Email marketing for charities – Part 2


How I raised almost £500 with just five e-mails

In part 1, I wrote about how compelling content, bold call-to-actions, and landing pages, can go a long way in persuading someone to donate to charity. In this final part on email marketing for charities, I’ll explain the importance of measuring success (or failure), and how to react and build momentum.


Using an email marketing tool can give insights into how many people are opening your emails, which are clicking on buttons and links, and how many are unsubscribing from future emails. This ability to measure and analyse what your readers are doing will allow you to make better decisions about what to write, what isn’t working, and whether your call-to-actions are worded correctly, or positioned well.

For my e-mail campaign, I used MailChimp, a very popular email marketing app. After my first e-mail was published, I saw an open rate of 67.8%, with a click rate of 35.59%. My email list consisted of 61 people, which means 40 people read that first email, and 21 clicked through to my landing page. Using Google Analytics, I was able to track 4 users that clicked from my landing page to my Virgin Money fundraising page, all of whom completed a donation, making a donation rate of 6.55%.


Apps like MailChimp and Google Analytics can give a plethora of data, but it’s all worthless if you don’t identify what is, and isn’t, working, and then take steps to improve results. Sometimes it can take time to figure out the reason something has failed, but the answers are almost always there in the data.

My second email had a much smaller click rate (16%), but garnered a donation rate of 13.1%. This increase in donations was achieved by using data from the first email to inform my decisions on content in the second email. Donations from the first round showed that £20 is an amount that many people are comfortable making, so I made the theme of the second email “what £20 can do for the British Red Cross”.

Build momentum

It’s vital that charities keep reminding their readers about the aims of the campaign, and give progress reports to keep them informed and involved. Some readers plan to make a donation when they get home, or when they get paid, but it’s unlikely they will set a reminder, so it’s up to the charity to give a gentle nudge every so often.

My second email was purposely published on the last Thursday of the month – when most people get paid. Pay day means happy readers, who haven’t spent all of their earnings yet. I also published my last three emails closer together – this was an attempt to build anticipation in the days leading up to, and shortly after, the marathon.

A couple of days after the marathon, I emailed my readers a post-marathon report. This was an 800 word account of my experiences on the day, and was written in more of a dramatic storytelling style for their entertainment. To my surprise, this email prompted £110 worth of donations, despite being after the marathon. Moral of the story? Give readers an insight into the amount of effort that has been put into your cause, and this may well sway them towards a donation, when your previous emails haven’t quite sealed the deal.


E-mail marketing can be an extremely effective way of getting your message out to your supporters. It is one of many cogs in the marketing machine, and becomes very effective when published using tools that allow you to measure user behaviour. By using the above recommendations, I believe any charity will see an improvement in reader engagement. While my email campaign was small, and focused on friends, family and acquaintances, it serves to prove that, even on a small scale, applying well established principles of email marketing –  clear and compelling content, bold call-to-actions, landing pages, measuring metrics – can make a strong argument for a donation.