Anatomy of an Effective Fundraising Email

by Carol Buckheit on June 5, 2012

A short while ago, the fine folks at M+R Strategic Services released their annual 2012 eNonprofits Benchmark Study, summarizing  voluminous data on the latest trends in online fundraising, advocacy, and messaging.

So, what did the numbers say about the effectiveness of nonprofit fundraising emails? Drum roll, please:

Average open rate: 12%
Average click-through rate: .5%
Average response rate: .08%
Average online gift: $62

So, think about it. If a nonprofit has, say, 10,000 email subscribers, then they could expect this from their next fundraising email:

1200 people would open it
50 people would click any link in the message
8 people would make a donation
Total money raised would be about $496

Two take-homes: 1) Better be very intentional about growing your email list, and 2) Craft top-notch, flawless email appeals every time, because your window of opportunity isn’t all that wide.

Here’s a well-done fundraising email from the Nature Conservancy:

Nature Conservancy fundraising email

What I like:

  • Clean design
  • Eye-catching images
  • No less than 6 links to their donation page throughout the email
  • A sense of urgency: Deadline of June 15
  • Incentive (Double your gift)
  • Personalized! My name is in the salutation, and there’s an (electronic) signature from the President/CEO
  • Concrete examples of where my money is going
  • The P.S. (one of the most important parts of a fundraising letter) points the donor to the website for more information
  • Once on the donation page, it’s easy to contribute. Navigation is easy, charity rating is highlighted, and there is another reminder of how the donation is making a difference.

Good stuff.

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