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How to Write Effective Outreach and Follow-Up Emails to Donors
When it comes to cultivating major donors, writing effective emails is crucial for major gifts officers. Here are six ways you can craft compelling emails.
Emails from nonprofits have some of the highest open rates across industries. This makes them an essential form of communication for increasing donor engagement. There are two main categories of emails that nonprofits should focus on: outreach and follow-up.
Outreach emails help nonprofits convert supporters of their cause into donors. They help newer donors feel like they’ve become part of an important community. Follow-up emails are what continue to nurture your donor community to form lifelong connections to your cause. Both are essential components of donor engagement for nonprofits.
Below, we’ll help you take full advantage of your email marketing with some tips for both outreach emails and follow-up emails. With these components in mind, you’ll be able to communicate effectively with an engaged audience.
6 Components of Effective Outreach Emails
When it comes to reaching out to prospective donors, writing effective outreach emails is crucial for nonprofit fundraisers and major gifts officers. Here are six ways you can craft compelling emails that grab donors’ attention and encourage engagement.
1. Be Clear and Concise
Keep your emails short and to the point. Donors are busy individuals, and lengthy emails may deter them from reading the entire message. Focus on conveying your key points concisely and effectively. If you need to expand further, add a link to where your email recipients can learn more information.
To keep your emails clear, use formatting like bullets, bolding, or headers to help readers’ eyes move through your message. You can also employ memorable taglines, pull-out quotes, and imagery to convey your point. Overall, aim for an impactful, digestible message.
2. Personalize Your Copy to the Donor’s Interests
When conducting outreach, you’ll have greater success if you already know a little about your prospective donors. Conduct some research to better understand their interests, passions, connections, and communication preferences. Then, use that information to create different donor email cohorts for more personalized outreach.
Tailor your outreach emails to align with each cohort’s specific interests. This can lead to higher open rates, as recipients will want to engage with topics that are most important to them. It also shows prospective donors that you have taken the effort to personalize the message for them. That level of effort can help them feel special and more connected to your organization.
3. Explain Why Them and Why Now
Building off of the above personalization, outreach emails are more effective when the recipients understand why they’ve been chosen for that particular message. Clearly articulate why you are reaching out to the donor specifically and why it is the right time for them to get involved.
You can do this by highlighting the unique value they can bring to your organization and the impact their contribution can make. For example, you may reach out to a group of current volunteers and express your gratitude for how they’ve been involved with your nonprofit so far. Then, show them how becoming a financial donor to the nonprofit can help you expand your volunteer program to even more like-minded individuals.
4. Share Stories Before Numbers
While data is important, storytelling is often more engaging. Share compelling stories of individuals who have benefited from your organization’s work, illustrating the tangible difference that a donor’s support can make.
Stories have the power to create an emotional connection and inspire action. Share impactful stories that resonate with the donor before diving into statistics and numbers. You can also include quotes from beneficiaries, meaningful photos, and short videos to help shape your story.
5. Focus on Impact
An ask for support should always be paired with information on how that support will make an impact. Every outreach email needs to detail the impact a supporter’s gift will make. You can emphasize this by pairing suggested donation amounts with the specific actions that gift will allow your nonprofit to take. For example, an animal shelter might say that a $50 donation will feed 10 cats for the month.
This is also where some data is useful. If you have a few key stats on your nonprofit’s recent growth, goals, or impact, highlight those in an easy-to-read infographic. This shows that you’re measuring your effectiveness and putting donor dollars to the best use possible.
6. Follow Up With Confidence
Yes, even outreach emails come with a follow-up email component. Your supporters are often inundated with messages and your first outreach may get lost in the shuffle. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to give to your nonprofit. It just means you need to give them another chance to engage with you.
If you don't receive a response to your initial email, it’s essential to follow up with confidence. Avoid guilt-tripping or making the donor feel bad for not responding. Instead, maintain a positive and persistent approach, expressing your continued interest in their potential partnership.
3 Tips for Effective Follow-Up Emails
After you’ve cultivated a new donor to your organization, you need to follow up with them to keep that relationship going. Here are a few ways to send follow-up emails that inspire your new donors to continue engaging with your work.
1. Express Gratitude
Showing your appreciation for a new donor’s support should always be your first follow-up task. Within 48 hours of their gift, a donor needs to receive a thank you. Ideally, you’ll send a few thank yous. The first should be automatic for online donations. It should include a receipt for the donor’s gift as well as a short note of appreciation.
Next, send a longer, more personalized thank you to the donor for their commitment to your cause. Express your appreciation by reminding them of the impact their gift will have. Sharing more information about how you’ll put their donation to work promotes their continued interest in your organization. Overall, expressing gratitude early and often to donors will help build a relationship with them, making them more likely to donate again in the future.
2. Provide an Update
Every few months, follow up with donors via email to share an update on your organization’s progress and the positive influence of your work. You can tell new beneficiary stories, highlight key impact data, and even share challenges you’ve faced along the way, along with how your organization is overcoming them.
Regular updates help demonstrate the effectiveness of your programs and show donors that their contributions are making a difference. They also promote increased donor trust in your abilities to meet your mission.
3. Include a Call to Action
Follow-up emails should contain regular calls to action. In your calls to action, be specific about what you're asking donors to do and make it easy for them to take the next step to support you. For example, you can encourage the donors to:
- Register for your upcoming event
- Attend a volunteer day
- Share your cause with a friend
- Post about your nonprofit on social media
- Make an additional donation
- Provide feedback on your programming
Each call to action encourages greater engagement with your nonprofit. The more donors engage with your work in a variety of ways, the more your nonprofit becomes a key piece of their identity. When donors feel like a part of your community, they’re more likely to continue to support your cause.
Craft Compelling Outreach and Follow-Up Emails to Keep Your Donors Engaged
Remember, effective outreach and follow-up emails should be clear, personalized, impact-focused, and confident. By following these tips, you can increase the chances of capturing the attention of donor prospects and fostering meaningful engagement with your organization.
As you grow your email strategy with donors, track your donor interactions in Instil to gather insights on what works best for each supporter. Want to learn more? Contact the Instil team through our website for questions, demos, or educational materials.