4 Ways Canadian Charities Can Improve Email Fundraising in 2019 | npENGAGE

4 Ways Canadian Charities Can Improve Email Fundraising in 2019

By on Feb 12, 2019


Last year for a research study, I signed up to get emails from 152 Canadian charities to see how they were capturing emails and then what they were sending when it came to fundraising (more on why and the research study here). This post will look at four ways Canadian charities can improve their email fundraising in 2019 but first, briefly, why it’s important that they do.

The Size and Quality of Your Email List Is the Leading Indicator of Your Ability to Raise Money Online

Before we begin working with any client on an ongoing basis, we start with a 3-month data audit process to create a roadmap with key initiatives, budget and projections, and a design of experiments or things they should be testing and in what order. One thing that comes out in that process, time after time, is the immense value of email to online fundraising:

And email isn’t just important to online revenue, here are 4 other findings from our data that illustrate the impact of email fundraising:

  • Offline donors can be up to 90% more valuable when you have their email address.
  • Retention increases by 29% for offline donors when you have their email address.
  • Multi-channel donors can be 212% more valuable for your organization than offline-only donors.
  • Multi-channel donors have a 56% higher retention rate than offline-only donors.

Alright, so now that you know how valuable emails are to fundraising (or know even more than you did before) let’s look at how Canadian charities can improve their email fundraising.

  1. Tell people why they should sign up for your emails and what they get if/when they do.
    Have you ever wondered why someone would want to receive a charity email newsletter? Or your newsletter? From what I saw, I don’t think many people did as we saw a lot of this:

Why would you sign up for that? Or how would you know if you even wanted to sign up for that? There are some creative ways you can capture more emails — like creating a content offer and using Facebook ads to drive focused and specific traffic there — but one of the easiest things that ALL organizations can do is just simply be clearer with why someone should sign up and what they get when they do. Maybe like this:

That’s not world changing copy but even just a few sentences can make a big difference like in this experiment:

81% of the organizations in the study didn’t make it clear what you would receive by signing up and 2 out of 3 used less than one sentence to communicate why someone should sign up. Use copy. Tell people why they should sign up and what they get. And be clearer when doing it.

Learn more in Brady’s upcoming webinar: What You Can Learn From 152 Canadian Charities. Click here to register.

  1. Use confirmation pages to confirm, thank, track, and move people to further action
    61% of organizations didn’t have a thank you/confirmation page after I signed up for email. So 61% of the time, after I gave up my precious email to a charity, there was not clear acknowledgement that I had successfully signed up, no thank you, and, a potential lost opportunity here, no additional action I can take.

A dedicated confirmation page is useful because it helps provide a better user experience and provide some additional ways you can keep engaging with the organization. Here’s a good example:

I just signaled my interest in your cause and your work so why not keep that going and give me some other things to do. That could be reading more content, learning about ways to get involved, or even making a donation. We’ve seen a lot of success with an ‘instant donation page’ that is shown immediately after an email signup as, when done well, it’s a fairly logical next step after someone has expressed interest in your cause.

And even if you don’t want to continue engagement, confirmation pages make it easier to track in Google Analytics through goals which allows you see which traffic sources and people are signing up. It’s also the easiest way to run tests and experiments in something like Google Optimize (even I can do that).

  1. Send more personal looking, sounding, and feeling email appeals
    Once we started getting emails, the inbox looked fairly similar:

But if you look at this closer, there are a few emails that jump out as being a little different than others:

The highlighted emails were sent from a person. Not an organization. And who we receive emails from (or who the sender is) is actually the first thing we look at when triaging our inboxes. A personal email has the feeling as being from someone to you but it also stands out amongst others and often leads to an increase in open rates like this experiment, where just adding the sender’s name, in addition to the organization, helped increase opens 38.2%.

This same personal approach once you get into the message and design of the email often also has better results like this experiment:

You can see the design changes with reduced logo prominence and no donate button helps the email design feel more personal. But if you look at the copy, the tone is also more personal as if someone is talking to or with you as opposed to at you.

I don’t know why organizations think a big logo, hero image that doesn’t support the copy, and a big donate button before the recipient even knows what they’re being asked to give to is a good way to do email appeals but that’s by far the most common way to do it. According to this study, only 3% of fundraising appeals looked like a personal solicitation more like the example on the right above.

A more personal approach from the sender through the subject line, design, and copy can help increase fundraising email performance and make you stand out further in a crowded inbox.

  1. Be clearer with what someone’s donation will do

Just as being clearer with why someone should signup to get your emails is more effective, simply being clearer with why someone should make a donation to you is also a simple way to improve your emails.

Only 61% of the fundraising appeals made it clear what I was being asked to do. Here’s an example of a ‘fundraising appeal’ we received:

Do you know what you’re being asked to do here? Or what your donation will do? Plus, look at all those other links and things to click.

Compare that to something like this email:

People may not always want to give or be in the frame of mind to give when they read your email but if they don’t know what it is they’re being asked for and what it will do, your job — getting them to click and go to a donation page — is much, much harder.

Be simple. Be clear. Be direct.

Those are just 4 ways Canadian charities can improve their email fundraising. You can download the full study for more ideas, examples, and stats here. In the next post, I’ll share ways Canadian charities can optimize their donation pages. I’ll also be presenting a webinar on the key findings and ideas from the study – register here.


Brady is the Managing Director of the NextAfter Institute where he performs original research, develops evidence-based resources, and provides data-driven training to help organizations raise more money online to fund their life-changing work.

A charity nerd, adjunct professor, and international speaker, his thoughts have been featured in The Huffington Post, NPR, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy among others. He was the lead researcher and author of The Canadian Online Fundraising Scorecard, The State of Nonprofit Donation Pages, and The State of Nonprofit Email Cultivation. Brady is also a host of The Generosity Freakshow — a podcast discussing how we can improve, optimize, and grow giving.

He lives just outside Dallas, Texas with his wife, Liz, son, Hendrix, and dog, Melly. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, in/bradyjosephson, and follow him on Twitter, @bradyjosephson.

Comments (7)

  • Shelly Gammieri says:

    Thanks for sharing! We love implementing data-informed solutions into our marketing strategies. You guys at NextAfter really know what’s what.

    • Brady Josephson says:

      Ha, thanks Shelley. We certainly try. And the beauty of taking a research/experiment approach is that we don’t actually need to know everything, but we have some tools and skills to try and figure out how to know. Anyways, thanks for reading!

  • Mary Sommer says:

    Several good ideas. I like the graphic treatment.

  • Sarah says:

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing!

  • Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing. These are fantastic examples.

  • Claudia says:

    Can’t wait to pass this along. Great ideas.

  • Purdey Mak says:

    Hi Brad, just wanted to point out that the “bad example” you have under item #4 is an email from our Welcome series, NOT really a fundraising appeal. That is why it’s not specifically asking for donations but only sharing ways to get involved with the organization. Yes, I work for them by the way and thank you for pointing out issues we might have in this email series. We are looking to update it to make it better where needed. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *