When you're trying to raise money online from your members, web site visitors, or other constituents, keep these 13 tips in mind:
- Ask for money for special projects or other hot items, not for general support - and set a deadline. It's generally easier to raise money for something specific with a deadline than for institutional support. "Your gift of $25, $50, $100 - whatever you can afford - will help us get these families through the holiday season." If the gift is tax deductible, say so.
- Ask as many people as you can (without spamming). The more people you ask, the more gifts you'll get. If you don't have a big list, see if other organizations will send your message out to their members for you. (It's usually not OK for another organization to give you its email list, because the people on it didn't give you permission to email them. In every email, use a "tell-a-friend" feature to make it easy for people to pass along the fundraising appeal.
- Make the "Ask" the main message in your email. While you're probably sending a regular monthly e-newsletter and/or activist alerts to the people on your list, when you want money, don't bury the Ask in a longer message with other items - it won't get enough attention.
- Make sure recipients know (and like) the sender of your e-mail. In the "From" line, use a celebrity or your President or Chair if that makes sense, or just use the name of your organization.
- In the "Subject" line, make sure it's clear why you're writing - and don't be deceptive.
- Keep the copy short and punchy, and give people links to the donation page within a few lines of the top. Repeat it every paragraph or so. (Some people get the idea and just want to click to the donation form.)
- HTML (Web-like) emails generally get a better response than plain text, though they do take more time to format and test.
- Localize your messages according to users' zip codes, if that's relevant.
- Make sure the content of all your messages - fundraising, informational, activist - is interesting and useful to readers, not just to staff and board. Track click-throughs, so you know what gets read, and send email surveys from time to time.
- Ask everywhere you can - on your Website, in your emails, in the "signature" at the bottom of your email messages, and offline too.
- Build your list. Via every channel - meetings, events, parties, at the workplace, in your e-mails, and on your sites - ask people for their e-mail addresses, so you can build your list. Put an email signup form on every Web page, and include a link at the bottom of every email.
- Test. Email makes it easy, quick, and cheap to test different messages, subject lines, and Asks ($15 or $25 or $32.50?). If you've got a list of about 40,000 or more, you could send out two versions of your e-mail, each to 5,000 or 10,000 people, monitor the results through an email service provider, then "roll out" the more successful one 48 hours later to the rest of the list.
- Integrate your email with your mail, phone, and events fundraising. It's good for prospects to hear your message via several channels, and you can also use email to alert people that a letter or call is coming, or ask whether they read the letter.
Nick Allen is the President of Donordigital (www.donordigital.com), a direct marketing firm that provides consulting and implementation for online fundraising, advocacy, and marketing campaigns. This article is copyrighted by Donordigital.
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