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May 31, 2017

Fundraising E-mail: Some Words of Caution

There’s been a lot of buzz in the fundraising blogosphere about e-mail lately, with a few major studies showing that more may not be better when it comes to fundraising e-mail.

This day had to come. As more and more organizations send out digital solicitations, it’s fundraising e-mail that’s the new junk mail for many of our donors.

We are reaching the point where organizations have to start using e-mail in a more strategic way. Less may indeed be more.

Below are some important themes around fundraising e-mail that have emerged over the last couple of weeks and we’ve pointed you to some great references to explore them further:

  1. E-mail isn’t free. You still have to create content and go through a design and approval process. There’s a cost to time being spent on e-mail and you need to calculate that opportunity cost to get the true “net income” of your efforts. Check out The Cost of Costless Communication from Donor Voice.
  2. Spam is costing you revenue. The research group EveryAction estimates that an average of 23% of potential revenue is lost due to fundraising e-mails being relegated to “spam”. Check out EveryAction’s Report here.
  3. There’s such a thing as too much e-mail. Just like direct mail before it, there’s a point at which donors stop responding to e-mail. More e-mail does not necessarily equal more fundraising revenue. Check out No One Wants More Email from The Agitator.

The good news is that if you are a small organization starting out your e-mail effort, you can use these learnings to make your e-mail initiative more efficient and effective. For those that have larger e-mail programs, there are ways to clean up your e-mail file and be more strategic about how you use e-mail to cultivate, solicit, and steward donors.

The bottom line? Just like every other fundraising tactic, your e-mail communication has to be tailored to build relationships that are as personal as possible for as many people as possible, while also keeping an eye on direct cost and opportunity cost.

It’s tempting to think of e-mail as a quick and free way to raise money. But, use caution! E-mail is now reaching the point where we have to think before pushing that send button.


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