Volunteers can offer vital help to your institution and to your alumni community, but the benefits can be even greater for the volunteer. By offering volunteer opportunities, you provide an outlet for alumni to gain experience, develop skills, improve career prospects, meet new people and increase their affinity to your institution. Asking alumni to share something other than money cultivates lasting committed relationships. These deepened relationships, as well as a focus on time versus money can also impact their willingness to eventually donate.
Research helps shed light on the relationship between time and money when it comes to volunteering. A study by Fidelity Charitable* reported that “Eighty-seven percent of volunteers say there is overlap between the organizations they support financially and where they volunteer, with 43 percent describing significant or total overlap with the organizations they support financially and as a volunteer.” It’s unclear which comes first – the volunteering or the donations but they are certainly connected. This report finds that 42% volunteer before they give to an organization; But for the other 58%, it is the other way around.
Another study “The Happiness of Giving: The Time Ask Effective” further substantiates that asking alumni for their time might very well help enhance their giving over time. The study delineates the connection between time and money through a series of experiments in the lab and in the field. This study “examines how a focus on time versus money can lead to two distinct mindsets that impact consumers’ willingness to donate to charitable causes. Their experiments, reveal that asking individuals to think about “how much time they would like to donate” (versus “how much money they would like to donate”) to a charity increases the amount that they ultimately donate to the charity.
Fueling this effect are differential mindsets activated by time versus money: one that leads to the consideration of feelings and emotional meaning derived from an action and another that leads to the consideration of economic utility. Thinking about time activates goals of emotional meaning/well-being and beliefs involving personal happiness. In contrast, thinking about money suppresses such emotional goals and instead activates goals of economic utility and beliefs about attainment of such goals. Consequently, answering a question about one’s intention to volunteer time makes salient the emotional significance of the event, whereby people view charity as a means towards happiness. This mindset in turn leads to a more positive inclination towards giving to charity and hence an increase in actual contributions.
Time to Increase Your Corps of Volunteers?
Since affinity begins while on campus, take advantage of that time to begin cultivating the volunteer spirit. Opportunities to be involved in peer organizations such as clubs, fraternities and sororities, participation in intramurals, community service opportunities, attendance at athletic events, student leadership opportunities and opportunities to interact with alumni all foster engagement. All of these types of actions and activities relate to donations to an alma mater.
Post graduation, reach far and wide for alumni volunteers! Capitalize on the affinity, personal connections and relationships developed during their time with you. Cast a wide net to gain as many volunteers as you can and promote volunteer opportunities through all available channels. Create a broad range of opportunities to help “non-volunteers” get involved. Make it easy to participate. Include some opportunities that may involve long-term commitment, and others that may only take a few minutes of an alums time. Enabling constituents to give in even simple ways can help kindle happiness – and they will feel invested and more willing to engage in the future. It’s never too late to get alumni involved.
Looking for new alumni ambassadors to help swell your volunteer corps? Seek out alums that have been the most involved. Using an online alumni community such as 360Alumni or other similar platforms can help you tap into your “Super Alums”. By viewing analytics that aggregate actions and activities of hyper engaged alumni in a single view (they have joined multiple groups, posted jobs, attended events or reunions, commented on threads, helped with interviews etc) you can easily hone in on these special alums and seek their help. As they are already very active, they are the perfect resource to evangelize the power of participation
Volunteers Will Help You Get It Done!
Setting the connection to donating aside, adding volunteers to your team will help you to accomplish more and free up resources for more robust alumni initiatives. While it may take a bit of extra time to develop and coordinate a wider range of volunteering opportunities, that time is more than paid back through work done and higher levels of engagement.
Consider providing volunteers with tools to help them help you! Online alumni communities and social media groups provide a host of ways to help volunteers connect with fellow alumni – and with you. By providing them with these weapons, you empower them to lead the charge. Now they can post information, answer questions, brainstorm with peers all on your behalf. Encourage them to reach out to fellow alumni and form groups, committees, and dialogue with one another. It’s also a great way for you to support, congratulate and share successes them.
Easy Ways To Get New Alumni Volunteers
- Provide a wide array of opportunities with varying levels of talent required and time commitments. Examples:
- Career panel – speaker or panelist
- Host a student for a 1-day job shadowing
- Attend a student-to-alumni mentorship event
- Assist at an alumni event (help with registration; set up chairs etc)
- Provide options that can be done from home. Examples:
- Lead a group in your online alumni community on a topic that the alum is passionate about – facilitate discussions and answer questions, online, at a time that’s convenient for them
- Be an online fundraising ambassador for specific campaigns – promote to your network and facilitate interest and participation online
- Write blogs, content pieces or promotional materials that relate to alumni interests or initiatives
- Participate in phone interviews or online discussions via specific groups for prospective students
- Promote a reunion event within your social network (1-2 posts or more)
- Provide options that can be done with other alumni (foster networking and sense of community beyond campus). Examples:
- Join the alumni admission council
- Serve on a committee
- Be a reunion committee leader/volunteer, and help promote/manage the online event registration through the online community
- Lead or join a local chapter – participate in local events
- Capitalize on a volunteers professional skills. Examples:
- Invite alumni to join your online mentoring program.
