Want Better Email Fundraising Success? Make It Easier to Read

Donor Communication, Fundraising, Intermediate

By Jeremy Reis

One way to make sure your email fundraising appeals stand out from the rest is to make them easy to read. No one wants to spend time wading through a long, dense block of text; shorter, simpler messages are more likely to capture someone’s attention and hold it long enough to deliver your fundraising pitch. Here are a few tips on how to make your email appeals more readable and therefore more effective.

You spend countless hours crafting the perfect fundraising appeal, but all your hard work could be for nothing if potential donors can’t understand what you’re trying to say. In order to ensure that your message is getting across loud and clear, use these tips to make your fundraising appeals easier to read.

Anything that puts a barrier between the reader and the ability to give should be eliminated. This includes the design of your emails and landing pages. There are several elements you should consider when you review the design of your email appeals:

  1. Layout
  2. Photos
  3. Fonts

The layout of your email should have a clear flow from your central proposal to the reader to the call to action. Multiple columns or embedded tables reduce comprehension for the reader and should be eliminated. In our testing, overly designed emails reduce response, in other words, the more graphical elements in your email, the less response you’ll receive. Believe it or not, but often (not always), plain text emails outperform graphical emails.

Include a call-to-action (CTA). Every good email should have a CTA, and fundraising appeals are no exception. Tell donors exactly what you want them to do, whether it’s clicking on a link or making a donation. Be clear and concise in your request; if donors are confused about what you’re asking them to do, they’re less likely (if not downright unwilling) to do it.

Mobile layout should also be considered when designing. According to MediaPost, 55% of the population reads email on their phone. If you have a large banner ad that isn’t mobile responsive, it can mess with the layout of the email and make it unreadable on a mobile device. Be sure to test your emails across a variety of devices and email clients.

Use images sparingly. It’s true that an image can be worth a thousand words, but too many pictures in an email can actually make it harder to process information quickly. If you do choose to use images in your email appeal, make sure they support and reinforce the text rather than distract from it. A helpful visual aid can be an effective way to drive home your point and encourage donors to take action, but be sure not overdo it! If you’re using a photo in your appeal, make sure it relates to the appeal and adds emotionally to the decision point to give or not. I’ve seen situations where a photo of a smiling person in a full garden has suppressed giving as the reader thinks “they don’t need my help,” so selecting the right photo can make a big difference in whether or not someone donates.

You may consider eliminating the photo entirely in an A/B test. We’ve seen success with fewer images in emails (or none in our case).

The right font can make a difference in your email appeal and landing page. Both font size and font selection is crucial, if you have an older audience, selecting the right font size will impact the readability of your email. Use common web standards such as blue and underlined for links. Changing the way people expect something works leads to confusion and confusion leads to people deleting your email. Choose standard web fonts such as Arial or Verdana for your email to maximize readability.

Proofread before hitting send! Always proofread your email before sending it out into the world; even just catching one typo can make a big difference in how credible and professional your message comes across. If possible, have someone else read over your email as well; fresh eyes can often spot errors that you’ve missed after looking at the same thing for too long.

Remember: if your recipients can’t read an email, they won’t give.

Email fundraising appeals can be an effective way to reach potential donors – but only if they’re done right! By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your emails are easy for recipients to read and understand – meaning more people will take notice of your message and be more likely to take action as a result!


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