I’ve always been a busy person, but 16 weeks ago my life got a LOT busier when I gave birth to twins. Here’s a picture of them on the right, because what’s a blog post without an image? Anyway, after life settled back down into some semblance of normalcy, I started looking at my email again. And I came away from maternity leave with some ideas and tips that I wanted to share as an end user who cares about your issues, but is also super-crunched for time.
Keep it short. Most emails that I received are too long and have too much detail, and most people skim emails anyway. People who edit and approve your emails may want to add more bulk to the message – history about the issue, details about the legislation, whatever. But when a message is in the editing cycle, you should be thinking about how you can make the message shorter, not longer. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t add history and perspective, just that you need to keep it concise. Less is more!
Tell me what I need to do in the first paragraph. Don’t make me search your entire email for the action. Do you want me to donate? Email Congress? Make a phone call? Fine, I will do it, at least some of the time. But tell me up front – if I have to search through your message for what you want me to do, that means I’m going to be deleting it.
Keep it non-wonky. This used to happen to me all the time in my previous job – I’d send an advocacy email about legislation to the policy department for proofreading and editing, and they would send it back with all kinds of extra details – like the bill number, the main sponsor, every single torturous twist and turn the bill took in committee, etc. Then I’d have to convince them that people on our list did not want to read all of this stuff. (Of course, there are some people on your list who are interested in wonky stuff, but they are far outnumbered by people like me, who are going to give up on the message if it’s too wonky.)
Style is as importance as substance. I like bullet points and bold font. It’s an easy visual cue that tells me what I need to focus on, since I’m a skimmer.
I think I’m like the majority of people who make up the bulk of nonprofit email lists: I care, that’s why I joined your list. I just don’t have time to read War and Peace. So when you’re putting your fundraising or advocacy email together, keep me in mind and be thinking about how you can make it easy for me. If you do, chances are that I will actually do what you want me to!