- Seek out alumni with business experience that could be helpful for job seekers (possibly in specific industries)
- Request an assist from marketing professionals, graphic designers or copywriters to help promote alumni activities
- Solicit expertise from alumni event marketers on strategy, logistics, and resources for events
- Encourage alumni that represent large companies or brands to share their expertise, goods or services for activities, fundraisers, events etc
- Get social! Use social media to promote your needs and opportunities. Let alumni know how they can make a difference, and show what others are doing (inspiring) . Examples:
- Use your online alumni community to highlight needs and showcase activities
- Push out messaging unique to all social channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Alumni Community) regularly; not everyone uses the same channels day-to-day
- Make it viral – encourage “likes”, “shares” & “tagging”. Ask alumni to please “pass along” volunteer opportunities friend-to-friend
More Volunteers = More Potential Donors
While some may feel awkward soliciting financial donations from volunteers (who have signed on to give through alternate methods), the studies we’ve cited (as well as many others) show that volunteers are already more inclined to give much more than those who don’t volunteer. Volunteers have already demonstrated a commitment of time and energy to your institution showing that they believe in your mission. For this reason, while tracking your volunteer-donors, you may also want to tap them as ambassadors to specific fundraising campaigns they have an affinity to. The key is to provide inspiration to alumni to give of their time and talents, keeping them engaged and feeling good about their involvement.
Christina is on a mission to help millions get better jobs, mentorship and professional and personal development through their networks. Since conceiving of 360Alumni in 2012 she’s led the development of the product, architecture, team, client base and overall company direction. Prior to launching 360Alumni and attending NYU Stern School of Business, Christina ran a web development company and created SuperMeets, a SaaS volunteer management tool for swim teams. Christina is a proud Mount Holyoke alumna and mother of two.
We hear a lot about Big Data and how it has transformed the way we live, from hyper-targeted digital ads that drive us crazy to finding cures that may save our lives. There’s no doubt about its power to influence and inform.
While you may not consider yourself to be an active user of Big Data from the perspective of marketing, you are in fact, the proprietor of your own massively important set of data: your donor database. Think of all the data you store in your donor database with information regarding your donors, volunteers, and other constituents. The information stored within that database is critical to many daily tasks your organization completes.
While your data set may be small when compared to Amazon or Facebook, it’s likely the most valuable asset your organization has and should be treated accordingly. The quality of your donor list determines whether you can meet your funding goals, and more importantly, whether you can grow.
Imagine for a moment what it would mean to your organization to lose access to your donor list and, subsequently, its donor data. It’s a frightening scenario, but it’s one that can be avoided altogether if you treat your data with the care it deserves.
That care comes in three forms: integrity, safety, and security.
Data integrity is all about accuracy and consistency. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your donor database:
- Do you take care when entering names to make sure the spelling is correct and the salutation is right?
- Are street addresses up to date?
- Is your email list scrubbed of bad entries?
- How do you keep track of your constituents’ preferences for receiving mail from you?
- How do you know your donors’ interests so you can target your approach?
If you can’t answer these questions with a resounding “yes,” then you may need to spend some time updating the integrity of your donor database.
Additionally, your data probably include codes or tags to help in segmenting your lists for special handling. These fields are also crucial for understanding your results and for ensuring that donor intent is honored. What are the rules for using these codes and tags? Are the rules understood by everyone who touches the data? Are they written down in a procedures manual?
How can you ensure the consistent quality and integrity of your database for years to come?
Here are some best practices to follow:
Designate a data manager. Best practice for good data integrity calls for assigning one staff person the responsibility for keeping the data clean. Only the designated data manager should be permitted to create new codes, tags, and user-defined fields. It is their responsibility to educate all users about how to enter the data correctly. It is also her responsibility to keep a procedures manual up to date.
Keep a procedures manual. For continuity, there’s nothing like good documentation that can be shared with new employees. All staff members should be entering and updating data not just to accomplish their individual jobs, but to ensure that the data is available to be used by everyone, and well into the future, long after they may be gone. That means the understanding of what’s in the data should be broadly shared.
Properly train new volunteers and employees. Whether you have volunteers or employees entering donor data, it’s crucial that the data manager have guidelines in place for training new users in the database. Training will allow new users to ask questions and learn why the data are recorded in a certain way. This combined with the procedures manual will give users a strong foundation for data integrity.
Data that is carefully entered and updated provides a wealth of information for building and nurturing the relationship between each donor and your organization. It’s only by carefully maintaining these relationships that you will be successful at growing the resources that your organization depends on to accomplish your mission.
Your data is safe if it is backed up on a regular basis. If your data is kept in the cloud, you don’t need to do these backups yourself. However, for peace of mind, be sure that your database software provider has good, reliable backup procedures, even in the cloud.
If your data is stored on desktops and laptops, it is imperative that it be backed up on a regular basis, preferably every night. It only takes one server failure to completely wipe out years of critical data.
Developing a backup plan is fairly simple. It may take a little bit extra time, but if you lose your database and have timely backups, it will be time well spent.
To develop your backup plan, answer the following questions:
- What’s being backed up? In addition to your donor database, what other information should your organization be regularly backing up?
- Where’s it being backed up? Backups should be kept in a fire and flood proof safe or taken off site if the database isn’t being backed up in the cloud.
- How often backups will occur? If possible, nightly backups are the best way to ensure your data remains accurate.
- Who’s in charge of performing backups? Dedicate one person, whose responsibility it is to ensure these backups happen regularly. If your organization has an IT professional on staff, this should be one of their tasks.
- Who’s in charge of monitoring the success of these backups? Whether this is the same as the person in charge of the backups or a different person may depend on the size of your organization. If possible, it’s a good idea to have a second person double check the quality and success of the backups.
In a world where big data is big money, it’s imperative that you take the necessary steps to keep your donors’ data safe and private. Your data should be secure from outside hackers and accidental incursions within your office. You probably already use passwords, virus scanners, and firewalls; what else can you do to keep your data secure?
Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) when logging in. If you’ve ever had to type in an authentication code texted to your phone or sent to your email, then you’ve used MFA. If your donor management software offers MFA, make sure it’s enabled for every user.
Lock computers when not in use. Have your employees and volunteers develop the habit of locking their computer when they’re going to be away from their desk for more than a few minutes. This will protect your data from any prying eyes.
