrive, including medical equipment, specialized therapies, tutoring support and mobility equipment.
In this fundraising email, Variety BC shared the story of a child and their family who were helped by a Variety grant. Our goal with this story was to show donors that a grant has a ripple effect beyond the child it helps.
The story is inspirational and shows how the organization can achieve their goals with the help of donors. No effort is done alone, it is teamwork.
Variety BC’s email fundraising program has been a huge success. You can read a full case study of how Variety BC raised $1M in 15 months using email.
Writing fundraising emails can be daunting when there’s no clear path on how to do it. Follow these 5 important steps and get the results you’re looking for.
- 1Select the story you will share
- 2Decide if the story will be contained in the email or if the people can read more on a landing page
- 3Write your story and email
- 4Format with an image
- 5Send & Evaluate
I invite you to share with us your next fundraising email and the results you got!
Want to see a behind-the-scenes of a successful email fundraising program? Download the case study below.