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Maintaining An Ethical Email Program

Quick story: A few days ago, I was talking to an organization leader who had a very specific concern about the future of their digital program. “We don’t want to become one of those groups that just emails people all the time,” they said.

As a person who LOVES email as a fundraising and organizing tactic, I asked some clarifying questions. What it came down to is that this leader had an inbox full of spammy, misleading emails. They’d been unsubscribing from the worst offenders, but it felt like the onslaught of disingenuous pleas, “FINAL NOTICE” subject lines, and messages purported to be from celebrity politicians kept coming. It made them feel gross! So gross, in fact, that they were turned off of email as a tactic altogether, even to their organization’s detriment.

Two things are true:

  1. If you don’t have a well-thought-out email program, you’re leaving opportunities on the table. Email is still the most cost-effective digital fundraising tool, and it’s a great way to encourage people to get involved at a higher level.

  2. You can have a powerful email program without making people feel gross.

My team and I believe email is an essential tool for fundraising and communication, so we’re committed to being ethical email practitioners. We want email to continue to be effective means of communication in the years ahead!

When we take on an email project, we communicate with integrity. We respect the people who take time out of their day to interact with us and our clients. Why trick people when you can instead tap into things they’re already feeling and give them concrete ways to act?

Having ethical standards doesn’t mean sacrificing results. For example, we helped one of our advocacy clients raise $1 million in 30 days via email without sending a single fake match opportunity, spammy subject line, or prechecked donation box. Nobody was misled. Small-dollar donors gave because our client has been doing good work and we helped them make the work speak for itself. The million dollars we raised has funded some really incredible programs, but equally important is the fact that those donors are in it for the long haul. They’re inspired and invested. They’re going to talk to their friends and colleagues about our client’s work, volunteer, advocate for the same policy goals, and they’re going to donate again. Those supporters are activists now, and they’re going to keep giving our client the resources to change the world.

There are thousands of different ways to raise money and reach your audience. We choose to build digital programs with movements in mind.

If that’s the kind of program you want, my team and I want to help. You can schedule a free strategy session with us here.


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