As we move closer to December 31, the number of year-end electronic appeals from nonprofit organizations will mushroom. Despite the fact that online giving currently represents less than 10 percent of all giving, it is a growing source of income because it is low-cost and viewed as “the future.”

While we don’t know when – or if – online will match or overtake offline, it’s a low-enough-cost space that we all should be in. Added to that, electronic communication is an excellent complement to offline communication – the combination of the two does and will increase overall fundraising results and general engagment.

But this nearly automatic “lift” from an online communication is no excuse to send out a poorly written message. We don’t have enough history to have “set in stone” rules for eAppeals, but we do know they need to be action-oriented. So how do we maximize our year-end electronic appeals?

  1. Put as much thought into the subject line as the email content. The majority of eAppeals fail before being opened. You have a few seconds to capture attention; squander those with a perfunctory subject line and you won’t get a second chance.
  2. Keep it short. People are inundated with email. Yours will stand out because if looks inviting and communicates “easy to consume.”
  3. Tell a story. It’s important to engage a donor and a story can often do that. But your storytelling in an eAppeal is more likely done with a photo and a few sentences, not paragraphs or complex messages.
  4. Make the fundraising ask obvious and specific. Include a noticeable “Donate Now” link (or two), as well as links in the copy for the recipient to act.
  5. Link to a page that is clearly related to the eAppeal. Repeat the photo, briefly summarize the need, and if you are asking for a specific project, make sure that’s a designation for giving.
  6. Check your auto-reply. Does it sound like it was written by an IRS agent, or by a person who is genuinely grateful for the contribution? Make sure this step in the process is so rewarding to the donor that he or she is left with a positive impression of the giving experience.
  7. Mobile optimize. More than half of your emails will be read on a tablet or smart phone, so make sure you are communicating the same passion, even if you don’t have the real estate of a big screen to work with.

Electronic plus print can be a winning combination for fundraising; just be sure to keep the donor as your focus in all your communications.