This Easy Fundraising Trick Gets 30% More Email Opens

This Easy Fundraising Trick Gets 30% More Email Opens

Do you cringe when you see the results of your fundraising emails?

We're going to change that.

You put all that time into writing great copy and creating a clear Call-to-Action, and then you look at the open rates and realize hardly anybody is even going to see it. Even worse, you know an even smaller percentage are going to click through to give.

It’s not a good feeling.

And the truth is, yeah, you need more email opens but you also need to do 100 other things too, right? I know the feeling.

What if you could increase your email open rate by 30% in one minute?

Well, you’re in luck!

I’m going to show you a quick, easy fundraising hack that will increase the number of people who’ll open your fundraising email campaign.

Let me just say I'm a huge fan of Noah Kagan's work growing businesses and this trick comes directly from his toolbox. The purpose of this article is to show how we can use it for nonprofit fundraising as well. 

What’s Your Baseline?

A couple weeks ago I sent a short little email to approximately 500 people.

It was about a podcast interview I did, but it could’ve been anything, especially your fundraising appeal. 

You can see the results from that email campaign below.

fundraising email campaign

150 of the subscribers opened it (30%). That's about the level of engagement I normally see from that group (the list average is 32.7%).

It’s a small email list segment (~500 people) so I've been able to keep engagement at nearly double the industry average. And even with 32% open rates, this easy fundraising hack I’m going to show you still works!

What matters most is that when you need people to open your email, they do

Beating the average feels good but it's nobody's goal overall, right? 

You need more people to open your emails so more people give

Here’s what you do

Send out your well-crafted, A/B tested, email campaign to your list.

Then wait a couple days so you can see what level of results it produces.

What’s the open rate? What’s the click-through-rate? How many times was it forwarded? How does this compare to past campaigns?

Once you’re done looking at your analytics in your email service, make a copy of the email campaign, like this:

You spent a lot of time putting that campaign together, right? So don't waste it by starting from scratch again simply because the majority of your list didn’t see it the first time.

So now that you have a copy of your initial campaign, go ahead and change the subject line to another high performing one:

easy fundraising nonprofit campaign

This next step is really important.

You want to make sure you don’t send this new email to any of the people who opened up the original campaign.

Because you're not going to change the actual email body at all. You already tested and perfected it, and you don't have all day to mess with it even more. So all you're doing is re-titling it.

If you send it to the people who opened it originally, they’d see the new subject line and likely open it, only to be disappointed when they saw the exact same email body. 

You have to make sure nobody opens the same email twice.

To avoid this rookie mistake, just go into your audience selection and build in the logic that tells your email campaign provider to only send your email with the new subject line to folks on your list who didn’t open the last one:

nonprofit email campaign fundraising advanced

Now, you’re literally all set to go!

Send this new email to the people who didn’t open the last one and watch as you get 30% more opens for less than one minute of extra work.

You can see my results below:

Initial email campaign results.

Initial email campaign results.

One minute of work later: 33% increase in the overall open rate

One minute of work later: 33% increase in the overall open rate

Rather than the initial 30% open rate, we achieved a more than 40% open rate. 

And that second email, sent just to the people who didn't open the first one, gave me more than 33% more opens than I would've had if I stopped after the initial one. 

For this campaign, I was just getting people to listen to a podcast. But in fundraising, a 33% increase in opens translates into a very clear likelihood of raising even more money

Not bad for one minute of work! 

You can use this easy fundraising hack with your very next campaign.

And learn a ton more new and effective fundraising tips, tools, and tactics here.

How to Raise More Money with A/B Tests

How to Raise More Money with A/B Tests

Do you ever wonder how some nonprofits accomplish so much?

How they get so many wealthy donors to attend their events?

Or always get shared on social media?

Or reach so many clients?

Between funding cuts, the rising costs of doing business, and the ongoing race for donors, it’s practically universal that nonprofits have to do more with less. Of course, this challenge often results in a scramble that results in working more hours.

Rather than working more effectively, we just work more.

How is it that some organizations accomplish so much and make it look so easy?

There’s no silver bullet, but the one thing that sets the highest-performing nonprofits apart from all the others is that they test and optimize all sorts of activities. Rather than start with an assumption that they know what actions/copy/design/etc. produces the best results, they actually begin from the supposition that they don’t. And they test their way towards that understanding.

This process of assessing how well different options perform is known as A/B testing.

It simply means that you test two options — Option A vs. Option B. You give similar but separate groups one of the options and compare the results. The enormous benefit of A/B testing comes from the fact that you can apply this approach to innumerable areas.

Designing and running A/B tests can help you:

  • Save yourself and your employees’ time

  • Produce better work more quickly

  • Raise more money with less effort

  • Focus your time on the most valuable activities

We’re going to look at the ways A/B testing can be applied to donation pages, email subject lines, signup incentives, and offline activities.


A/B Testing Donation Pages

One of the most important areas any nonprofit can focus their attention on is the online donation page. Done poorly, you’ll leave a tremendous amount of potential funding on the table. Done well, you can raise significantly more money.