Teach employees to detect phishing emails. Believe it or not, there are still very successful phishing emails going around these days and they can wreak havoc on a network if an employee inadvertently downloads a virus through one of these emails. Let workers know how to spot a potential phishing email and, if possible, hold phishing drills to see how many employees still click phishy emails.
Your mission depends on your donors, and you won’t build a solid, lasting relationship with those donors without paying close attention to those little details that live in your donor relationship manager software. Make sure to sweat the small stuff when it comes to your donor data, because it will pay off in the long run.
Susan founded Telosa (formerly named TRAC, Inc.) in 1986; in 2017, Telosa merged with Donor Community to become Arreva, where she serves as Chairman of the Board. Prior to starting Telosa, Susan worked as a programmer at Health Computer Services at the University of Minnesota and as an economist at the National Institutes of Health. Susan is currently Chairman of the Board at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and is a trustee of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health and the Packard Humanities Institute. In the past she has served on a number of other boards, including Stanford University and Hewlett-Packard Company. Susan holds an M.S. in computer science from New Mexico School of Mining and Technology, and both an M.B.A. degree and a B.A. in economics from Stanford University.
Ready to start enrolling more supporters in your membership program? Download our membership applications guide to master enrollment strategies!
Supporters who make it all the way to your membership application are the superstars of your nonprofit. They care about your organization so much that they don’t want to just donate — they want to make a long-term commitment to your mission.
The last thing you want is for your membership application form to be so burdensome that it breaks that momentum. It happens more often than you might think!
To ensure that your nonprofit can bring as many members as possible on board without incident, you need to craft a membership application form that gets your constituents excited about joining, not annoyed at the effort necessary to complete the form.
Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered with these top five changes you can make to your application form to boost enrollment in your membership program:
- Ensure easy access to your membership application.
- Implement intuitive formatting on your membership form.
- Include the right balance of application form fields to fill out.
- Optimize the design of your membership application form.
- Follow up with those who complete the membership application.
Ready to revamp your form? Pull up your nonprofit’s membership or association management software, and let’s dive in!
1. Ensure easy access to your membership application.
The most basic hurdle your potential members have to cross before they even reach your membership application is finding it. Why make it hard for them?
Depending on the type of form you’re using, you have a few options for getting it in front of the right supporters:
- Paper form: Send paper membership application forms in the mail to engaged donors, and ensure you always have some printed out at the ready at your front desk and at any events you host.
- Online form: Link to your online form in emails, on your website, on your social media profiles, on event registration pages, and on your donation page. Some web-based membership application forms even embed directly into a website or email.
Online forms are much easier for your nonprofit to process, but you might appreciate having paper forms available in some situations (e.g., at fundraising events).
A majority of your members who fill out an online form get to it through your website instead of an email or social media post. You should pay special attention to your membership application’s location on your website. It should be hosted prominently, with its own tab in your main navigation bar, a link in website footer, and a plugin on your membership program information page, like in the following example image:
Another highly effective place to include your membership form is your online checkout, especially if members in your nonprofit receive benefits such as discounts or priority registration for events. The right membership management software can integrate your membership application into the checkout process, applying any relevant benefits to the same purchase when membership is added to the cart.
Takeaway: Make sure your supporters can find your membership application without having to search for it.
2. Implement intuitive formatting on your membership form.
Once your members land on your form, the challenge becomes keeping them there.
The easier you can make your form to complete, the fewer potential members who will abandon it.
With a paper form, you should make instructions as simple and direct as possible so you don’t have to waste time sending it back or calling to follow up on improperly formatted answers. In as many cases as possible, provide a discrete set of options for applicants to choose from instead of leaving them an empty field to fill out. Checking a box leaves less room for error and wasted administrative time calling to fix the problem.
See how a paper application form formatted with boxes where possible, like the following, would leave less room for error? When your staff is inputting the information from the paper form into your membership management database, they’re less likely to need clarification from the applicant:
An online form offers many more opportunities to make application easy for your members and your administrative team. Your membership application form might be able to support some intuitive features but not others, depending on the software used to build it. If possible, though, you should try to include:
- Conditional logic. Skip pages or populate information based on answers to previous questions on the form.
- Auto-population. Fill in information automatically from a donor profile or the supporter’s browser.
- Long time-out. If your supporters have to leave the form without completing it, make sure they can pick back up later where they left off.
The trick is to collect the information you need without asking too much of your members.
Bonus! These are also great features to include in your membership renewal application. To learn more about membership renewal, head over to Doubleknot’s guide to membership renewal letters.
Takeaway: Don’t make your membership application form too hard to fill out.
3. Include the right balance of application form fields to fill out.
So what information is it you’re looking for? Since you know the value of a comprehensive member profile for future solicitations, you want to gather as much information as you can about your members from the get-go.
But if you overload your membership application form with too many fields to fill out — especially if you ask for information your members would have to look up instead of knowing off the top of their heads — supporters will simply abandon your form.
Striking the proper balance is key. Ask for enough information to inform your membership engagement strategy, but not too much to deter your supporters from completing the form.
Every nonprofit is different, but chances are, these are the only key pieces of information you actually need to start building a member profile:
- Contact details (name, mailing address, phone number, email address)
- Payment information
- Membership level
- Chapter affiliation, for larger nonprofits
See how manageable the application form below looks? It fits on one page on a standard laptop screen! With fewer fields to fill out, applicants are much less likely to abandon the process:
Don’t worry if there are other bits of information you might want to have, such as employment information or the name of who referred the new member to your membership program. You can always follow up later on and gather this information, like when it comes time for membership renewal.
Takeaway: Don’t flood your membership application with too many fields.
4. Optimize the design of your membership application form.
Now that you know which fields you need to include on your membership form, it’s time to get into the design.
