5 things every nonprofit needs to know about emails

Email is still one of the most powerful communication channels we have with our customers, donors, and community. It's also often one of the most underutilized. When it is used, how do can you make it the most powerful email possible? How do you make sure it will convert the reader? Here are 5 key tips that ever nonprofit needs to know about emails. If you're interested in learning more, join our free webinar this month: The secret to converting donors in emails.

1. Your subject line is the most important part

You can spend all the time in the world perfecting the copy, the call to action, choosing the right images - but if no one opens your email then none of that matters. An email has just seconds to catch someone’s attention. You have even less characters if they are checking their inbox on their phone.

Writing a catching subject line is one part strategy and one part knowing your audience through historical email data. Here are a few general rules of thumb:

  • Note the length - a 2015 study showed subject lines of 61-70 characters had the highest read rate; this could be impacted by how mobile your audience is

  • Make it personal - including a reader’s name or the pronoun ‘you’ can increase open rates versus not including personalization

  • Clickbait your title  - clickbait headlines are bait because they work; you can take elements from this strategy to improve your subject lines while maintaining your voice. Try keywords like “5 reasons why”, “what you need to know”, or “How to”

Pay attention to the open rates of your emails and if you can, try testing subject lines. For example, split your email list into two (A and B) and see which subject lines get a higher open rate.

2. Know how to use your lede

What is a lede? It’s the first part of any piece of writing with the purpose of engaging the reader. This could be a sentence or a paragraph. There are many different kinds of emails you will send for different objectives. One email might be to share a piece of thought leadership content, another might be a direct call to donate. Either way if you want people to click, know how to use your lede - hook the readers so they click through.

Leverage emotive content right away and don’t be scared to pose something that evokes emotion. You want people to feel like they don’t have a choice but click through. Generally don’t get too lengthy - the exceptions should be because the objective of the email aligns with a personal appeal.

Here’s a great article on writing strong ledes.

3. The call to action is your chance to convert

What do you want your readers to do when they read your email? Have a an objective with every email you send, and make it obvious to readers once they open it. Make it clear, actionable, and bold.

One great tip is to use buttons versus in-text links. In a test, Campaign Monitor found that a button call to action increased clickthrough by 28%!

It’s also important the clickthrough takes your audience where they expect to go. More on this in our last tip below.

4. You should be sending a lot more emails

You always should consider how often you are reaching into your audience’s inbox but the key is to send valuable, resourceful, and interesting content each time. You might send one email a month, or even a quarter - you can send an email every week with the right content.

Think of emails as more than just newsletters. You can share interesting organizational updates, opportunities to give or get involved, or themed monthly news or industry round ups. Think about the different audiences you have, the goals for each audience, and how you can engage them via email 2 to 3 times a month.

With different audiences, you can segment your lists which allow you to be more targeted. As you have specific messages or calls to action, you can send to the most relevant groups which gives you a better conversion. Another interesting way to segment is by seeing who interacted with a certain email, then follow up with those readers with a new targeted message.

5. Is your clickthrough one click-to-action?

A reader might open your email, click through, and still not take the final action you wanted them to take. There are many reasons this might be the case but there are a few reasons you can investigate. First, the clickthrough doesn’t take them to where they thought they were going. Make sure the messaging and call to action in your email matches where the reader will end up.

Another reason may be that the clickthrough asked them to take one more action before your desired final action - the barrier is too high, and the reader decided to bail. Reduce the number steps the reader has to take to convert. For example, if the button says “Donate Now” then the first thing they see should let them donate immediately.

If you are asking your reader or donor to leave their email for you, make sure it’s as easy as possible to take that final desired action.

Those five tips will help take your emails from good to great! What tips have you learned in your email marketing? Leave yours in the comments below.

Interested in learning more about email strategy for nonprofits? Join HandUp and Project Homeless Connect for this free webinar “The secret to converting donors in email” on Tuesday, August 23rd.

HandUp is an online fundraising platform built for nonprofits. Learn more about how it works here: handup.org/campaigns