Email Effectiveness and ROI

To raise maximum funds or get the most signatures for your petition, you need to know how to use email most effectively. So what are the characteristics of effective emails?

Here is what we’ve learned from our research and our clients’ experience over the years:

1. Successful Emails Are Personal

“Segmentation is a lot of work. But it’s worth the effort. Segmentation of email lists increases the number of recipients who open your emails, and can double the rate at which recipients click through to your website.” – Carl Bloom Associates

People Respond To People

Just for a second, have a look at your inbox. Of the emails in there, which are you more likely to open? One from a person you know well, or one from an organization, entitled ‘Newsletter’?

Friends Remember Things

Relationship is fundamental to email communication. And relationships are built on personal exchanges. Those can be simple as learning each other’s names, or as complex as understanding each other’s motivations.

Your System Needs To Be Able To Learn

For the most personal – and therefore effective – emails, your system needs to learn and store these details. As many details as possible. The Engaging Networks platform goes way beyond knowing your supporter’s name. It also picks up on their activity, including whether your supporter has opened or clicked on your emails, signed your petitions, donated or shared your campaigns. You can pick up on this information and change the content of emails accordingly. This could mean:

  • Mentioning different issues, depending on which issues the recipient has responded to in the past
  • Varying the amounts of money you talk about, depending on a supporter’s previous donations
  • Changing the tone of an email based on how long it was since your recipient took action

Some nonprofits use so many combinations that the entire text of each email going out is unique to that supporter. This is all possible with the Engaging Networks email tool.

2. Successful Emails Arrive At Their Intended Destination

Your email may contain the greatest fundraising appeal ever written. But if it never sees your recipient’s inbox, it’s pointless.

It Can Only Be Read If It Arrives

Deliverability, therefore, is crucial to an effective email platform. You can’t use any old system and expect your message to get through. Spam filters are all too easily triggered. This is especially the case when for targets of campaign emails.

Sometimes You Need A Contact “On The Inside”

We go to great lengths to make sure that your emails get opened. We even have direct contacts with political powers in the UK and US, to make sure that messages are being delivered to politicians and world leaders.

3. Successful Emails Are Frequent

“Knowing that fundraisers and direct mail experts assume that more frequent email appeals will wear out donors and lead them to unsubscribe from email lists, Jeff worked with a national veteran’s group to test whether high frequency email (2 direct appeals and 1 cultivation email with a “soft ask”/month) performed better or worse than low frequency email (1 appeal/month) in combination with printed direct mail materials. The suprising result: over a three month period, 23% more was donated by the group that received high frequency email.” – Betsy Stone, reporting on research by Jeff Patrick of Common Knowledge

“According to data released last year from MailChimp and HubSpot, organizations that send emails only once per month have a 78% higher unsubscribe rate than those that send 12 a month.” – Jonathan Goldford, WiredImpact

Err On The Side Of Volume

Your success in developing life-long relationships with supporters depends on the frequency of your communication. We recommend once every 2 weeks at the very least or once a week if possible.

It’s Easier To Do Than You Think

When we advise this, most people say to us: “I don’t have the time to write that many emails!” However, there is an easier (and better) way. Our email tool allows you to store up a sequence of emails to be sent out at a pre-set time. Then, you can write a long series, set and forget.

Email Without Limit

There is also no limit on the number of emails you can send out to your supporters. You can send as many as you like – we don’t charge extra for that.

4. Successful Emails Link To Web Pages That Continue The Conversation

When your supporters click on a link from one of your emails, the last thing you want them to do is double-check they are in the right place. That feeling of disorientation destroys any feelings your email text has worked to build up. It’s as if a friend has forgotten who you are in the middle of a conversation. Your page will have to work hard to overcome this jolt.

Create Loyal Supporters With Smooth Journeys

So, make life easier on yourself. Create a smooth transition from email to web page by:

  • Continuing the story you started to tell in your email
  • Presenting the same look and feel. This may be as simple as using the same fonts and colours. This is all possible with Engaging Networks’ flexible, customisable templates for both web pages and emails.
  • Acknowledging personal details about your supporter. This should include name and other details if possible. This makes a great connection. Because email is integrated with fundraising and advocacy in the Engaging Networks system, you can personalize web pages as well as emails.

5. Successful Emails Are Tested And Improved

“One Obama email blast from June 26 with the subject line, “I will be outspent,” raked in $2.5 million… other iterations of the same message sent under different subject headings – e.g. “Thankful every day,” or, “Michelle time” – were notably less successful, raking in $545,486 and $604,813 respectively.” – ABC News

Little Things Make GIANT Differences

Read those figures again. One subject line made a $2,000,000 difference.

That’s how much more you could raise if you found out which subject lines work the best. Perhaps as much as 500%…

Guesswork Doesn’t Cut It

The Obama campaign admitted they would have failed to pick a winner without testing.

