How Often Can You E-mail Donors on Your List Without Driving Them Away?

  • by Shala Graham
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Do you ever stop and wonder how we got along before e-mail? Could you imagine having to do your job, much less consistently raise funds for your nonprofit, without one of life's handiest tools?

Like most of the business world, charitable organizations of all sizes absolutely love using e-mail – especially when it comes to raising money. After all, how else can you take a quick message, add some great photos and links, and have online contributions arriving within minutes? When it comes to speed, creativity, and efficiency, e-mail is hard to beat as a fundraising tool.

In fact, all of the things that make e-mail so great for nonprofits can also completely ruin the results they see by tempting organizations to overuse it.

Your donors only have so much time, money, and attention. If you take up more of it than they feel like you're entitled to, then they'll start to ignore you, or worse, divert resources elsewhere. That's an important thing to realize, because a lot of nonprofit directors get so excited about their events, new programs, and future growth opportunities that they’re tempted to e-mail everyone on their list once or twice a week. For all the reasons we've mentioned, though, that can be extraordinarily unproductive.

Here's a good rule of thumb: Try not to get in touch with donors more than once a week if you don't have to, and preferably every 2 to 3 weeks. That's often enough for them to get a sense of what your nonprofit has going on and be reminded to give a gift now and then, but not so frequently that you're going to annoy them.

The exception to that rule would be for your regular volunteers and biggest contributors, who might be interested in hearing from you more often. Those men and women can easily be placed on a separate list, however, and given more frequent updates.

When it comes to e-mailing donors, it's a lot easier to do it more often than you should, rather than not enough. Be mindful of that, and make a point of not getting in touch more than you need to in order to keep people informed and hit your development goals.