A friend suggested that I post about holiday solicitation campaigns. Not to sound prideful, but I have done a lot of these campaigns - both online and offline - and seem to be pretty good at it (the checks have come in, at least). I will outline what I think are good things to keep in mind; less of a definitive checklist and more a list of handy tips/opinions. Five important notes:
- Most of my experience is in the non-profit/advocacy/political realms, so give proper weight to a particular tip depending on your industry.
- This game is always changing. What works online (or offline for that matter) is not static.
- I will meld as much as possible the online and offline strategies. They are similar, obviously, because the goal is to persuade someone to give. Some of this will be evident (i.e. message length will effect your number of pages in direct mail - not the case with email). I will attempt to point out if a tip is applicable solely on the online channel or in direct mail (DM).
- If you find these tips useful, subscribe to this blog (see the gray box on the right side) so you don't miss part two and three.
- Forward this to your development department. It can't hurt.
Ideally, you would have started this process at least a month ago (sorry, I had just started the blog then). Give yourself a month to plot out the strategy, meet with the decision-makers to get their support, do several drafts, etc.
One email does not a campaign make. Since email doesn't cost anything, send out several (as long as you have new content and something to say). However, do not send out the exact same email twice unless you segment your list to suppress any people who opened it the first time around.
I like a strategy of one email per week for four weeks. It gives four touch-points - enough to highlight several aspects of the work you do, yet the campaign is short enough not to drag on.
Let's get granular! Your choice of font should be decided by 1) your conventions - keep things consistent, and 2) how your organization should be viewed. I recommend serif fonts (Times New Roman, Garamond) for a professional portrayal and sans-serif font (Ariel, Verdana) to seem down-to-earth. (Sans-serif is easier to read online, but decide for yourself depending on your org.)
Shoot for 12 point font. While your eyes may be spry, more mature adults have worse eyes and more in the bank. You do the math.
Some folks prefer the antiquated look of Courier - reminiscent of typewriter days of yore. These are usually people who also enjoy multiple font colors and garish backgrounds. We're not selling used cars folks, we're selling ideas and those are worth money. Like your Momma said, don't go out looking cheap. (And if you even think of using Comic Sans, heaven help you.)
- Small paragraphs are easier to scan than long ones. If this isn't the first blog you've ever read, you probably know what I'm talking about having seen what is out there.
- Vary your sentence structure - no bunches of complex sentences or tons of semi-colons.
- Short, emotive sentences are good. Remember that you have about 1.2 seconds to snag the reader or your email goes into the trash.
- Bold and italics are OK, but only here. You need to communicate quickly and that means occasionally grabbing eyeballs. However, chose your emphasis sentences (or words) carefully and don't go crazy.
- Is your logo visible across the top or in the upper-right corner (save the left for your salutation)? The eye and brain of the reader are able to discern in a split second whether s/he is affiliated with your organization and trusted org emails get read. Everything else is trashed.
- Check what your email would look like with images turned off. Is some text still above the fold (high enough to be read in a standard computer screen)? Needless to say, do not rely on HTML images to communicate your message. It may look pretty, but what's the use if no one sees it?
- White space is your friend. If you stuff in a ton of text, you end up looking like harried Ralph Nadar rather than classy Frank Sinatra. Go for classy.
- Put your graphic designer on alert. You may want to show the incremental increase of funds from week to week in a visual form. See Howard Dean's bat for an example. You could have them put together different images for each week of the campaign prior to its launch if you know they will be busy (i.e. closing a magazine issue) or they can gauge it from week to week in respect to the money coming in. Either way, give them some advance notice.
Tomorrow, I will cover content and then Friday I will wrap this up with tips on delivery. I hope this is helpful and I hope this post does not sound like I know all about raising money online. I just know I'm pretty good - not necessarily the best. Use the comments section to send me your own suggestions or links to helpful articles.