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How to use email to increase donations

You’ve already set up an online giving form, connected your bank account, and customized your form. You log into your account to look at your giving dashboard and… no one has donated yet. These early stages of accepting online payments and donations can be disheartening, but don’t give up. We compare an online giving program to a snowball rolling down a hill. Sure, it will start small, but the more that time goes on, the more traction you will get and the faster it will build.

One of the most sure-fire ways to increase your donations immediately is with personalized emails. Obviously, if your loyal followers don’t know about your new program, there is no way for them to give to you.

In some ways, email is even better then sharing in person, because you can share a link to your form easily in email. How you use email to communicate with your base of supporters depends on how much time you have and how large your list is. We will outline 3 ways to increase donations with email below, listed from most time-intensive to least time-intensive, but also from most effective to least effective.

  1. Truly personalized emails. If you are raising money from a relatively small base of donors, or expect those donors to give large sums at a time, this is the way to go. You can tailor each email to the individual you are sending it to. Sure, it’s a little old-fashioned, but it still works very well.
  2. Google Mail Merge. This is a little bit of a hybrid approach, and does require a that you have some level of tech knowledge. Essentially, using a combination of Gmail and Google Docs, you can customize a list of fields of your choosing (such as Name, Company, or City) and automatically send emails from your Gmail account to a list of email addresses that you pre-determine. It is pretty slick, in that it looks like a customized email, but takes a fraction of the time. See below for an instructional video to help with Google Mail Merge setup.
  3. Email Marketing. If you have a large list of potential donors and/or you expect those people to give small sums of money at a time, this might be your best bet. Services like Mailchimp allow you to get up and running quickly and even have a free plan if you are ok not using some of their advanced features from the start. These emails will look more like mass emails, but they are easy to brand with your logo and colors.

No matter which approach you use, keep in mind that any direct email approach is going to be more cost-effective than most paid advertising, particularly if you already have a decent-sized list. And remember – it will take some time to build a following, so don’t give up!