Why Your Fundraising Email Failed, And How To Fix It

Created by Yodelpop Team

Why Your Fundraising Email Failed, And How To Fix It

There are four billion internet users with email, and 99% of them check their inboxes every day. So naturally email marketing is a powerful tool when used correctly. 

Correctly is the key. Not all email fundraising campaigns are successful. And if you just encountered results that didn’t meet your expectations…congratulations! It might not feel like it now, but you've gained knowledge that will help you to change tactics so that your future efforts will bring in more growth opportunities for your nonprofit.While fundraising email might be just one of many ways to maximize the efficacy of your marketing campaign efforts, it’s important to understand how best to learn from unsuccessful campaigns so that future campaigns can truly soar. After all, over 60% of users across all generations feel that email is the most personal method of communication from brands. You can use that to bring in leads and conversions, so long as you learn from your missteps (and follow some of the advice below).

What Does a Successful Fundraising Email Campaign Look Like?

Naturally, if you’re going through the effort of launching a fundraising email campaign, you’ll want to bring in data that tracks the success, or lack thereof, of your email. Analyzing your email performance is crucial to setting you up for future success. 

You can measure that data with email platforms like Constant Contact, Mailchimp, or Campaigner, or you can use all-in-one marketing software like HubSpot. 

What does success look like? You’ll likely be tracking the following data points.

  • Open rate: How many people opened the email
  • Click rate: How many people clicked on a link in the email
  • Unsubscribes: How many people unsubscribed from an email type
  • Undeliverables: How many addresses couldn't be delivered to 

While all of these metrics are important, the first one—open rate—is the most critical. If your open rate is low, your ROI is low—the time and money you're investing in email campaigns are being wasted.

Depending on your software, the ability to track the following might be a little harder to find, but ultimately your fundraising email should see a rise in:

  • Conversions: The goal of a fundraising email is, well, to raise funds. Bringing in new donors is the reason for the campaign in the first place. 
  • Leads: Not all “wins” happen at once. Sometimes a well-directed email message can get your foot in the door with someone who might end up helping your cause later down the line. 

Now, when you’re tracking these data points and you discover that your fundraising email isn’t performing as well as you had hoped, you’ll have to do some diagnostics to determine what went wrong and how you can fix it. The first thing you have to consider is…

The Elephant In the Email: Your List

Many nonprofits try to improve their open rates with a better subject line. Subject lines are important, but poor open rates start way before you write your email.

It’s essential to keep up with your email list, looking at list quality and list segmentation. You need to keep your list fresh, up to date, and properly segmented to make sure the right emails are reaching the right people, that you’re not wasting time and effort by reaching out to low-quality contacts, and that you are creating content that converts. (If you want some additional advice for full marketing content plans, we've got you covered).

Some common signs of a poorly maintained email list include:

  • Purchased contacts: If you paid an agency for a list of email addresses, we’re sorry to say that they likely will not be worth the money. The best contacts—those who are more likely to lead to successful fundraising efforts—are acquired organically or through intentional marketing efforts.

  • Old lists: When was the last time you went through your email list to remove bounced emails or unsubscribe requests? You’ll find your open rates can increase simply by removing outdated contacts and keeping your list fresh and up-to-date. 

Ultimately, you want to draw your ideal supporters to your content using the inbound marketing methodology: you publish the content they want, optimize it with good SEO, and couple it with a call-to-action that will get them on your list. To do so, you need to engage with the right people. 

Removing old or irrelevant contacts has many benefits, such as lowering costs, increasing ROI, avoiding spam complaints, and protecting your reputation. 

How to Help Your Fundraising Email to Succeed

There’s no magic formula to a successful fundraising email campaign, but there are some tactics you can use that can help with your nonprofit content marketing efforts. 

Segment Your Contacts, and Your Content

Most email marketing isn’t one-size-fits-all. You shouldn’t be sending the same content to every user. Your contacts need to be segmented so that you can send them content they relate to. When they sign up for your list, have them answer one question about themselves on the signup form. 

Typically, that question is either, "Which of the following best describes you?" or "What's your biggest challenge?" It can also be, "Which program/issue are you most interested in?" Give them a drop-down list, and use their answer to determine what content you'll send them in the future.

From that point, start segmenting your content. You can send your general email once a month, but send out other emails to smaller groups, each with content targeted to a different supporter persona—starting with a subject line that calls out to them based on their biggest interest or role. 

These days, email templates should contain everything you need to update and customize content easily. A nonprofit marketing firm can help you update your email template to increase your open rates and click-through rate. 

General Best Practices for Email Fundraising Campaigns

While some of the following might seem obvious, the best-run email marketing campaigns usually adhere to the following “rules” or guidelines. 

  • Be intentional and effective with your subject line.
    Your subject line is the first barrier to entry for those on your distribution list. Simply put, if the subject isn’t engaging, then no one will open it. You should put as much thought into your subject line as to the rest of your fundraising message.
  • Formatting is key. You want possible donors to read your message, but if your formatting makes it difficult or unpleasant to read, your campaign will not be successful. (HubSpot has some great tips for how to design an email campaign to avoid common pitfalls in formatting.)
  • Content that engages and has the right call to action. You should make sure that your fundraising email tells a story that will encourage donations and future leads. That should include a single clear call-to-action so that you can maximize your chance for conversions.
  • Personalize greetings. Most automated email marketing tools can offer the chance to personalize greetings in your messages. Studies show that personalization can increase your click-through rate by 14%
  • Include images. This goes along with formatting. Images help break up chunks of text, making it easier for the reader to take in your information and helping drive them to your call-to-action. 
  • Coordinate social media with your email campaigns. Including buttons on your emails that lead to your social pages can increase future engagement, but similarly, using your social media pages to highlight your email campaigns can help increase your performance from active, engaged users. Just because they are separate channels doesn’t mean they can’t work together to increase engagement and performance. 

Not all fundraising emails will lead to perfect results, but if you’ve experienced a failed campaign, don’t worry. You can use that data to inform the content and subjects of your future fundraising emails, and by following the right approach in the future, you can ensure that your next effort is much more likely to succeed and to help your nonprofit to grow in the future.