Over the last year, I’ve written over 400 fundraising emails just for political candidates.
This is just one small part of my job, and yet all told, these emails and the accompanying drafts, research and back-and-forth with clients represent an incredible amount of time spent in the money chase.
And as you might imagine, despite being a veteran with more than a decade of campaigns under my belt, I’ve learned a few lessons and tricks, just this election cycle. Never one to show all my cards, here are some key trends and tips I want to pass along to you, dear reader:
It’s all in the Subject: So you’ve drafted a great email. So what? If your subject line isn’t catchy, few recipients will open it. I’ve seen more than my share of campaigns bicker over the placement of commas and other minutia while ignoring the big details that actually matter. Here are a few subject lines from campaigns past and present (not all mine) which have produced strong open rates:
- URGENT: Response Needed!
- Invoice Past Due
- Are you still there?
- Can I ask you a question?
- You won’t believe this…
- Nancy Pelosi Is WINNING
- Terrible news…
- I’ll be honest with you
- LAST CHANCE: Are you ready?
Graphics Needed? Maybe Not: Do you love fancy graphics exploding across your emails? Certainly most campaigns seem to. But graphics aren’t a substitute for a strong message – and emails aren’t social media. In other words, when it comes to email, a picture is rarely worth a thousand words. In fact, often the opposite.
The goal is to deliver a crisp, clear message that drives equally clear action: visit this site, click here to donate, get up from your chair this instant and vote. Keeping distractions to a minimum is critical, as is telling your story and driving action with the power of your words.
Does Size Matter? Stop laughing; it’s a hotly debated question, especially in fundraising. At BEAST, one member of our team is an accomplished direct mail fundraiser. He’s been trained to write in 1,000+ words what we’ll write in 200 or less in email. And generally, in email, we’ve found shorter and to the point performs better. It depends on the story being told – and, of course, who you’re telling it to.
Stop with All the Links: If the purpose of your email is to raise money, give recipients a single destination: your donation page. Certainly, include several links to the donation page in your email, but only to your donation page.
Avoid adding postscripts about clicking here to volunteer, signing up for a newsletter, RSVP’ing for a rally, or getting Mrs. Candidate’s great recipe for apple pie. Every opportunity you give someone not to donate is a contribution you’ve potentially lost.
Urgency—Never Let Up: If I send an email touching on a hot button issue of the day (I’d like to thank Obamacare for being the gift that keeps on giving) it’ll get a good response. To get a great response, add urgency.
Create a fundraising goal (“Help me raise $10,000 before the end of the month to combat these failed liberal policies!”) or donor goals (“I need 100 new donors to my campaign before the important deadline in 3 days — can I count on you?”) to help inspire action. The average person sends and receives more than 100 emails per day. During campaign season, yours won’t be the only request for money they get. Creating a sense of urgency can help you stand out.
I could go on and on about the multitude of lessons I’ve learned in digital fundraising so far this cycle, but we’ll continue in future blogs. Please share your questions, experiences and ideas with me ([email protected]) and together we’ll continue to improve our campaigns and make our digital fundraising programs more successful.