Nathaniel Ward

The purpose of a fundraising email

Quick quiz: When you send out a fundraising email, do you measure its success based on:

  1. The open rate of the email;
  2. The click rate of the email; or
  3. The revenue the email generates?

If you answered anything but 3, try again.

The actual goal of a fundraising email isn’t widely understood, even among fundraisers. Roger Craver has a great rant at The Agitator about this problem:

Sure, there’s plenty of stupid, phony measurements that lead nowhere. Measurements I call ‘vanity metrics’ like ‘open rates’, ‘page views’ and other such nonsense.

Sadly, there’s little or no measurement of the difficulty, frustration – or, hallelujah – moments when donors attempt to engage with nonprofit websites.

Yet we continue to honor — and pay — the consultants, staff and others who bring us lots of ‘Likes’ on Facebook, lots of open rates and views on our websites. Most of it is absolute bullshit!

Opens and clicks and likes are inputs to, not the output of, your fundraising machine. These vanity metrics are useful only insofar as they contribute to revenue. They can be a proxy for success, but as often as not they aren’t.

Opens and clicks are necessary but not sufficient for email fundraising success. Without opens and clicks, your email appeal won’t succeed. But don’t gauge your success based on those alone.

Repeat after me: the purpose of a fundraising email is to raise funds. Period.

By Nathaniel Ward on