Tax Appeal Fundraising

8 Email Marketing Tips to Nail Your Tax Appeal

Most say the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over whilst expecting different results. So if you’re expecting this year’s tax appeal to be better than last, what do you plan to change?

One area to consider is email marketing. After all, online giving is the fastest growing source of donations and it’s likely that email marketing will form part of your appeal efforts for the end of the financial year.


The Subject Line

A great subject line is the difference between the quick delete and an open. So let’s look a couple of simple steps you can take to keep your emails out of bin.

  1. Keep it short. Your donors, like all of us, have short attention spans but more importantly most read emails on their mobile devices. A recent study by Litmus showed that out of 1.06 billion email opens, 48% were opened on mobile and 26% on an iPhone.


iPhone Emails

Let’s consider the iPhone, since a quarter of email opens came from iPhones. The subject line on iPhones in landscape mode allow between 35-37 characters (including spaces).

  1. Give them reason. Why should I open your email? What is in it for me? Will I be motivated, inspired, educated or entertained? Tell them in 35 characters or less what they’ll get by opening your email.


Using Pre-Headers

You’ve grabbed their attention and successfully avoided the discard pile, congratulations! Avoiding a quick delete is just the start, now we need them to open and interact with our content. The pre-header is our next tool for reeling our reader in. The pre-header is the space just below the subject which provides the reader the first few lines of the email.

Here a few tips for keeping the reader engaged:

Avoid repeating yourself. Keeping with our iPhone example, the iPhone’s pre-header area in landscape mode allows for 70-80 characters. The pre-header should complement your subject but not a re-phrased version of your subject line. We’ve told the reader what is in it for them with our subject so the pre-header should hint at how you plan to deliver on that promise.

email subject and pre-header

Having trouble viewing this email?
On behalf of your donors I’ll answer the question by saying, YES! We can’t see your email because you’ve taken up the pre-header space with an irrelevant question. Your emails should look good both in html and plain text. If you have a media rich email, provide the option to view the message online towards the bottom of the email. Use your pre-header space wisely.

sample email pre-header

…Would you open this email? I didn’t.



Where’s Your Ask?

Quickly tell your supporters what you want from them. Ideally this should be above the fold but could be implied in your subject or pre-header. I’m going to take a moment to explain the fold. The term “the fold” is a reference to newspapers. Newspapers are folded down the middle, making on the top half of the newspaper visible in the newspaper rack. In emails, above the fold is the readable area of your email body in the reading pane. Illustration below.

email program illustration


Mobile Friendly

We’ve already touched on the number of people viewing email on mobile devices. So how do we create a good experience for our readers on mobile devices:

  1. Use larger fonts (but don’t exceed 24 pixels)
  2. Use larger buttons
  3. Use more white space. More white space makes content easier to read and can help your emphasize points
  4. Use a mobile friendly email editor or work with a HTML specialist to design mobile friendly templates that will adjust to any screen size.
mobile phone



Email Shouldn’t Replace Your Website

Keep your content short and simple. Long paragraphs are not only challenging to read on a mobile but most people scan emails. Break up long paragraphs into short digestible segments. You can send readers wanting more detail to a landing page or microsite with more depth information and compelling images.

We often find ourselves wanting to say everything in the email. Resist the urge.



Never Assume, Always Test

Avoid assumptions. You should start every effort and campaign with educated guesses regarding your audience. You can do this by collecting information on their:

  • Patterns of behaviours
  • Interests

Armed with that data test your hypothesis.

A common method for testing is called A/B Testing. When A/B testing your email campaigns, you take two identical communications and change a single variable such as the subject line. We limit ourselves to a single variable so that we can reliably identify which factor produced better outcomes.

You should take all other conceivable measures to ensure other variables remain the same. For example:

  • Randomly selecting the recipients for each communication from the same segment or demographic
  • Send the communications at the exact same time of day.
  • Using the same sender


Image Not Displayed… What to do?

While we’ve established that nearly half of all email is opened on mobile, that leaves the other half opening emails from their desktop or webmail. Many desktop email and webmail applications disable images by default. Fortunately for you, we have a trick up our sleeve to make the most of a less than ideal situation.

Enhanced Image Tags
Alt tags provide descriptive text when an image cannot be displayed. The alt tag is placed just following your image url (   <img   src=”…”   alt=”your text”>   ). Keep in mind the size of your image and adjust the length of text accordingly.

We’re going to go one step further and style the background and font to match your branding.

  • background-color: gray; (alternatively – background-color: rgb(245, 126, 32);)
  • color: blue; (this sets the text color) (alternatively – color: rgb(245, 126, 32);)
  • font-family: Helvetica;
  • font-size: 10px;

Putting it all together:

<img src=”×2-940×627.jpg” style=“background-color: gray; color: blue; font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10px;” alt=“Scene at Durbar Square in Kathmandu after the earthquake”>

HTML Email Without Alt Tags (bad practice)


HTML Email With Alt Tags (best practice)

email without alt tags email with alt tags



FROM Matters

And finally, the from address does matter. Emails often come from the organisation rather than an individual. Readers are much more likely to open an email from someone they recognise or hold in high regard.

Who’s the spokesperson for your organisation?

If you don’t have a spokesperson, now is a great time to start building the brand of your CEO or another member of your organisation.

I hope you found a few of these tips helpful and are able to apply them to your upcoming tax appeals.