How Wikipedia’s Email Fundraising Appeal Cuts Through the Clutter

Email solicitations continue to be effective, accounting for 28% of all online revenue (Nonprofits Source). However, the average office worker receives over 120 emails per day (The Radicadi Group), so how do you cut through the clutter?

As a former development team member myself, I’m much more critical of solicitations I receive.

Here’s how Wikipedia earned a donation from me for five years running despite this being the busiest time for fundraising: 

  • Consistency Causevox has a great excerpt on the importance of consistency. Wikipedia’s messaging has always been clear to me. If all our past donors simply gave again today, we wouldn’t have to worry about fundraising for the rest of the year.  They’ve had this same exact message to me since 2015 (I first gave in 2014)! It follows the four C’s of effective messaging: it’s consistent, clear, convenient, and compelling. I remember this sentence far better than many mission statements!
  • Good subject line While I’m generally not a fan of ellipsis, it worked on this subject line because it created curiosity and subsequently earned a click. Your beautiful fundraising email is useless if no one opens it! You need a compelling subject line. If you’re more advanced, run some A/B testing for what works and what doesn’t. President Obama’s online fundraising campaign is famous for subject lines and proves how imperative it is to have a good one. Thanks, Obama! 
  • They talk about me, the donor The first part of the email almost passes the Ahern Audit (they used “you” words 7 times and “we” words 4 times) and is written at a proper reading level. It hooked me into reading the rest of the email. The first part is crucial and determines whether or not someone keeps reading what you have to say.
  • It’s easy to give There are FOUR links to give in this one email, two of which are incorporated into the hard ask. Nonprofit Hub hits the nail on how to make giving easy for your donor. It’s mobile-friendly, short, easy to find, and has a single call to action. 

This isn’t to say Wikipedia is perfect; there is room for them to improve. Here are two ways you can easily one up Wikipedia’s fundraising team: 

  • Use a real email address  While the email is signed by the ED’s Director, Katherine Maher, the email itself was sent from donate@wikimedia.org. Nothing could be more impersonal and non-relational! Use a real email address when communicating with your donors and destroy all role-based email address such as info@nonprofit.org, development@nonprofit.org, noreply@nonprofit.org, etc. to keep things personal and relational!
  • Be more donor centric I ran the entire email through the Ahern Audit and it failed, but Wikipedia got away with this one because the opening paragraph was so compelling. Nonprofits talk about themselves too much (psssst… Donors don’t want to hear about your nonprofit. STOP IT!). Be sure to make your cause about the donor!

Take a few notes from this email that earned a donation from me and get to fundraising! 

As part of Bloomerang’s Content Donation Program, $100 was donated to Indy Alliance.

The Art & Science of Digital Donor Retention

Billy Ratthahao
Billy Ratthahao was formerly an Account Coordinator and Product Evangelist at Bloomerang. He previously served as the Mentoring Coordinator at Shepherd Community Center.
Billy Ratthahao

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