Fact: Testing is THE best way to improve your email results.

Split Test For Actual Donations Rather Than Clicks

The Engaging Networks platform tracks your split test right through from the email to the thank you page. This means you can work out which subject line or email text actually brings in the most money or petition signatures.

Chloe Green is a copywriter and digital campaigner with almost a decade of experience in the charity and political sectors. She’s delivered campaigns, copy and consultancy for a raft of good eggs including Anthony Nolan, the National Union of Students, St Mungo’s, and Hillary for America. She was Social Media Manager at the Labour Party between 2016–2019 and now she’s Head of Creative with the lovely team at Forward Action. She leads on fundraising emails, UX copy, and all creative facilitation. She’s an expert in email list growth, digital strategy, organic and paid-for social media, and digital mobilisation.

Rachel founded the specialist charity web agency, Rechord, in 1999. Between 1999 and 2012 they created hundreds of different web applications for organisations in the UK and internationally.
In 2013 she became the 'Donor Whisperer' and focused on helping small to medium-sized non-profits to reach new donors and activists and from there increase their income. She uses a unique process that combines the benefits of consultancy with capacity building.
Her clients include Traidcraft Exchange, the Overseas Development Institute, Jubilee Debt Coalition, the Leprosy Mission of England and Wales, Tax Justice UK, The Canary, Humanity and Inclusion, the Anti-Tribalism Movement, BRACE, New Family Social, Arseh Sevom - and that's just the last year.
She also feels weird writing about herself in the third person.

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Hannah is Senior Campaigns Officer at the MS Society, working on their local campaigning programme, Local Action for MS and also on social care and carers. She’s worked at the MS Society for a year and a half, and was previously at the MND Association and National Voices.

Executive Director of C6 Digital, London based agency

Emily has worked at Guide Dogs for the Blind Association since 2019, working on a range of campaign areas to empower people with vision impairments to live the life they choose. Prior to this, Emily working in parliament and severed as a borough councillor.

Brani Milosevic ia a digital consultant and coach at
She helps individuals, teams and organisations to learn how to seize the opportunities offered by digital and navigate its challenges.
Brani set up the Digital Leadership Forum, is an NCVO trainer, a CharityComms mentor and a qualified executive coach.

Rhiannan Sullivan is the Vice President of strategy and partnerships of social action network, Over the past 10+ years, she has worked with hundreds of UK and EU charities helping them grow and develop their digital fundraising programmes. Prior to working for Care2, Rhiannan worked at then political campaigning agency Blue State Digital, a global leading digital strategy agency who has helped many organisations build and engage online communities, clients included political and advocacy campaigns, non-­‐profit organisations, cultural institutions and global consumer brands.

Calum manages social, email and some digital campaigns at CPRE, and is CPRE’s expert Engaging Networks user, working on development and helping other teams make the most of the platform. Happiest working on campaigns for change or rambling around in the countryside.

Brandon Fuller is Engaging Networks alumni and owner of Raise the Roots, a digital agency that has supported over two dozen organizations on Engaging Networks - helping them to maximize their digital engagement using this powerful platform. He previously managed global online advocacy campaigns for the Pew Charitable Trusts and has worked in the nonprofit community for nearly two decades.

I joined the Woodland Trust in 2018 and now lead on policy and engagement campaigns working to improve protection, restoration and high quality creation of woods and trees. Prior to campaigning for trees, I worked in Peterborough, tackling fuel poverty in the community. I care deeply about the climate and nature crises and the many, intersectional impacts and solutions. Endlessly inspired and energised by the dedication and passion of our supporters and the public who take action time and time again.

Hannah Mudge is Digital Innovation Manager at The Leprosy Mission England and Wales and has had the privilege of seeing the 147-year-old international development charity evolve over the last decade, from sending out its first online fundraising appeal to achieving record levels of income despite the challenges faced since the start of the pandemic. She is based in Peterborough and enjoys running, cooking and reading in her limited spare time when not parenting two lively boys. During 2020 she added ‘homeschooling’ to her skillset although what Ofsted rating she would achieve is probably best left to the imagination.

I am a campaigner in the Woods Under Threat team at the Woodland Trust. My role is to help protect ancient woods and trees from damaging developments across the UK. Ancient woods and trees are irreplaceable, so we work hard to stop any further loss of these precious habitats and ensure they are protected for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Matt Strong is the Campaigns and Engagement Officer for the Ramblers.

He has recently run campaigns on increasing the number of new green walking routes in some of our biggest cities, including London and Manchester. He has also been leading on the Ramblers’ campaigns work around the Environment Bill. Matt has a background in politics after spending a decade as an elected councillor on Manchester City Council and having previously worked for two Members of Parliament and a political party.

Claire Warner is a former charity Fundraising Director & Senior Leader, turned Culture & Wellbeing consultant.

