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June 26, 2022
Email Is Still Valuable in Fundraising, But Needs to Be Done Right
Book - Raising Thousands of Dollars
Email is cheap and easy to use and ubiquitous, even in the age of Twitter, but that doesn’t mean it’s a surefire way for nonprofits to raise money. Raising Thousands (if Not Tens of Thousands) of Dollars with Email identifies the pitfalls and offers what amounts to a detailed tutorial to help the reader realize the goal of the book’s title.

Based on more than two decades of experience helping nonprofits raise money, Madeline Stanionis, expertly leads the reader through email fundraising fundamentals, offering practical advice on nearly every one of its 108 pages.

Regarding the belief that email is cheap, easy, and widely used, Stanionis writes, ”It is great that email fundraising is getting easier and better every day. But fast and easy shouldn’t (and can’t) negate solid strategy and good checks and balances.”

In other words, just because everyone in your organization uses email doesn’t mean they know how to use it effectively for fundraising. What’s required, Stanionis maintains, is organizational strategy and discipline, e.g., one group or person should formulate a plan that integrates email with other outreach methods and be responsible for coordinating email to donors, supporters, clients/members, and friends.

Not to put too fine a point on it, email is to a large extent a numbers game, according to Stanionis. For example, to generate 10 donations, a minimum of 1,000 people have to receive your message, at least 250 of them need to open and read it, and at least 50 must click on the link to your donation page. Therefore, much of your organization’s preparatory and ongoing effort needs to be devoted to developing accurate, up-to-date email lists. Stanionis outlines five tactics that will help.

Perhaps most importantly, email outreach works when conceived and executed as an ongoing campaign. She writes that a standalone email message is similar to a first date. Sometimes the timing is right and you hit it off, while other times the chemistry isn’t there and it’s over before it has a chance to get going. In contrast, an email campaign is more like a relationship that evolves based on a series of encounters (in which every contact is not an appeal).

The sheer, constant competition for everyone’s attention—from email, social media, daily business communications, meetings, and personal obligations—mandates a campaign approach to email.

All fine and good, but what about the basics? Here, Stanionis comes through:
    Writing. Use short sentences and short paragraphs.
  • Provide links to your donation page.
  • Make your case briefly and cogently, in contrast to longer story telling that works better in direct mail.
  • Use space wisely, as readers will scan your message quickly and move on just as quickly if they don’t readily grasp your point.
  • Remember that writing for email is more informal than in other written communications.
Much as this book is about emailing, Stanionis correctly points out that email is but one element of an integrated communications plan in which every component—direct mail, telephone, email—does what it does best, and at the right time.

When email is done well, meaning that it informs, educates, and even entertains, it provides value that makes your constituents eager to open your next missive. Raising Thousands will help you accomplish that.

Raising Thousands (if Not Tens of Thousands) of Dollars with Email is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

August 2015
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