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How Many Year-End Emails Should I Send?

Samantha Nyland

It’s crunch time. 12% of all gifts are made during the last few days of the year and you’re so very close to meeting (and exceeding!) your campaign’s goal for the year. You’ve already gotten your physical mailing appeal out the door. But how many year-end emails should you send?

We got your back. We can put the debate to rest and give you the definitive answer to exactly how many emails you should send, when you should send them, and what you need to say.

Before We Begin

We do need to put a few caveats on this before giving you everything you need.

First, we’re assuming you’ve employed a donor-focused communications strategy the rest of the year. If you haven’t, then start planning for next year now by downloading our annual fund e-book.

Second, we assume you’ll be segmenting your year-end emails to provide personalization for each of the messages you’ll be crafting. Creating a donor-centered experience is vital for immediate results and long-term retention. There are pros and cons to consider when appealing to individuals who have already given earlier in the year, but a general rule is to filter out donors who have donated in the last 30 to 60 days.

Third, we assume you understand the role of email in your efforts. Email is a low-cost option for organizations but the number of emails sent is increasing year over year. It takes about 1,000 emails to obtain $36 for most organizations, though smaller nonprofits do see an average of $106. Never rely on email as the primary way you connect with donors, but instead fold it into a larger strategy that involves many touch points.

With that said, let’s dive into what your strategy for year-end emails.

The Basics

There are a few key items that all emails need to have when sending your end of the year “Hail Mary.” Each of your year-end emails should contain these items no matter what.

  • Great subject line. The ability to draw someone in with a great subject line is the vital first step in getting someone to open your appeal. While that alone can’t get someone to donate, it’s something that can make or break your email open rates. Learn more from our NeonOne email partner MailChimp, including why it might be a good idea to avoid using outright calls to donate and instead be creative.
  • Donor-centric. This is a drum we’ll continue to beat. If you make the message about yourself and not the donor, they will check out quickly and not click through. Count the number of times you have the word YOU in the appeal versus I or WE. If you are talking more about yourself and not the donor’s role in making change, ditch that email copy immediately.
  • Optimized donation experience. You can have the greatest email ever crafted that beats all click through rates ever seen, but if your donation page is terrible then it won’t matter — you’ll lose the donation. Make sure your donation page is optimized, otherwise all your hard work will be for nothing

If your year-end emails follow these 3 tips then you’re already in good shape. Yet what about that definitive answer? How many emails should you send for your end of year appeal — and when?

Starting December 27, you should send three emails. Three emails over five days. No more, no less. Aim to send all of these between 11am and 2pm. So what about the emails themselves?

Year-End Email #1: The Hook

You should send this email on December 27. This is the kickoff point for your end of year email appeals. It should set the stage for messaging but frame as a question to draw people into what you’re asking them to do with you.

TEMPLATE

FROM: Organization Name

SUBJECT: We’re so close – will you help us reach the finish line?

FIRST + LAST NAME,

[Use a story that pertains to the impact your mission can have. Keep it short and to the point]

These are the problems that you can help us solve. While we’ve been able to [insert program success], we aren’t there yet and need your help.

Will you consider making a donation of $[insert suggested giving amount per their segmentation level and link directly to donation page]?

Kind regards,

[Pertinent contact related to segment. If not segmenting to that degree, head of organization]

Year-End Email #2: The Line

You should send this email on December 30. This should be your most provocative email, using a subject line that almost dares the donor to open it and then using evocative imagery to ensure there’s no question of the impact their donation will have or the loss that will occur if they don’t join you in your mission.

TEMPLATE

FROM: Board President OR Head of Organization’s Full Name

SUBJECT: We cannot do this without you

FIRST + LAST NAME,

We cannot do this without you.

We’re trying to [insert major program goal here] but we aren’t there yet. We need your help to reach our goal. [if previous donor in years past, reference that here].

Will you join us? Will you donate $[insert suggested giving amount per their segmentation level and link directly to donation page]?

Kind regards,

[Name from subject line]

Year-End Email #3: The Sinker

You should send this email on December 31. It should be urgent, immediate, and to the point. Invite the donor to make a major change by making a donation. Keep it simple and focused on their role in creating impact. Tie revenue goals with mission goals.

TEMPLATE

FROM: Organization Name

SUBJECT: We’re running out of time

FIRST + LAST NAME,

There’s only hours left to make your gift. We need your help to make our mission a success. We need your help to [insert personal story of impact]

Please donate $[insert suggested giving amount per their segmentation level and link directly to donation page]

Kind regards,

Your friends at [Organization Name]


Making it Your Own

As always, the templates we’ve provided are just examples and recommendations. You can — and should — customize these templates to fit your own year-end email strategy. You know your audience best, so make sure you’re creating a year-end email campaign that will resonate with them.

What year-end email strategies have you had success with? Let us know in the comments! 

Email and fundraising. All in one place.

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