Much to do about implementing email fundraising campaigns

Implementing email fundraising campaigns is hard work.

Without a plan it is even harder. Below is a no bs approach to making sure that email goes out without a hitch while making it look like you have done this a million times. We are not going to dive into too much strategy, just the nuts and bolts of getting it done. We will leave the strategizating for another time.

Alright, deep breath. Take it step by step, heart to heart.

Craft a short direct subject line. While there really is not definitive information on whether a short or long subject line wins, a common sense practice is to keep it concise and to the point. State your call to action clearly and concisely. Doing this right after you create your segment helps keep things in line: we are mailing to X (segment) because of this subject line.

Copy and art should reinforce your call to action. Make sure your written copy reflects this. Limit your use of confusing abstract style imagery and/or complicated prose and speak in a direct positive tone. Short sentences. The recipient should have 3 or 4 opportunities to respond. This includes a clear (preferably large) call out. Have this done before you start designing your html and text emails.

HTML-ify your message. Start with with a basic html format. It is best to use tables instead of div/span to format. Your styling must be inline, not in the head, and certainly not in an external style sheet. Remember that you may be an excellent html gamer but html for email is stuck playing Super Mario Brothers on your NES. Look out for special characters like apostrophes, commas, em dashes, etc. You should look to use their HTML equal to express those characters. Don’t just copy and paste from word.

HTML Example Email
Loving the large call to action here.

Get texty. For those list members who receive only text emails (yes there are some), you need to spend some time crafting these messages as well. Text only emails won’t allow for images or most styling, absent of some creative use of separators like ———– or **************.

Breaking the law. I avoid it when possible. You should too. Properly navigate CAN SPAM compliance by following a few simple guidelines. (a) Include a clear option for your recipients to manage their subscription preferences. This includes unsubscribing from your list. The recipient must be able to unsubscribe without having to log in or jump through other unneccessary steps. (b) Include your postal address in the email. (c) It must be clear from whom the email is coming. Make it clear in both the copy and the email ‘from’ field.

Test, test, test, and then damn it, test again. You are testing to make sure your email just looks right. Rendering will almost always differ in minor (and major) ways from email client to email client, for example from Outlook 2003 to Gmail. You are testing to make sure your personalization works correctly. You are testing to make sure that all links, well, link. There is nothing worse than launching that emergency fundraising email that will greatly help those in need and then realize the links to your donation page are broken.

There are several different ways you can accomplish testing — each one having its own merit.

First, I test each email with Gmail, Aol, Hotmail, and yahoo test accounts by actually sending a message to each account. I also test in Entourage, Outlook 2003, and Outlook 2007. I do this because the most of our subscribers use one of these email tools. It also gives me a good indicator on how my message will do delivery wise.

Hint: Take some time to analyze your subscriber base and base your testing on the most popular email clients in your list. My hunch is that they will be the same as mine.

Secondly, I leverage built in testing tools provided by my Email Service Provider (acronym alert – ESP). Generally speaking, these tools can test for spammy content in your email, the likelihood of your message getting to the inbox, and can even show you how your message will look in a ton of different email clients (Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, etc). Use these tools in lock-step with your specific test accounts for best results.

Seed your file. Make sure you seed your file with those same test emails so that you will know when the email will actually hit. This one seems like a no brainer but it is easy to get lost in the finer details of getting the email out that you forget to add your own email address to the file, let alone your test account emails.

Hit send. Once you are fine with the look and feel, the copy reads correctly without spelling and grammatical errors, and your html/text content renders correctly, you are ready to send. Last but not least, make sure to check your outgoing links and your unsubscribe functionality before sending.

That’s it. Your done. Analyze your results and fine tune your strategy. Rinse, wash, repeat.

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