The ingredients of a great email campaign

The Ingredients Of A Great Email Campaign

The ingredients of a great email campaign

So just what makes a good email? And how can your charity drive up those all important click through and open rates – particularly if you’re using that email to drive donations? Well today’s guest blog looks at exactly that. Matt Collins (@charitychap), a freelance digital marketer and trainer, takes three different examples of charity emails and picks out the ingredients that make each one great. 

Don’t underestimate the power of email

Email is often viewed as the poor relation to social media. Many charities are much more interested in racking up more Twitter followers or diving into the latest social media platform than cultivating existing email subscribers. After all, don’t they just need an email newsletter every month or two to keep them happy?

In fact, that email list gathering dust on your shelf is chock full of amazing people. People who are far more likely to donate to your charity than social media followers – up to eight times more likely in fact. Makes sense – if someone has given their email address to a charity, it’s the equivalent of giving your number to someone you like. As if to say, “I like you. Call me sometime.”

Here are a few examples of charity emails asking for donations. Each takes a different approach. But which works the best?

Wikimedia – it’s been a year since you donated

Wikimedia email screenshot

A personal appeal

Two things stand out in this appeal before I’ve even read the first line. One: the first word of the subject line is my name. Being narcissistic, that got my attention. Two: the email is a ‘personal appeal from Wikipedia’s founder’. This must be important if the head honcho is emailing me personally. I’m going to open this email.

Text only

This email has no images. It’s pretty much text only, which makes it look more like an email from a friend than an organisation – that personal touch it claimed to have before.

The personal touch

The email opens by saying it’s been a year since I donated to Wikimedia. I feel like it remembers me and our previous relationship. That feels nice. Even the sign off refers to me as ‘a valued donor’ (flattery will get you everywhere), and reinforcing this makes me much more likely to donate again.

Why they need my help

I’m being told why my money is needed. They don’t get government grants, their staff is surprisingly small, their requirements surprisingly big. And Wikipedia helps people.

Big call to action link

At least one in three people will be reading this email on a mobile. So the hyperlink to the donation page has to be nice and big to be clickable by clumsy thumbs. This link is unmissable.

Restart email – keep us going in 2014

The Restart Project encourages us to use our electronic devices longer by learning maintenance and fixing skills – pretty valuable work in a throwaway society.

I like this email too.

Restart email screenshot

Great graphic

The headline graphic is also the call to action of the email and even incorporates their logo. So you know immediately this email is asking you to make a donation.

Skimmable headlines

The headlines and calls to action give skim readers the whole story. The buttons could be bigger, but the first one is in the middle of the email – great for readers who don’t read to the end.

Strong content

The email is short. We all get lots of emails, so a short one tells me the sender doesn’t want to take up too much of my time. It says what they have already spent money on and what future donations will be spent on, which is vital for all fundraising, not just online giving. It even offers a free gift if donations are sent by a particular date.

RSPCA – save the seals

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has a much more image driven email than the other two. This will make for a more engaging experience than the others (especially so on desktop), with the images  of bees, dogs and seals instantly conveying what the charity is all about.

RSPCA email screenshot

Great images

The illustrations are great. Cartoony, friendly and colourful without being overwhelming. I love the wood panel style buttons linking to ‘Our events’ and ‘Where to find us’ at the bottom of the email. These could even be used as the call to action buttons in the rest of the email.

Succinct copy

In the newsletter format, it’s important to keep each story to a sentence or two, with a ‘find out more’ link at the bottom. This email does  just that, and colour codes the different types of stories so supporters can find what they’re interested in at a glance.

Multiple donate calls to action

There are a few different fundraising calls to action, including legacy, online shopping and switching electricity providers, which are all great ways to support the charity. This email would be most effective if later on people were sent more tailored emails depending on what they clicked.

So which email do you like best?

I don’t know how any of them actually performed in terms of open rate or click through, and the great thing about email marketing is that most unexpected tactics can end up being the most successful. So hopefully the above pointers are useful, but to find out what works for your organisation, be sure to test, test and test again.

If you’re interested in guest blogging for ‘We make giving social’, drop us a line at

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Matt Collins is managing director at digital marketing agency, Platypus Digital, and tweets @charitychap