Email Fundraising: What You Can Do to Prevent Lost Donations

In a previous article, we discussed effective email fundraising tactics. By now, you should feel confident in your ability to compose better emails for drawing genuine interest and support for your cause. Subscribers are ready to respond to your call to action. Their interest is great, and a necessary first step. But at the end of the day, a physical response is the only tangible measure of fundraising success. So what’s the next step? Determine the best way to enable supporters to actually carry out your call to action.

This sounds intuitive. If supporters read my emails, engage with my organization on Facebook and Twitter, donating is the natural next step, right? Not exactly. Even if you’ve effectively captured their attention and genuine compassion for your cause, it does not mean they will follow through and donate.

And this second step may be incredibly confusing and frustrating for your organization because the engagement and verbal support for your cause seems to be present, yet the physical donor dollars are not.

Have you ever stopped to wonder where your fundraising efforts have gone wrong? You’ve followed all the tips for great email marketing and feel a strong sense of community with your supporters on social media. You’ve even managed to pick up some new donors along the way. Yet your overall fundraising revenue has dropped. What gives?

You’re most likely unaware of the astounding number of supporters who are interested in your cause, begin the process of donating, but don’t follow through.

Did you know that that for every 100 new donors gained, nonprofits lose 105 donors from the previous year?

M+R’s 2015 Nonprofit Benchmark Study found an average of 87% online donation abandonment rate. This translates to almost $5,000 in lost donations per 100 attempts to donate.

Compare this problem to a really really leaky bucket. You can keep filling it with all the water you want, but if the there’s a major crack on the bottom, you’re never going to fill the bucket.

Acquiring new donors isn’t the problem–turning them into repeat donors is. Donor attrition is the leak in your bucket. Express donations are the glue you need to patch it up.

So how do you incorporate effective CTAs with express donations in your emails?

First let’s look at what constitutes a great CTA and identify the ways in which supporters can donate in response to it.

An effective CTA needs to:

  • Be short but specific: By simply glancing at it, supporters must know what to do, and why. Who will they be helping, and how?
  • Use urgent language: Introduce a timeline for giving using words like “today” or “now” to stress the importance of your cause.
  • Stand out visually: There’s plenty of room to get creative and have fun with this one. Make your CTA a button rather than a simple, plain looking link. What color represents your organization? Pick a symbol or your organization’s logo.
  • Be placed strategically within an email: Where will your CTA stand out most? Keep in mind, not every reader will scroll down through the whole email. Think about this when deciding whether or not the end is the best placement. Include only one CTA button per email—the only exception should be if you offer buttons with different donation amounts (we’ll get to that in a second) but there should only be one message, unique to the email.
  • Keep your audience in mind: Just as the body of an email differs based on the segmentation of your donors, so too should your CTA.

Now, how can supporters follow through on the message contained in your CTA? (Hint: this is where express donations come into play.)

The traditional way of facilitating donations within email is by providing a simple link. Supporters click the link and are taken to a website where they can donate. Ideally, the website is optimized for mobile, given how many users access the Internet on a mobile device these days.

Alternatively, some emails might include a phone number or short code that supporters can use to text a donation amount to. Or maybe a link leads to the app store, prompting supporters to download and donate via an app.

There are a variety of other giving methods out there. But, the bottom line is that in order for the giving process to be FULLY completed, the steps immediately following a “click” on the CTA must be simple and seamless. And unfortunately, most links to a website or the app store do not always offer such simplicity.

Giving through the traditional link is never a short enough process. Once donors arrive at an organization’s website, they have to enter in tedious personal information—and they have to do so every time they click on a CTA to give! Talk about discouraging. It’s no wonder keeping donors seems like such a daunting task.

Why express donations are the solution:

Now that you know there’s a leak in your bucket and have identified a message for your CTA, the most effective call to action incorporates an express donation button. The first time a donor clicks on a CTA button (see image below) they’re taken directly to a page on your website to enter credit card information. They only have to do this once! Their profile is created and in future emails when a supporter chooses to donate, they can do so easily in two clicks (Try a demo here). Your organization customizes the appearance of express donation buttons and even offers multiple buttons providing a variety of donation amount options. Express donations are a win-win. They simplify the giving process for donors while increasing donor retention for your organization.


But you’ll need to analyze where your organization currently stands to determine what action needs to be taken.

Take a minute to assess your organization’s current strategy:

  • How effective are the calls to action in your fundraising emails?
  • Out of the number of supporters that actually click on your CTAs, how many  carry out the entire process?
  • How effectively do you facilitate quick and easy giving?

Now, you’re aware that donor attrition is a sneaky, hidden problem. If the answers to the self-assesment above aren’t what they should be, consider express donations as your solution. Express donations help reduce donor attrition by making it very easy to give and continue to give.


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