It was in trying to throw herself back into her beloved Fundraising Director role after 12 months' treatment for aggressive breast cancer, that Claire realised the focus & memory loss and heart condition side effects she'd been left with after her treatment, plus the life-changing experience of the illness itself, meant (guttingly!) a 300% commitment, 50+hours a week Fundraising Director role was no longer an option.

On looking into what others do in this situation, Claire discovered the field of workplace wellbeing, the research work of Prof Cary Cooper, the Gallup Organisation and Simon Sinek, and hasn't looked back since.

In 2018, Claire created her own piece of research into the wellbeing of fundraisers and when it concluded in 2019, over 700 fundraisers had taken part. The results of the research were used to further inform and refine the work Claire does with organisations and individuals in the charity sector.

In 2020 Claire won the Best Digital Leader Award at the Social CEO Awards and in 2021 curated the first Charity Wellbeing Summit.

Today, Claire works on organisational culture and wellbeing projects with charities and offers coaching and mentoring programmes to sector professionals.

Becky has spent the last decade building people power and people-powered movements to hold the most powerful to account for a fairer, more just, and cleaner future.
She helped build 38 Degrees UK into a movement of over 1 million citizens and led many of the biggest campaigns. As part of OPEN’s senior team, she helped build and sustain a network across 19 different countries, by supporting, coaching, and building fast-growing digitally facilitated organisations.

She's currently Senior Strategist at The Sunrise Project leading the Global Banks Program and building grassroots activism on finance around the world. She’s on the board of Skiftet, Sweden’s biggest online campaign community and Left Foot Forward in the UK.

Andrew Taylor-Dawson is Development Manager at Liberty, where he leads on member and support engagement. He has been in fundraising for around 13 years. In this time he has worked in the human rights, homelessness and social justice sectors as well as having been a freelance consultant.

He has held board positions with Global Justice Now and the adoption support organisation We Are family.

Rebecca is a Digital Project Manager, who recently led the redesign and redevelopment of The Children's Society's website.

Rebecca worked closely with senior stakeholders, subject matter experts, and digital agencies to create a new platform that demonstrates the organisation's refreshed vision, mission and brand. There has already been astounding results in the 6-months since launch.

I have worked as a web developer for about 20 years and for Which? since 2015, primarily on their WordPress sites. This has involved integration with a variety of different APIs, most recently the Engaging Networks API, along with the creation of APIs to allow sites to talk to one another.

Glyn Thomas is a digital strategist and web developer. He built his first website in 1997 and has been working in digital communications since 2002.

For the past 12 years, Glyn has almost exclusively worked with charities and non-profit organisations. Almost all the projects he works on are focused around campaigning, fundraising or supporter recruitment, and often a mixture of all three.

Now based in Berlin, Glyn works with organisations in the UK, Europe and North America.

Rhian is the Strategic Programme Manager for Physical Activity at Versus Arthritis. Alongside Sport England under the Richmond Group ‘Movement for All’ programme, Rhian is co-developing a long-term, sustainable programme to support those living with Musculoskeletal conditions to increase their physical activity levels and improve their quality of life. Rhian has over 15 years’ experience of supporting people with long term health conditions to become more active. She is passionate about prevention, working in partnership and using an effective knowledge base to create impactful change at scale.

Having gotten his start organizing with anti-war veterans and working as Sala Labs, Sales Engineer, and Partner Manager, Bryan now brings his expertise to non-profit and mission-driven clients as 4Site Studios Director of Digital Strategy. Specializing in challenging and complex projects, Bryan works with each client to craft holistic approaches tailored to goals, budget, and outcomes.

Mary Margaret Callahan is the Chief Mission Officer for Pet Partners, where she is responsible for leading mission delivery including the therapy animal program and grassroots advocacy program. She joined Pet Partners in 2013 and has worked to establish the organization as both an influencer and a resource within the animal-assisted intervention (AAI) and human-animal bond (HAB) community. In 2018 she was named one of PetAge Magazine’s Women of Influence. Mary Margaret lives on a small farm outside Seattle with her husband, daughter and menagerie of animals including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, chickens, goats and miniature donkeys.

Joe Derry Hall is a freelancer working on creative digital and communications. His interests include tech innovation, upending power and reimagining different futures. Joe has been the winner of a Mozilla Creative Media Award and the joint winner of a BAFTA digital award. He was previously in-house in campaigning and communications roles at Amnesty International, the Climate Coalition, the Ecocide campaign, Save the Children, Scope and others. He is one of the initiators of Right Way Up, an experiment to create a radical, practical new vision for the social change sector.

Anna Chowcat is the Digital Manager at Refuge and oversees the charity’s digital function and output. Since joining Refuge, Anna has been instrumental in introducing a number of digital engagement programmes including digital campaigns, bespoke email supporter journeys and user friendly donate/campaign pages. Before joining Refuge, she has worked in digital engagement and campaign roles at The Labour Party and Leonard Cheshire Disability.