Let's Raise Some Money
Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

How Often Is Too Often When Sending Emails To Donors?

September 22nd, 2014 by Karen Climer

Recently, I had a discussion with a development officer about email fundraising and how often to email supporters.  I say it depends on what you are sending.  There are some organizations that send one email to me every two months, and that’s too often.  I have friends who send several emails a day, sometimes several within an hour, and I have never told my friends to quit emailing me.  What’s the difference?  The content.

If you are emailing the equivalent of a brochure, once a year is too often.  I’m not exaggerating.  If your email is remarkably similar to your general information brochure, I don’t need to see it more than once.  If you need an example of what I’m talking about, look in your own inbox.  You’ll find plenty of examples from both non-profits and for-profits who do this.

If you are sending me the equivalent of a personal note – the type of emails my friends send me – you can send them as often as you want to.  A few qualifiers: have something concrete to say (my friends do that when they email me), keep it short (my friends do that when they email me), and make it personal (my friends do that when they email me).  If you want an example of this, look at the emails sent by Obama campaigns.

The Obama campaign sent emails frequently, sometimes twice a day.  They were brief.  They were personal.  They looked like something a friend would send.  With subject lines like “Join me for dinner?”  or “Some scary number” or, the most famous, “Hey.”  The more emails they sent, the more money they raised.  Yes, more emails caused more people to unsubscribe, but the growth in money was far greater than the growth in unsubscribes.

If your organization is having too many discussions about how often to send emails, change the discussion to what to email donors.  Email fewer brochure-type messages and more personal notes.  No one gets annoyed when you send personal notes.

Posted in Communication, Email

3 Responses

  1. Ron

    You are right on the money.

  2. Lisa

    Well said, Karen.

    My top 5…
    Is it personal?
    Is it worth telling?
    Is it concise (short and to the point)?
    Is it interesting?
    Is there a call to action?

  3. Karen Climer

    Excellent point. My list didn’t include a call to action. I forgot about that one (and it might be the most important one!). Thanks for adding it.

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