There are a few best practices you should follow no matter how you’re distributing your form, whether that’s on paper or on your website:
- Brand your application to your nonprofit.
- Emphasize benefits of membership on the form itself.
- Keep your form short, no more than one printed page.
- List contact information for questions that arise.
For online membership application forms, you might want to consider other kinds of design elements. For instance, including a progress bar so supporters can see how far along they are encourages them to complete the application.
Also dedicate some time to mobile optimization. You want your members to be able to complete your form no matter how big or small their screen is.
First, ensure that your form is mobile-responsive — that is, that it will automatically resize itself when displayed on a smaller screen. This mobile view should increase the size of fonts, buttons, and input fields to make it easier to read and click with a finger instead of a cursor. You should also use as many drop-down menus as possible (e.g., state, country, membership level).
Splitting your application into multiple short pages instead of one long page, like in the example below, also helps keep mobile applicants moving through the process:
If you think you’ll need some outside help with this type of coding, reach out to a nonprofit IT consultant. It’s worth taking more time now to boost your membership program later!
Takeaway: Design your application with online and, especially, mobile views in mind.
5. Follow up with those who complete the membership application.
Your relationship with your members begins with your membership form, but it doesn’t stop there! You have to show your members that you appreciate their commitment and that your nonprofit is up to the task of managing their membership well.
An integrated membership application form sets your nonprofit up for success from the moment new members hit “submit” by:
- Sending automatic welcome emails. The right software can pull contact information from the application form and populate the email with your new member’s name and membership level.
- Populating a member profile. Especially if you provide a member directory and public milestone badges to your members, you should automatically set up a member profile for your new member and send them a link to begin personalizing it.
- Streamlining payment processing. If you wait to process membership fees, you’ll appear unprofessional to your new members. Link your application form to your chosen payment processing solution to begin the process automatically.
The most effective (and popular!) of these strategies is a welcome email, like the one below:
While your membership application form itself can’t send emails or process payments, you can integrate your application form with other features through the right software solution.
Takeaway: Make sure to follow up with your new members right away.
With these membership application form strategies under your belt, you’re ready to overhaul your application and boost participation in your program! Don’t forget to download our free membership application samples below.
For more on membership, check out these additional resources on the topic:
- Best Membership and Association Management Software. A great membership application is only the beginning of a great membership program’s operations. Make sure you support your program with the best membership and association management software!
- Doubleknot’s Membership Renewal Letters Guide. Now that you’ve worked on recruitment with your membership application form, it’s time to devote attention to retention with your membership renewal letters. Check out this ultimate guide from Doubleknot for strategies and samples of the perfect membership renewal letter!
- Doubleknot’s Member Engagement Guide. The team at Doubleknot can help keep your members in your program in more ways than one. Read up on top member engagement strategies with this essential guide for visitor-serving nonprofits like museums, zoos, and science centers!
- Fundly’s Ways to Enhance Your Membership Renewal Letter. Can’t get enough about membership renewal letters? Head on over to Fundly for examples and tips to help you craft the most effective renewal letter for your membership-based nonprofit.
Want an easy and inexpensive way to generate donations for your nonprofit? Consider email marketing. Online giving is more popular than ever, and email can help support your fundraising efforts.
Stats aside, email is a great way to keep donors, volunteers, and other partners up-to-date on what’s happening within your organization. It makes raising funds for your organization simpler and helps to keep donations coming in on a more consistent basis.
As the year begins to draw to an end, email marketing can help you meet, or even beat, your donation goals. Email is a secret weapon for fundraising– and it’s time to learn how to put it to use.
Campaign Monitor has created 12 Tips Nonprofits Can Use to Get Online Donations as an easy-to-read infographic to help nonprofits. Here are 3 tips from the infographic to help your nonprofit raise more funds:
1. Put Email Campaigns and Social Media Together
Email is a great tool for fundraising, but it works best when paired with social media. Using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest can get your message in front of the right people. Most social platforms have special accounts for nonprofits, and some, like Facebook, have donation tools too.
For example, The Royal Children’s Hospital uses Facebook to share different stories and occasionally asks directly for donations.
Including social sharing buttons in your emails is a must, and hopefully something you do already. In addition to this, be sure that the content you have in your email and on your social sites is valuable and can be shared on any platform.
For example, American Lung Association sent a thank you email and asked their readers to share their thanks on Facebook and included links to do so. Their Facebook post has the same image, to keep things consistent. This is a great example of using email and Facebook together.
Not all social media should be about donations. Be sure to mix up what your followers see, and give them ways to interact with your organization that doesn’t involve money. They’ll be more receptive to want to donate at a later date if you’re sharing valuable information throughout the year.
2. Optimize Emails for Mobile
It’s pretty safe to say that mobile phones are here to stay, and marketers need to adapt. More emails are opened on mobile devices than on computers these days, so making sure your emails work anywhere they’re viewed is vital.
As a nonprofit, you probably have limited time and staff to spend on emails, which is where mobile-friendly email templates can be a lifesaver. They’re pre-built to look great no matter what size screen they’re viewed on, you just need to add your fabulous content, links and engaging images. Keep your text fairly short, smaller screens means shorter attention spans, but still include the information that’s going to be useful to your readers.
For example, Whale and Dolphin Conservation has a great mobile-friendly email. Their image is eye-catching, the text is short and to the point and they have a great call to action button right in the middle.
California State Parks Foundation also has a good example of a mobile-friendly email. It’s short, has a great image, and right at the top is a donation link. They share the information they need to, but also make sure their readers have the option to donate from their mobile if they want to.
3. Use Compelling Images
A picture is worth a 1,000 words is so true when it comes to email marketing. Your images will make difference to how people view your organization and how they interact with your emails. Including images that tell your story can help get your message across and share your mission, all without words. And since attention spans are pretty short these days, that’s a pretty useful tool for fundraising.
Photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts on social. Keep that momentum up and use your images on your website, on social media and in your emails for a consistent experience.
Both The Royal Children’s Hospital and The Australian Red Cross use images that convey their message, show who they’re helping, and share what their mission is. Plus they have easy donation buttons in their emails, making it easy for readers to help.
Fundraising online is part of what all nonprofits need to do. Using email marketing makes it much easier to accomplish. You can also use it to stay in touch with donors and volunteers, to share events, and keep them up on how the funds are used. The more people see and interact with your organization, the more likely they are to donate. Use some, or all, of the ideas in 12 Tips Nonprofits Can Use to Get Online Donations infographic and get more donations for your nonprofit.
Andrea Robbins is a demand generation marketer at Campaign Monitor. Her favorite things include getting outdoors, a good cup of coffee, and her Siamese kitty. Say hi on Twitter @andirobz
The average officer worker now receives 121 emails a day. And your inbox, and mine, will only get more crowded in the coming years (it seems) making the need for your emails to stand out and get opened important. But that’s just the first step, what are you going to say, and how are you going to say it, if they do open?
Well, based on our research of 218 email experiments related to email messaging, here’s what you need to do:
Write your email like it is to a real person, from a real person.
It sounds simple, and at one level it is, but it’s a crucially important fundraising idea that can grow your online fundraising. For example, here’s an experiment from our research library where the control email was pretty good, informative, and used facts and figures to make their case to the reader:
Not bad right?
But for the treatment, they wanted to ‘close the distance’ between the sender and reader by making the copy, tone, and voice, in particular, more personal. More human.
Do you see the differences? They are pretty small but the end result here was that the one that was more personal, increased donations 328%. And revenue? It increased 716.3%!
Being more personal is the high level idea that you should be infusing all the elements of your email with because it speaks to donors — you, me, humans — the way we connect with people. The concept that we treat digital experiences as if they are with real people is called social presence and it’s the social presence that separates those two emails from one another and it’s using social presence that can help you engage donors and separate your emails from those 120 other emails people receive each day.
We created a free online training course on email fundraising optimization that covers all you need to know but in this post let’s simply look at how you can improve them by fostering a 1-1 communication style through these 5 components of an email body:
- Design and Format
- Body Copy
1. Design and Format
Stripping down the design and branding of an email appeal is one of the first experiments we run with clients, one of the easiest things you can test in your next appeal, and one of the most consistent ‘wins’ we see in our library.
If you don’t believe me, check out experiment #4174. The control was their usual email:
Pretty standard email with the logo, image header, copy making the case, big call-to-action button, personal signoff, and a PS.
This isn’t a ‘bad email’ – according to best practices you’ll find online and from other organizations – and in many ways a pretty good one but the intent of this email is pretty clear and quite early. It’s a marketing email.
So we wondered what would happen if we took out the branding and even the template itself to create a more personal feel using the same copy and call-to-action button to make it feel less templated and designed and here was the result:
The stripped down email increased clicks to the donation page by 80.3% and because of that led to more donations.
But could we simplify and strip down even further? Let’s test it! Here was that new ‘winning’ email (now the control):
And this time for the experiment, we wanted to get even simpler and clearer with the ask so moved the logo/branding down to the signature block and took away the big button and replaced it with a hyperlink and ended up with this:
In this case, the more personalized email increased donations 145.5%!
Looking for more evidence? Check out experiment #5824. Or #7524. Or #7466. Or #6429. Or #483. Or… I think you get the point. Our experiments show time and time again that for fundraising emails less design is better.
Why? Because real people don’t send emails with logos, beautiful header images, and well crafted footers. Think about what design elements you’d have in a personal email to a friend or family member and try to mimic that.
Do you use a header image? A logo at the top? A button in it? A signature? If you wouldn’t send it to a friend, take it out of your design and test it.
Key Tip: Choose an email design that mimics what you would send to a friend.
This is one of the first things people see and it’s also often taken for granted. “Easy” things like using the person’s name can do wonders for email engagement.
Here’s an experiment with the National Breast Cancer Foundation where we had no first name vs. with first name:
The email with the first name increased clicks 270%.
When real people send emails to real people they use their name!
Hopefully that truly is an “easy” one for you (and you shouldn’t have to test that one) but you can also make your salutation more relevant to the receiver with internal factors like:
- Personal interests – How about those Ramblers?
- Personality – Wazzzzzup?
- Level of engagement – you’
Or external factors like:
- Environmental changes – I hope you didn’t get the snow like we did…
- Holidays – Happy Holidays!
- Recent events – What a Super Bowl!
- Recent actions – Thank you for signing our petition!
These salutations work because… that’s how real people start conversations. So give it a shot in your next email.
Key Tip: Start a salutation with their name and, if possible, a personally relevant introduction.
The question I get asked most often when it comes to emails is, “how long should our email be?” And in response I twist the classic consultant ‘it depends’ answer a bit to be, ‘however long you need it to be to effectively answer the main value proposition question’:
“If I am your ideal donor, why should I give to you, compared to some other organization, or not at all”
If you can answer that question in a sentence, then great. Your email could be a sentence. If you need 1,000 words, then so be it. Your email can be 1,000 words. But more often than not, your emails need to be a bit longer than you think and our research has shown that again and again.
Because you suffer from something called the curse of knowledge — a marketer’s fatal flaw where we assume the reader knows much of what we know — you end up writing fundraising appeals that quickly go through things like the need and solution — the value proposition — and get to the ask before the reader has have enough info to make a good decision. And since inertia or gravity is going against people giving their money away, they don’t.
