How you can build an effective fundraising email template

Higher education marketers have a unique set of challenges that are different than many other organizations. For many reasons, but often because there are multiple departments all housed within the same brand, typically with access to only a small crew of marketing members (if it's not a one-person team). Unfortunately, that can commonly lead to not having enough people to develop and maintain campus email marketing campaigns, which then leads to a lack of essentials, such as email templates for specific use cases. 

As a marketer in higher ed, the problem with not having email templates at your disposal is that when you need an email template, it’s simply not there. That requires you to spend valuable time and resources than to create a new template each and every time one is required. The process of having to recreate an email template from scratch simply isn’t cost-effective or productive. 

Why you need to have a fundraising email template

One of the most common emails that are sent year-round is a fundraising email. No matter which department a student is in, they're bound to receive fundraising emails throughout the year, including from:

  • Housing

  • Their major of study’s department

  • Scholarship fundraisers

  • Philanthropy fundraisers and more 

With so many campus-related fundraising emails going out, it would save your marketing team precious time and resources to have even a basic fundraising email template ready to go. 

Now, when we say a basic fundraising email template, we quite literally mean a basic barebones concept that can be tweaked as necessary depending on the university’s department or fundraising concept.  

Email marketing best practices for higher education

Before we dive into tips to designing your fundraising email template, we must take a few moments to cover the basic email marketing best practices. Knowing these best practices will get your marketing team a step ahead when it comes to completing your fundraising email template at a later date. 

Segment and automate your emails

Segmenting and automating your emails should be considered if you aren’t already practicing this. First of all, automating your emails will help to simplify your everyday tasks once you’ve got the proper system in place. Segmentation helps this process because it helps to send relevant information to specific individuals. 

Any information that you’ve already collected from alumni, current students and staff and even prospective students can be used to your marketing advantage. Here are a few ways to start with segmenting your email lists:

  • Enrollment status

  • Campus housing choice

  • Major or school of study

  • Permanent Home location

  • Social clubs & extracurriculars

  • Birthday

Personalization is vital

Personalization plays an essential role in getting your messages opened. Currently, Gen Z is the primary generation that makes up today’s college students. The generation has been using email nearly their entire life, so catching their attention isn’t an easy feat. 

Personalizing the subject line of your messages is one way to grab their attention quickly, but that must be followed up with high-quality, personalized content. It’s why properly segmenting your email lists is so crucial, because it makes your lists more effective when it comes to sending the most relevant information to the right person at the most appropriate time. 

Birthday email campaign Sent by Eastern Illinois University

Source: Gmail

Use compelling subject lines

It doesn’t matter how well your message is crafted if you don’t have a compelling email subject line that intrigues readers enough to get them to click and open your message. When building a fundraising email template, this step can be a bit tricky because you want to avoid sounding too spammy. Certain words can cause your message to land right in the spam box if you aren’t careful, so while you want to create a compelling subject, make sure it isn’t reading as spam. 

A few good examples include:

  • # of ways you can help

  • Nothing can stop us now, >Name!<

  • X reasons why we need your help

  • You can be the change

A/B testing is crucial to the overall success of your fundraising email campaign

Finally, a vital part of your email marketing strategy is taking the time to test each of your messages before you hit send. A/B testing your email campaigns will provide you with some valuable insights that can make or break the overall success of your campaign. 

A/B testing gives your subscribers a vote in how you market to them

Source: Emma

5 Tips to designing your fundraising email template

With a clear understanding of our email marketing best practices and knowledge on how it can affect your fundraising efforts, it’s time to start designing your fundraising email template. With these five tips, you can design a fundraising email template that is simple enough that it can be used across multiple departments throughout the university.

1. Have relevant “from” information in your header

Having a compelling subject line is only part one of having a good email header that readers will want to open. You’ll also want to ensure that you include a relevant “from” name when you are designing your fundraising email template. 

When it comes to sending funds to someone, the chances are meager if the person asking is unfamiliar to the recipient. In the case of higher education fundraising, sometimes simply sending from the school’s president is enough, because that’s a trusted official on campus. 

As for department-specific fundraisers, the same concept applies, so, instead of sending from a specific teacher in the department, you’re likely to gain more donations from the dean of the department, as students will likely have a better understanding of who that is as verse to a teacher that they may not have met before. 

2. Have a story bank at the ready

When designing a fundraising email template, you want to make sure it remains easily customizable. Marketers know just how essential it is to include a story element into their fundraising emails, and that same concept applies for higher education. However, one story will not suit the need for various fundraisers across the campus. 

It’s why developing a story bank is crucial. Having a good selection of “success stories” on hand is invaluable, and your department should be consistently on the lookout for these stories because they are the ones that pull at the heartstrings of readers.   

You want to make sure these stories capture:

  • A variety of emotions

  • How the individual in the story was impacted by the fundraiser

  • The importance of the organization and the work that they do

Sharing personal stories is a great way to create the emotion necessary to encourage readers to act

Source: Campaign Monitor

3. Have consistent branding that fits with your campus branding

Branding is everything. It’s what ties your marketing materials to your organization, and its mission. When building your fundraising email template, you want to make sure that you are using the same branding that would appear on other marketing materials from your campus. If you don’t, then readers will have a harder time identifying who the email is from and are less likely to want to give to the cause you are fundraising for. 

Emma keeps your University’s branding in line across multiple departments and locations

Source: Emma

4. Make good use of images & video within your message

Most beginner marketers make the mistake of thinking the copywriting is the essential piece of the puzzle. While it plays a very crucial role, so does imagery. It’s why when you are designing your fundraising email template, you should curate an extensive sampling of videos and images that can be used to help convey whatever message it is you want to send to your readers. 

In this example from ME to We, readers instantly get a cheery vibe from the images, and the header text is worth noting because it’s clearly stating that they are looking for a contribution, but not for nothing. As the reader scrolls, they see that the message is to be sent after the holidays to help encourage further giving through the season. It was that initial warm and inviting image that captured the reader’s attention, not necessarily the text, and that’s what set the mood for the rest of the message.

ME to We uses imagery to convey emotions which entice readers to continue scrolling through the message for more information

Source: Really Good Emails

5. Design with responsiveness in mind

Here’s a fun fact for you to keep in mind when you are designing your fundraising email template:

Mobile activity accounts for nearly half of the worldwide web traffic.

With more people transitioning away from desktop computers to mobile devices and tablets, it is more important than ever before to have, at minimum, a responsive email design. Having a responsive design means that your email or webpage will change how it’s displayed according to the size of the screen you are using. 

However, being genuinely mobile-friendly is a different story. A mobile-friendly design ensures that the email or website will look the same no matter which device it is displayed on. While the two sound the same, they are very different. With a responsive design, not everything is guaranteed to show up as you want it too, while it will on mobile-friendly design. 

With more people using their mobile devices for online viewing, it’s important to have a mobile-friendly design

Source: Emma

Wrap up

These five tips for designing a fundraising email template can and will ensure that you are not only creating relevant emails while saving valuable time and resources, they can also be applied to other email campaigns as well. So, make sure you keep these five design tips in mind:

  • Include relevant “From” names in your email header information

  • Have a story bank at the ready

  • Maintain consistent branding

  • Include relevant & compelling images and video

  • Design with responsiveness in mind

Emma has helped over 500 universities worldwide create and automate their email campaigns, so why not let them help you? Contact us today to try a demo.

About the Author

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our

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