E-mail solicitation is by far and away the most effective way to raise funds online. It is a low-cost way to reach out to people who support your cause and get them to send you support.
Before you get started though, ask yourself these questions: Have you been actively collecting e-mail addresses in your parish? Have you started using e-mail to communicate about parish life? Have you ever requested funding for through an e-mail solicitation?
Once you take the steps necessary to answer ‘Yes’ to the above questions, creating your email fundraising campaign will be much easier. As you start using email as a main tool for your communications, sending out a funding request will be a natural fit.
Here are some things that you’ll want to think about as you begin to plunge into e-mail fundraising:
Your list – Like direct mail, the list is the primary factor that will determine the success of your fundraising campaign. If you’re in a parish setting, this list will not extend much beyond the boundaries of your registered parishioners. The major exception to this is if you run a major outreach like a school, homeless shelter, or food pantry that serves the broader community.
Your success rate – The success rate is calculated by dividing the total number of donations that you receive by the number of e-mails you sent out. So if you get 5 donations from e-mailing 100 people, your success rate is 5%. A 5% rate is actually quite good for an e-mail appeal. It means that one out of twenty people donated to you. You increase your success rate by cultivating a good relationship with the people on your e-mail list. Like direct mail, email appeals are more successful the larger your list of e-mails.
Your communications schedule – Your email list represents relationships with real people. You need to be a good steward by not mailing funding requests too frequently. Include your email solicitation with your regular communications. You should certainly try to avoid sending more ‘ask’ emails than ‘non-ask’ emails. People will begin to think of your e-mails as spam and will unsubscribe from your list.
An email communications software – Several great services exist to help you manage your e-mail appeals. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two of the big ones. They make it easy to create e-mails and also help you track how many people receive and open your appeals. They will help you to manage your lists and provide a way for disgruntled recipients to unsubscribe.
A message – This is probably the most important and most difficult thing that you will have to put together. The message is the ‘why you should donate.’ When the right message goes to the right audience, the campaign will be a success. You need to know your audience, and write with them in mind. Sell them on the mission of your organization, of your parish, and what an impact their donation will have on a certain problem.
CAN-SPAM Act – E-mail spam is so annoying that they’ve made a law against it. To comply with the law, you need to follow certain prescribed practices with your e-mail campaign. Most of the big e-mail services do these things automatically, but make sure you’re informed about it beforehand. A simple search for CAN SPAM ACT will lead you to more information than you will ever possibly need.