Or even if you do spend time trying to answer the value proposition question and featuring something like a matching gift, you may answer it in your own words or language full of acronyms, technical speak, and insider terms that the reader may not even understand.
You have to make sure you have enough content, aka copy, to let the reader know and understand what you’re asking them to do which is often more info as opposed to less. And the only real way to know what your donors respond to or if they get your value proposition is to run tests and experiments.
Donors will tell you they want shorter emails, with less copy, and just the stats. But after looking through over 218 experiments, I can tell you that longer emails, with more copy, and emotive language raises more money.
Key Tip: Before you make a request, make sure there is enough body copy to answer the question why… both for the email and for the request.
Alright, you’ve done the hard work. Someone has opened your email. They’ve read through the main body. Now it’s time to present the call to action and move them on ‘down the funnel’ (or up the donor mountain as we like to say). Be clear. Be direct. Be simple.
Do you want people to learn more? Will they understand what it means to ‘stand with you’? No. You want people to give so make that clear in your call to action. Learn more or ‘soft’ calls to action like ‘stand with us’ language may get more clicks but they’ll often get less donations (here’s one example and here’s another one).
And what about the design of the call-to-action? We’ve already covered that the more designed an email is the more it can appear like marketing so why not use basic links or even raw links like this: https://www.nextafter.com/research/2016/09/how-a-raw-link-in-an-email-affects-donor-conversion/
Key Tip: When you make a call-to-action request, be clear about your desire and intentions.
Remember the very first example with the slight differences that led to a 328% increase in donations? It not only was more ‘you’ focused and personal, it also was full of social cues and emotive language that a real human would use. Check it out:
It is full of emotive words like ‘turn up the heat’,‘desperately’, ‘incredible’, and ‘the fight begins’ but also human terms like ‘I’d be honored’, ‘Would you be able to help’, and the opening ‘I wanted to get this news to you as soon as I could’.
The combination of personal terms and emotive language sets a tone and gives a voice to the email that can engage and entice readers so when they reach the call to action (notice the raw link) they are on board. They’re motivated. They’re ready to join the fight.
Or if you zoom in a bit closer to the CaringBridge example above you may have seen that, beyond the design, we made a few other minor changes around the tone as well. Take a look at the first few sentences of each email a bit closer:
Again, the first email isn’t bad. It starts out fine enough, tries to develop some connection, and gets into a story. Another ‘best practice’.
But in the treatment, we used ‘I’ and ‘you’ language to be more like a human sending an email to another human and create a sense of empathy before jumping into the campaign even without the story ‘hook’.
The tone you have and voice you use through your copy sets the stage not just to lead up to the call to action but helps people put down their ‘I’m getting marketing to’ guard to engage with the content on a more personal and human level.
Key Tip: Read the email out loud and add/adjust content to account for tone/voice so it sounds like it is from a human, and makes you feel something.
People give to people. Not email marketing machines. So best way to optimize your email fundraising is craft your email — from the design and format to the call-to-action — as if you were just one person writing to another.
Take the time and copy length you need to simply describe the value you are offering, don’t let your design distract from your message and connection, infuse some social cues, and clearly ask for a donation if you are indeed asking for a donation.
And just in case you skimmed everything up until now here is the…
5 Ways to Humanize Your Emails Summary
- Choose an email design that mimics what you would send to a friend.
- Start a salutation with their name and, if possible, a personally relevant introduction.
- Before you make a request, make sure there is enough body copy to answer the question why… both for the email and for the request.
- When you make a call-to-action request, be clear about your desire and intentions.
- Finally, read the email out loud and add/adjust content to account for tone/voice so it sounds like it is from a human, and makes you feel something.
Brady Josephson is a charity nerd, entrepreneur, digital marketer, professor, and writer. He’s the Vice President of Innovation and Optimization at NextAfter — a fundraising research lab and consultancy on a mission to unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world. Brady lives just outside Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada with his wife Liz, dog Melly, and cat Thor. You can follow him on Twitter @bradyjosephson.
Imagine you are walking down a busy street in any major city in the United States. You look to your left and see a billboard with a sleek black check mark superimposed over a white background. Without text, without accompanying images, with nothing more than “the Swoosh” you know it’s Nike. All of a sudden your mind is flooded with thoughts of famous athletes, sportswear and you’re uncomfortably aware how long it’s been since you last went to the gym (okay that might just be me). All of this has been accomplished because the Swoosh is so effective that it can now market itself. This is the power of an effective logo.
Your nonprofit’s logo might never be as famous as Nike’s but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t utilize the same design principles! We at Elevation have come up with 8 essential logo design tips to ensure that your logo is making your organization memorable.
1. Nonprofit Psych Analysis
Try to define your organization in two to three words. For example if you’re an afterschool program maybe you use children and playful. Ask different staff members and others familiar with what you do. You should start with large pool of potential options and then narrow it down to the top 2-3.
If you are stuck, a good place to start is utilizing your mission and revisiting your roots. What do you do and why? The best nonprofit logos encapsulate what they do and invoke with their organization’s values and mission with a simple image.
2. Geographical or Conceptual Elements
Where is your organization located and is its geography something that you want included in your logo? For example if you are a nonprofit located in San Francisco do you want the Golden Gate Bridge to be a part of your logo. If not, also okay, but an important aspect to consider.
The second element you should consider is the logo’s overall concept. For example, is your organization working to promote trash free beaches and you want the concept of water to be a major part of your logo? Maybe the answer is “no” but it’s always worth it to consider before.
3. Type of Logo
There are a few “fancy” logo names graphic designers use. We have included a snip it of an infographic we created here at Elevation about the nonprofit logo design process. Below you see descriptions of symbol/icon, word mark, letter mark, combination and emblem logos with famous examples of each. You can check out the entire infographic here.
