Email should be personal communicationWho remembers life without email?

It’s easy to take for granted. But we have access to marvelous free or inexpensive tools that put email communications in every organization’s toolbox.

The ease of use, and the proliferation of beautiful templates – ready made! – mean even someone with little experience can create beautiful emails.

But are your communications looking as fabulous to your audience as they are to you?

And are they working as you need them to work?

Because you have a tool does not mean you must use it

Communications takes work. You want a full and well-organized toolbox, of course. Keeping it in shape requires cultivation and attention.

But your plumber doesn’t paint your house because he has a brush in his box. And you want to pay attention to your goals, not just the pretty template you can make.

So, before you hit “send”, ask yourself: is this pretty or effective?

(No, they’re not mutually exclusive. But one matters, and the other doesn’t – nearly as much.)

Then ask yourself:

  • Who will receive this?
  • What reaction do I want them to have?
  • What action do I want them to take?
  • Is this entire email – beginning with the subject line – compelling? Urgent? Intriguing?

We’re swimming in communications now. I’ll bet your email inbox(es) are as full as mine. There simply isn’t enough time or interest to open each one.

So why should yours be different?

Personal is more appealing than generic.

If your email list isn’t in good shape, and you avoid using fields like first name, commit to fixing that.

How to get the information you need? Ask. Send a short email and ask each person how they would like to be addressed.

Meantime, try segmenting your list. Those with complete information shouldn’t get the less-interesting email because you don’t have every first name (or other key information).

Personalization is not just using the recipient’s name. It’s about the language you choose. Better formatting can also signal a more personal (and therefore important) message.

Is it relevant?

Don’t write because it’s Friday. Write because there’s something important your recipients will want to know.

Is the email message only a graphic?

A graphic alone is broadcast when you should try for one-to-one.

Here’s an example. Someone spent time creating a pretty graphic. But there’s no strong call to action here. And the graphic wasn’t even linked to anything. Will enough people copy the email address from this graphic and RSVP on their own?

Graphic with no linkAnd does it feel special to be invited when it’s not at all personalized?

I’ve also received an “appeal” that consisted only of a word cloud and a hashtag. Made me want to cry.

If you’re asking “everyone” to act, you’re asking no one. And a graphic – no personalization, just a broadcast message – is clearly intended for everyone.

Is it signed by a real person?

A request from an organization is much less compelling than a request from a particular human. The best donor communication is one to one – even if you have a list of thousands.

How are you evaluating your email performance?

If you’re not measuring, you’re not doing anything useful.

And then consider what success will look like.

Opens, clicks, and action are all important. The last is the real key though.

So your mass-produced email – are people opening it? Then you may still have some goodwill you can use.

Are your calls to action being clicked? Are people interesting in doing what you ask?

And once clicked, how many people are acting? Are they filling out a petition or making a gift?

Every step along the way gives you opportunities to measure your effectiveness. That’s great news! Because now you have the ability to experiment and find the best way to reach the people you need to reach.

Remember, too, that the world is multi-channel now. Be sure you consider off-line responses as well – a check sent in the mail in response to an email solicitation, for instance.

Think about relationships

If your email is directed toward “people on our list”, you’re missing opportunities. Really think about your audience, use the information available to track and measure responses.

Tracy Malloy Curtis shared this email on Twitter:

Email done right

If a business can make you feel that good, why can’t your organization?

Then adapt what you do.

But remember above all that fundraising communications are one to one. Your goal is to use these great tools to create that feeling. Your goal may be action – but it should also be more long-term. So you have the opportunity to keep learning and doing better.

One size fits all is a myth.

Do the work. Learn from your audience’s reactions. Segment your list so the message better fits the recipient.

Build trust by sending email that people want to open.

Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash