12 Ways to Improve Your Annual Appeal Email

Ready to compete

It’s hard to break through in email these days. My personal email account is through Gmail who is kind enough to segment the emails for me. On any given day, I will get 10-15 emails in my “Primary” box and 30-50 emails in my “Promotions” box.  Your annual appeal email is in the middle of those 30-50 emails.

How can your nonprofit compete for a donor’s attention?

Apply the latest marketing email best practices:

  1. Write a subject heading that will intrigue without being mysterious. The idea is to be short, to the point and encourage a viewer to open the email and read more.
  2. Make sure that it is obvious that the nonprofit is the sender. People delete emails pretty quickly if they don’t recognize the name.  If, on the other hand, they delete your email once they know it is from you, they were probably not going to give through an email no matter what you did differently.
  3. Consider the rest of the email preview panel. What will the recipient be able to read without opening the email? Send a test email to yourself and see what works and doesn’t work. What visual or emotional words can you use that will create a sensory reaction?
  4. Include visuals or images. I’m sure your copy is phenomenal, but images draw more views (this is also best practices for social media posts).
  5. Personalize it. Most of you probably do this for all snail mail solicitations.  Now, it’s time to make sure your online requests reflect your knowledge of the donor and their interests.
  6. Write as if you were writing to a friend. Create a persona that you are targeting and have that person in mind as your write your copy and choose your images. It will transform the tone and feel into something much more user friendly.
  7. Add a short compelling story. Engaging the prospect in a short, compelling paragraph is still a necessity. Unless it is a second or third follow up email, then no story is necessary.
  8. Ask questions that allow a prospect to consider the possibilities. What do you want them to be thinking about when they give?
  9. Create a sense of urgency. People respond to deadlines. In other words a vague ask will often get a vague response.
  10. Include a monthly giving option. Online giving and monthly giving are natural partners as both offer efficient giving opportunities. To read more about monthly giving, read David A. Mersky’s series, Creating a Monthly Giving Program
  11. Keep it positive. Assume your prospect is scanning his/her email while drinking coffee and eating breakfast. Fear tactics will encourage an immediate delete.
  12. Add a link to an update or new information that might interest them. You want them to know that while you are asking for a donation, you are using their previous gift wisely.

This is not to suggest that you become aggressive online solicitors sending out daily emails.  However, if you do not have an email annual appeal strategy incorporated into development plan, you are missing out on donations, engagement and stewardship opportunities. Recipients can delete an email or unsubscribe, which is not a statement your nonprofit but a statement about their preferences.  So note their preferences, and move on. Offering each prospect a personalized experience is a necessity in today’s world.