The ratio? 1:1(:1)
Spend as much time on subject line brainstorming as you did on writing the whole email. And then test the shit out of them to see which one performs the best (remember: you’re measuring action rate).
If you’re using a box (like this), then spend as much time writing that text as you did writing the email body. You’re looking to condense your message into 2-3 short sentences that tell the entire story, and they need to answer the top three of the four whys.
If you’re using an image in your box, spend as much time finding that image as you did writing the email body.
Then test, test, test.
You have a responsibility to your organisation and the people you’re helping send the very best email you can and raise as much as possible to help them!
Super simple stuff.
One of the reasons I like email so much is because you can instantly figure out how good (or bad) it’s performing.
But you can only really do that if you’ve got some sort of measurable action.
Luckily, forcing yourself to put a measurable action into an email is a great way to ask yourself “what am I trying to achieve with this message?”
For some messages, it’s easy: you want people to donate. Or you want them to add their name to a petition. Those are easy to measure.
And then you could (should) be reporting back on how you spent their donation.
There’s a simple opportunity there: in the report back, provide a way for them to engage with you again. Provide a link for them to share their accomplishment with their friends. And put a passive donation ask in there too, because people will want their donations to achieve more of the same or continue the fight*.
It doesn’t really matter what kind of message you’re sending – if it’s a quality message, people will want to engage with you. And it’s up to you to provide that opportunity for engagement every time.
Do this a few times and you’ll quickly figure out your baselines. Then test and optimise.
*Don’t expect this to be a driver of significant income – think of it as a reward for a job well done.
I’m a pretty massive nerd, and one of the things I like the best about digital-first fundraising is the fact that you can measure and analyse all sorts of data.
If you’re running an email program, there are only a couple of metrics you really need to be looking at.
For me, this is the metric I look at to judge an email’s performance.
It’s better than click rate – through the action rate, I can see how many people were driven to take action, but I can also figure out pretty quickly where in the chain something is going wrong if my email performs badly. If your click rate is high and your action rate is low, it usually means something’s up with your landing page.
Amount donated (if it’s a fundraising email)
It’s up to you whether you choose to look at average donation or total amount donated, but this can help you see if your email is inspiring people to give a higher or lower gift than normal.
Establish a baseline unsubscribe rate and just keep an eye on it. Unsubscribes aren’t always bad anyway [link] but if they suddenly spike, you should definitely look into why.
A quick note on open rates
I don’t really even look at open rates when I’m assessing email performance, because ultimately I don’t want people to open my emails and then do nothing with them. Generally, look at open rates if your email is deeply underperforming – it could be an indicator of deliverability issues.
Otherwise, just keep your focus on the action rate.