If you’re a nonprofit, chances are you are sending an email fundraising appeal this month. And maybe next month. And definitely the next month. Email, for most nonprofits, is the single largest source of online fundraising revenue. And technology advances have allowed marketers and fundraisers to send emails to hundreds of people at once for extremely low cost, which is a fantastic efficiency.

But along the way, we’ve forgotten something. 

We’ve forgotten the principle that people give to people. We’ve forgotten that email is a two-way medium. And we’ve forgotten that fundraising is not about programs, it’s about relationships.

Email marketing at its worst allows us to “blast” hundreds of thousands of people until they either decide to give in and donate or mercifully unsubscribe. But email marketing at its best allows us to scale 1:1 relationships more efficiently than ever, using the medium to create valuable connections with our donors.

5 Principles of Humanized Email Fundraising

We’ve been calling this “humanized” email fundraising. In this post, I’ll share 5 principles of “humanized” email fundraising that will help you increase donor conversion, average gift, and lifetime value with your donors. These are not “best practices”, but rather guidelines based on scientific research that have proven to affect response.

Principle #1: People have a first and last name.

Organizations don’t send emails. People send emails. So why do so many organizations put their company name as the sender? Giving people a personal connection to your organization has shown to increase open and click-through rates, even affecting donation rates when matched with the right value proposition.

Here’s an experiment from the Texas State Historical Association. They sent a series of emails during their calendar year-end campaign from the CEO, Brian Bollinger. Since he was new to the role, they had added the name of the organization after his name in the sender line. But we hypothesized that removing this would increase the perception of familiarity and increase open and click-through rate. In addition, the subject line of the control email was complex and somewhat organizational-centric. Together with the TSHA team, we devised a treatment that sounded more like something a human would write. 

It’s important to remember that your emails are likely surrounded by emails that are actually sent one-to-one from other people. Research suggests that personal senders and subject lines with a personal tone can increase engagement, which is the first of several necessary steps to getting a gift.

Principle #2: People naturally build trust with recipients through the sender, subject line, and preview text.

As email marketing has become more popular and widespread, consumers have become better and better at weeding out marketing emails from personal emails. Since time is our donors’ most valuable, non-renewable resource, they must optimize their own inboxes. And if your fundraising email doesn’t pass their “sniff test”, they won’t even open it. That’s why the sender, subject line, and preview text are so important: they might be our only shot at interacting with the prospective donor.

Check out this experiment from Americans for Prosperity. Their president, Tim Phillips, was the sender on the email. But the subject line sounded grandiose and possibly hyperbolic. In addition, it was so long that it got cut off in many email inboxes. Additionally, the preview text picked up some “alt text” from the images in the email, and obscured the personalization that they were employing in the body of the email. We created a treatment that employed a simple, “humanized” subject line and cleaned up the preview text. 

It’s very important to remember the context in which your reader sees your email. If you tip them off that it’s a marketing email of any sort, they may skip it entirely.

This article was originally published on Nonprofit Hub, read the full article here