Too often nonprofits simply stick with whichever donation page design their web team set up initially. And too often those teams don’t have a deep enough understanding of donor behavior to design fully effective pages.

Hopefully your donation page doesn't look anything like this!

Hopefully your donation page doesn't look anything like this!

There are a large number of design considerations to take into account for your donation page. Here are 4 of the 10 considerations outlined by web designer, Brad Frost:

1. Break big tasks into smaller steps

2. Articulate impact

3. Use button styling for input

4. Cutout the noise

A sample donation interaction by Brad Frost.

A sample donation interaction by Brad Frost.

If you haven’t tested the impact of various changes yet, investing a small amount of resources to optimize this page is one of the wisest decisions any nonprofit can make. Just as there are guiding principles, there is also a lot to learn from the many bad nonprofit online donation examples.

A/B testing various design improvements allows you to maximize the value of each donation by ensuring it happens, is completed with ease, and strengthens the donor’s relationship with your nonprofit.

So the question really becomes why wouldn't you be doing this?

A/B Testing Email

If you’re emailing as part of a fundraising campaign, open rates and click-through-rates are key indicators of how well your campaign will do.

If you can raise more money from each email, you reduce the overall amount of effort required to raise an equal amount of money. In essence, you’re directly driving down your organization’s cost-per-dollar-raised.

In today’s competitive funding climate, this is more important than ever.

Email providers like Mailchimp allow you to A/B test different copy and images for email campaigns. You just set up the various options you’d like to test and they’ll send them out to subsets of your email list, analyze the results, and then automatically send the most effective version to the remaining people on your list.

All you have to do is set up the best options you can think of and sit back knowing you’re doing your best work automatically.

Screenshot of Mailchimp's A/B testing setup for emails.

Screenshot of Mailchimp's A/B testing setup for emails.

Regardless of the actual dollar amount you’re raising, if you’re able to raise 85% more money from your email campaigns through simple A/B tests (like the Obama campaign did), then you can stop spending precious time and resources running underperforming campaigns.

You really can raise more money in less time.

A/B Testing Signup Incentives

Long-term, there is nothing more powerful for your nonprofit’s fundraising potential than a high-quality email list. This has been shown time and time again.

But with everybody vying for supporters, it has grown increasingly difficult for nonprofits to capture prospects’ email addresses. The days of posting a signup form and sitting back while people share their contact information are over.

That’s why it is more important than ever for nonprofits to develop incentives that encourage signups and to test which ones convert at the highest rates.

One option is to use Optimizely, a well-respected service that allows you to test which wording and design work most effectively for your purposes. (Even this year’s presidential candidates are using it).

The key to designing effective incentives is to ensure they:

1. Align with your mission

2. Reflect your prospects’ interests

3. Build a relationship with your supporters; and

4. Provide a high-quality avenue for differentiating your organization.

And before you feel like you need to rush out and develop a variety of ebook options or film exclusive videos, remember you can start A/B testing the resources your nonprofit already has.

For example, arts organizations can offer various levels of ticket discounts. Human services can give an inside look into their work by offering access to their strategic plan.

Look around and see what you already have available to offer. Test what works best, but there’s a good chance you’re already sitting on something new supporters would love to share their email for.

A/B Testing Offline Activities

Of course, testing is not just about technology and fundraising. There are important (and highly overlooked) programmatic applications of A/B testing as well.

This issue can really be summed up by looking at the scale at which evaluation typically occurs in the sector. Predominantly, nonprofits look at how well entire programs perform. This happens in an almost all-or-nothing sense. Did the program reach its goals? Or not?

But the hidden potential of A/B testing at nonprofits is that the overarching goal gets broken down into a number of smaller tests which, when optimized, increase the likelihood of the overall goal being achieved.

Plus, the offline applications of A/B testing tend to be more familiar with nonprofit professionals than the more web-based uses we discussed above.

For instance, you could utilize two types of intake forms to determine which one leads to higher client satisfaction results (ie., designing one to first ask about positive traits and one to first ask about basic demographics).

You could also rearrange the order of a program’s curriculum to determine if it has an impact on how well participants retain and apply the content.

People often assume that paper-based outreach materials cannot be optimized for better results. This is not the case though.

In order to see which materials work better, simply design two options and be sure to include separate contact information for each. This will allow you to track how many people join your program (regardless of what it is) through each means. As you expand the program, you’d want to utilize the more effective materials more widely.

For fundraising events, you could even test whether people are more likely to make a donation if you provide iPads or paper forms at each table.

There are, of course, many many more options. And hopefully your brain is already buzzing with areas you want to test out a few new approaches.

Using A/B Tests at Your Nonprofit

Smart nonprofits are constantly running A/B tests to understand what copy, design, images, interactions, and internal processes work best for their clients and donors. Of course, some will unearth great new approaches and some will show very little difference.

The applications of A/B testing really are endless, and they should be. From high tech to low-fi, simple A/B tests can make a huge impact.

If you want to raise money or serve more people more effectively, A/B tests must be a part of your toolbox.

We're covering A/B tests and much more in The Future of Fundraising.