There is a common misconception that the individual color is extremely important because of the feeling it invokes in the viewer by virtue of being that color. For example, blue has been thought to be a “calming” color. Research has actually shown that the color itself is not as important as how it relates to the product, or in this case, your nonprofit.
Thank goodness we thought about mission and conceptual elements first, right? Using what you’ve already determined about your nonprofit, choosing your logo colors should be a piece of cake!
Take Relief From Cancer for example, an organization that helps provide funding to cancer patients’ families. In their logo they have chosen to use 5 colors, each related to different ribbons corresponding with a type of cancer. The colors here make sense given the mission of the nonprofit.
Another example of great color usage is by Robins’ Nest, an organization which started as a group home movement and has now expanded to provide a plethora of community support programs. The chosen highlight in this logo is the blue text color, which makes sense both because it references the name of the organization but also because the pop of color is reminiscent of playfulness.
In a piece for Entrepreneur magazine, John Williams argues that if you can’t draw a logo with decent accuracy after looking at it for 10 seconds, there’s something wrong. We completely agree. Use this to test different logo options that you have.
If your logo failed the above mentioned test, then you are going to want to simplify. Clean lines, conscious color choice and consistent type are all important aspects that go into the creation of a simple and effective logo.
What will your logo look like in 5 years? While you want to be conscious of current design trends, remember that not all trends are forever. Sticking with a classic font and using the age old principles of design will ensure that your logo will remain relevant for years to come. This is not to say that you will never have to look at your logo again.
For example think about the evolution of Coca Cola’s logo. This is widely considered one of the best logos in the world and has undergone many changes throughout the years. But because it was created with strong design principles in mind, the initial looks a heck of a lot like the current version .
7. Consult a Designer
We know that graphic designers can be expensive, but investing in someone to design your nonprofits logo is definitely worth it. While we are harping on simplicity the most effective logos in the world are also extremely unique.
Check out Apple’s logo above. This iconic logo was created by Rob Janoff, a graphic designer, and it is extremely simple. But when Janoff describes the process of creating the logo, he explains that he did a ton of research buying apples from the store and manipulating them in different ways until he finally arrived upon “the bite.” It’s clear that his expert analysis went into the creative process, proving the value in hiring a graphic designer. They are creative individuals who will deliver the logo your nonprofit needs.
So there it is — eight essential design tips for your nonprofit’s logo. At Elevation,we are always here to answer any questions you have and help you nail down that design. And who knows, maybe one day people will be daydreaming about donating to your nonprofit when they see a billboard with your nonprofit’s logo.
Emma Wolfe is the Communications and Partnerships Manager at Elevation, a full-service nonprofit web design agency. Emma has been involved in the nonprofit world for years working at multiple NGOs located both in the United States and abroad. Her experience ranges from refugee occupation counseling to empowerment programs for youth in West Africa. When she isn’t traveling Emma loves doing yoga and trying new food.
Does your nonprofit use MobileCause for your online donation forms? Are you looking to incorporate matching gift information into both your MobileCause donation pages as well as across your organization’s broader fundraising?
If so then this guide is for you.
Double the Donation’s Relationship with MobileCause:
MobileCause is a popular provider of donation forms and fundraising tools for nonprofits.
Double the Donation is the leading provider of employee matching gift data and tools to nonprofits.
This guide was put together to help organizations who use MobileCause’s donation forms incorporate Double the Donation’s employee matching gift plugin into their fundraising pages and into their primary websites.
Please note that MobileCause and Double the Donation are two separate companies.
Steps to Integrate Double the Donation’s Matching Gift Search Tool with MobileCause:
At risk of stating the obvious, the below steps and screenshots are applicable to organizations which already have an account with Double the Donation (Premium Plan) and MobileCause.
If you don’t have an account with Double the Donation you can learn more about our service or view our annual service fees and start a risk-free trial.
In terms of integrating Double the Donation’s matching gift search tools into your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy there are two primary options.
- In the Donation Process (Use MobileCause’s system)
- Across Your Other Fundraising Channels (Use your other systems)
Let’s start by looking at how to incorporate Double the Donation’s plugin into MobileCause’s donation forms.
Step #1: Log into your organization’s MobileCause account. Then select “Weblink” under the “App Links” drop down.
Step #2: Add a Custom Section to your website donation form
Step #3: Name the Custom Section “Matching Gifts” and position it after the contact information.
Step #4: Navigate to the Matching Gift Section and enter a Section Heading. We recommend “Matching Gifts | Access Forms, Guidelines, and Instructions”.
Step #5: Create a Custom Message field.
Step #6: Add a Field Name of “Matching Gifts” and click on the <> to switch to the source code mode.
We recommend you set the height to be 250. You’ll need to change height=”500″ to height=”250″.
- Access your nonprofit’s matching gift iFrame code by logging into your Double the Donation account at https://doublethedonation.com/members/.
- Copy the iFrame code from your Double the Donation account and paste it into the weblink receipt page.
- The code will look similar to the following:
<iframe src=“https://doublethedonation.com/api/iframe/your-double-the-donation-key” width=“100%” height=“250”></iframe>
(Don’t forget to that you need to copy the iframe code from your Double the Donation account)
Step #8: Save everything and preview your MobileCause donation form.
Your donation form now incorporates Double the Donation’s searchable matching gift database so donors can easily access company specific matching gift forms, guidelines, and instructions.
Please note: We recommend going through the donation process once on your website to confirm everything is working correctly.
Next let’s look at how to incorporate Double the Donation’s matching gift plugin across your broader fundraising
Step #1: Create a dedicated matching gift page on your main website.
This is all done by using Double the Donation’s primary matching gift plugin which can be found in your organization’s Double the Donation account management pages. You’ll want to use the following steps:
- Log into your Double the Donation account
- Access the embed code
- Copy the embed code to the dedicated matching gift page on your own site
- Our searchable plugin will automatically load
Step #2: Direct donors to your dedicated matching gift page across your broader fundraising efforts.
