Spammers are Creeping in on Fundraising

Like you, I have to weed through a ton of spam every day. Sometimes it seems like the smartest minds in technology are not at Facebook and Google but somewhere I never heard of figuring out how to get into my inbox.

Typically it’s vacations and gadgets and miracle solutions for unmentionable things. But they are smart these spammers and look for any place the money is flowing. So – as we head into fall – it’s no surprise that they’ve discovered fundraising.

Have you seen any of these? I got this one this morning:

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 11.11.50 AM

Now, the letter is awful. It’s generic and un-personalized and non-specific.

But sadly, I’ve seen a ton of legitimate fundraising letters that do exactly the same things. The one I got from my college this year wasn’t much warmer.

And even sadder – they do some things BETTER than real fundraisiers. Have you ever thought to provide screen shot directions for how to donate online? That’s actually kind of brilliant.

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 12.13.37 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 12.13.49 PM

If you are relying on email to supplement (or replace) your print campaign it is time to step up your game.

  1. Generic makes you look like a spammer. I don’t know for a fact that this email is a fake organization, but it sure looks and reads like it to me. Don’t let your real organization get confused with spam. Every email system has the ability to personalize emails with the recipients name. Its one of the easiest ways to differentiate your message from spam.
  2. Make sure you are capturing first names as a field in your database. It is impossible to personalize if you don’t have the data.
  3. Use a domain-level email address. Emails from make you look like you are in a basement (or a bunker). Switching to an email that is gives back in trust much more than it costs in time and money.
  4.  Write something real. Include details, stories and images that show you know what your donors care about. That means collecting them in advance. Developing a quality appeal with no content is brutal. I’ve had to do it. If you haven’t started collecting your stories – start now.
  5. Clean your list. People are terrified of unsubscribes. What you don’t know is low open rates are actually killing your deliverability. Email companies monitor what is happening with your list and if no one is opening it, they start to put ALL your email in the junk bin. Even for the people who want to see it. If you have people on your list that never open and never donate, its time to do a little purge. It will cut your costs and increase the effectiveness of what you do send.
  6.  Familiarity creates trust. People get a a ton of email and read it with one finger over the delete button. If you are relying it to boost your donations, developing a consistent memorable look and using it throughout your campaign will help people remember you. In traditional newspaper advertising, the rule was that it took 6-12 views of an ad for a viewer to take action. If you mail a letter, follow it up with an email series and share some posts on social that have the same story and images.
  7. Spy on the spammers. Take a look at what they are doing. What subject lines can you not resist clicking on? What makes you suspect something is spam? What makes you confident that clicking will be worth it?

You don’t want to be confused for a spammer – but you can study what they do to get your attention and use it for good.  Remember that your audience has a range of people from tech-savvy jaded millennials to my adorable 84 year-old father-in-law who still thinks I can email a physical piece of paper. You need to bring them all to a place of trust in order to win their gift.