I don’t need to tell you that it’s a busy time of year. We have too many things to do and very little time to get it all done. We are all just running to keep up, so I thought I would have a little fun with my next topic and present 10 ways you can lose a donor in 1 email.

Nowadays, you can throw a stick and find a webinar, report, article, or podcast (did I tell you I am launching one next year!?) focused on stewardship and retention. But what about the ways you can lose a donor IN the appeal itself?

Before you can even begin to build relationships with your donors, you have to make “the ask.” Unfortunately, that journey can be fraught with pitfalls and stumbles. But have no fear because my colleagues and I are here to help.

As you make the final preparations to your EOY campaign, here are 10 things to avoid in the appeal email.

Danielle blog

  1. Too many (or more than 3) clicks to get to the donation page. – Patricia Tynan, Senior Demand Marketing Manager
  2. Forgetting to change the year from 2014 to 2015 in the body of the email. It screams that you’re not paying attention to details and operating on auto-pilot. – Scott Gilman, Senior Interactive Consultant
  3. Fear mongering. It is not the way to the wallet. – Michael Culler, Customer Success Manager
  4. Data that is set-up is wrong, or if my first name is in place of my last name in the salutation. – Patricia Tynan,  Senior Demand Marketing Manager
  5. Too much guilt trip. – Kent Gillian, Customer Success Manager
  6. Subject lines like the dreaded “now more than ever” or “now is the time” –if you are saying now is the time, what about yesterday or my donation last year? Did those gifts matter less? – Michael C
  7. “FW:” in subject lines lose me instantly. My grandmother forwards me emails and I never open them because I’ve read them a thousand times. – Ryan O’Keefe, Principal Consultant
  8. Blindly asking for money. Show the impact or potential impact of the donation you’re asking for.  – Tammy Radencic, Senior Consultant
  9. If the email is broken, hard to read, or looks terrible on a desktop or mobile device, I’m less inclined to give. – Allison Asbury, Consultant
  10. Pretending you know me by trying to be super casual to get me to click. – Rachel Hutchisson, VP Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy

Bonus tip from yours truly: Tell the story before you get to the ask.

I received an EOY appeal the other day and the ask was in the first sentence. No story, no moving photo, not one paragraph of content. It was just a flashy image that linked to a donation form that offered 5 different ways to give—one time, monthly, and 3 ways I could shop with their corporate partners.

Whether it’s the EOY appeal or the next campaign you run in 2016, consider all the ways you could lose a donor in the email. While sending an email appeal can be extremely efficient, that doesn’t mean you spend any less time preparing, editing, reviewing, testing and finalizing the content. Your audience deserves that much for the investment they are (hopefully) about to make in your mission.

To get more advice, insight and guidance about your online fundraising and marketing  program join us at the next Power Hour webinar. It’s a free series available live and on-demand with 12 months of amazing content.


Danielle Johnson-Vermenton, CFRE, is a Principal Consultant at Blackbaud and is often called to present at events like Digital Leap, AFP Planet Philanthropy and BBCON.  Prior to Blackbaud, Danielle worked in the nonprofit industry in roles such as director of individual giving at Boys & Girls Clubs, leadership giving manager at the Red Cross and director of development at HUGS for Kids. Danielle’s passion is inspiring nonprofits to have a plan for today with a grand vision for tomorrow. You can follow Danielle @DJVermenton and find her blogging on npENGAGE.

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