This includes in locations such as:
For our complete marketing toolkit which includes suggested marketing locations, downloadable graphics, sample wording, and examples visit https://doublethedonation.com/marketing-matching-gifts/.
Use one of the following ways to learn more about Double the Donation’s service:
The end of the year is a crucial time for nonprofits. After all, over 25% of total charitable giving takes place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
If you’re not sure how to kick your fundraising strategy into high gear this holiday season, we’ve got the tips you need! Just check out MobileCause’s fact-packed year-end giving infographic below to learn everything you need to know.
Email marketing is lauded year after year as the most effective digital marketing strategy. In fact, email is 40 times more successful at acquiring customers than either Facebook or Twitter. To top it all off, email marketing delivers a $38 ROI for every $1 spent.
However, enjoying the spoils of a 3800% ROI only comes to those marketers who invest in email marketing best practices, beginning with building successful email sign up forms. To ensure your team collects the right subscriber information from the get-go, here are 10 things to consider as you build the perfect email form.
1. Start with Goals
Before you even start creating your opt-in form, it’s vital to set goals. You want to predetermine what you will do with the information you collect from subscribers. When you know what you will do with the data you collect, selecting the correct form fields will be a cinch.
For example, do you plan on sending different emails to subscribers in different locations? If so, you’ll want to include location information on your subscriber form. Do you offer different products to women vs. men? If so, you’ll need to ask for gender information. Birchbox breaches this topic simply by asking if subscribers are interested in “beauty” or “grooming.”
Are there any other pieces of information you need from subscribers to provide your customers with the best experience? A goal setting session is the perfect time to determine what you plan to do with the data you collect on your subscriber form.
2. Design That Counts
One of the best things about using an email provider is the option to use a proven template. When you use a template, you can rest assured the code will work so you can collect new subscribers accurately and efficiently.
However, as with most email providers, you’ll notice the template is often generic, even boring. The purpose of this generic design is so you can customize the design to match your brand perfectly.
For example, check out Adidas newsletter sign up box. As soon as you click on “newsletter sign up” a box appears that looks exactly like their website.
You’ll also notice Adidas asks for gender information, just like Birchbox. Good work, Adidas!
3. Less Is More
You may be tempted to ask for more information than you need from your subscribers. After all, what if you end up needing more data to better personalize your messages, right?
No subscriber wants to feel like they are answering a personal profile survey. Furthermore, no customer has the time or desire to answer everything you may want to know about them.
This is why it’s important to set goals and only ask for the information you absolutely need just like Ripcurl does in their sign-up form. They ask for name, email, gender, and zip code, and that’s it.
You’d be amazed how well you can personalize with just a small amount of data. And, keep in mind, there are several other more effective ways to collect data on your customers.
Did you know that the majority of all emails are read on a mobile device? Additionally, users spend 69% of their media time on smartphones. This means if you want to capture a majority of your subscribers, it’s essential you make it possible for them to subscribe to your email list via mobile device.
When creating your sign up form, make sure you use an email provider that optimizes for mobile devices. Test to see how your sign up form looks across all devices. Also, keep your sign up form in one column, so it looks good on mobile devices and is easy for subscribers to fill out. Here is how the same sign up form from Birchbox above looks on a mobile device.
5. Good Incentives
Few customers will sign up for your email list out of the goodness of their hearts. They will, however, sign up if you offer an incentive that piques their interest.
Give your subscribers a good reason to sign up. Maybe it’s a discount, a promise for awesome content, or free shipping. Determine what your subscribers value and then make sure you deliver on that promise.
6. Clear Drop-downs
In the event you plan on asking for extra data, make it easy on your subscribers. For example, if you are asking for the country they are from, include all possible options. Additionally, list the most popular countries for your company first, so subscribers don’t have to scroll through a hundred countries before getting to theirs. You may also consider adding a searchable option where they can type the name of their country and the rest of the form will automatically populate.
The more you can do to make your dropdowns easier to navigate, the more subscribers you will impress.
7. Submit Buttons
Your submit button is your call to action. As with any call to action, you want to draw the most attention to it. You can do this by surrounding your call to action in a button. Consider a blue button, or any other bright colored button that matches your brand, and stands out from the rest of your content.
Of course, you can go with the traditional “submit,” for your call to action. But, why not try something a little more catchy? Consider “subscribe now,” “sign up,” “let’s do this,” “hurry up,” “yes please,” or something else awesome.
8. Double Opt-ins
What’s the difference between single opt-in and double opt-in, anyway? I’m glad you asked! Single opt-in is when someone enters their information and they are automatically added to your email list. No questions asked.
A double-opt in is when a subscriber enters their email address, you send them a quick confirmation making sure they opted in on purpose, and then they confirm/verify they have. As soon as your email provider receives the confirmation of opt-in, the subscriber will be added to your list.
This practice is good form and ensures the people who you will be emailing actually want to hear from you.
9. Easy to Find
The last step in creating a perfect email sign up form is making sure your website visitors can easily find your subscriber form.
You may want to put your subscriber form in a box across the top of your website, place it visibly off to the top right corner of your website, or even add a pop up when visitors enter and/or exit your website. Pop ups have been known to improve conversions, so this method is an excellent idea.
It’s true that you can see some of the highest conversions from email marketing. The journey starts with building the perfect subscriber form. Follow the steps listed above and you’ll be on your way to building a high quality subscriber list that converts.
Andrea Robbins is a demand generation marketer at Campaign Monitor. Her favorite things include getting outdoors, a good cup of coffee, and her Siamese kitty. Say hi on Twitter @andirobz