Design a Fundraising Appeal that Raises More | npENGAGE

Design a Fundraising Appeal that Raises More this December

By on Sep 16, 2014


Email is one of the most important communication channels for your nonprofit. It also happens to be the top driver of online donations, generating 35% of gifts.

However, designing an email campaign or appeal today is very different than it was even five years ago. Structurally, we now know multi-message, multichannel campaigns raise more money. Visually, the focus should be on simpler, lighter emails and donation forms that render well on any device. But it seems that many nonprofits are still having trouble:

Nonprofit click-through and conversion rates significantly declined in 2012-13.

Since staff turnover and a lack time and expertise can make it difficult to send emails that cut through the clutter, here are some tips to designing an appeal that will raise more money this year-end:fundraising_appeal_design_blog_1.png

Include multiple messages.

You already know that your donors inboxes are going to be filled to the brim this December. Does that mean that you should cut down your end of year campaign to a single email and hope for the best? No.

If your list is 14,000 people, you could expect 10 gifts per email. So you can send one email and get 10 gifts, or you can send four emails and expect 40 gifts.

It may take several messages before people give your campaign a look, especially with their inboxes being so crowded, but a well-planned series of emails allows you to connect with and convert more people.  When done right, follow up emails often outperform the initial email. (And don’t forget the often overlooked post-campaign follow up email, which
can boost retention rates on your next campaign).

Design your fundraising appeal for mobile.

In November 2013, 51% of all emails were opened on mobile devices, according to Litmus. When thinking about your email visual design, mobile rendering needs to be the priority.

How can you design mobile-friendly emails? Here are several ways:

Responsive Email Design

Responsive design automatically detects the device being used (mobile phone, tablet, laptop) and reformats the email. The goal is to provide the best user experience, regardless of device. For this reason, it’s the best approach for sending mobile-friendly emails. Creating responsive design emails, though, often requires someone with design expertise.

Mobile-Friendly Email Design

If you’re not using a responsive design email, there are still several ways to make your email mobile-friendly. They include:

1. Simple Layout

Simple is best, especially to design mobile-friendly emails. Use one main column for your text. A second right column can be added for an image and call-to-action. Keep the height of your header image under 100 pixels. And surround text with a more significant amount of whitespace–it improves comprehension by 20%, according to Crazy Egg.

2. Narrower Email Width

Use a narrower width, ideally under 500 pixels. Why? Smart phones shrink your emails to fit their screens. So the wider the email is, the smaller the text will be. And Androids can cut off the entire right third of your email.

3. Compelling, Mobile-Friendly Images

Images can be an important piece of your email. Compelling ones can draw people in, catch their attention, and even move them to give.Use a unique header image that highlights your campaign theme, in words, pictures, and/or graphics. When choosing other images, pick one that tells a story in one glance and shows up well on a mobile device. For example, a photo of a group of children is fine to view on a desktop computer, but a photo of one or two children close up has more impact when viewed on a mobile device. Keep in mind that images won’t appear initially in many emails. Use smaller image file sizes so they don’t take long to download on mobile devices.

4. “Scannable” Content

80% of people will only scan your email, according to Nielsen Norman Group. And longer paragraphs are even tougher to read on a mobile device. Create one- or two-sentence paragraphs, use lists, use bold on important phrases, and leave enough white space so important points stand out.

5. Big Buttons

Don’t be afraid to create larger call to action buttons so they can be read and easily clicked on mobile devices. Use a button height of at least 44 pixels.

Want more insight into crafting a fundraising appeal that raises more? Check out the eBook!

Fundraising Appeals Banner Ad Don’t Overlook this Critical Piece of Your Mobile Email Fundraising Strategy


Mike Snusz brings 18 years of fundraising experience to his role as a Senior Team Lead on Blackbaud’s Professional Services team. He leads a team of digital consultants and works with nonprofits to improve their digital fundraising, monthly giving, email marketing and peer-to-peer fundraising programs. Prior to Blackbaud, Mike managed the turnaround of the Ride For Roswell from 2003 to 2005 in his hometown of Buffalo, NY. When he’s not contemplating fundraising, Mike enjoys hide and seek, tag, and dance parties with his two kids.

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