Top Design and Deliverability Tips for Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Emails

This article was originally posted on NonProfit PRO’s blog.

As you build email communications for your peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, it’s natural to focus on messaging content. What you say in your peer-to-peer fundraising emails is important. But equally important is how you design those messages and what you do to make sure those messages are received.

In this article, I’m sharing proven design and deliverability tips and techniques from a five-session email communications workshop I presented with peer-to-peer fundraising experts from Event 360, Peerworks Consulting, Susan G. Komen, and our own Cathexis Partners team as part of the virtual conference, It’s a Peer-to-Peer World. These pointers will help you design messages that reach your audiences and truly grab the reader’s attention.

Enticing visual content
To create visual content that appeals to readers, concentrate on:

  • Storytelling – Email messaging content and design go hand-in-hand. Use imagery to help tell your story and break up text.
  • Call to action (CTA) – Make sure your CTA stands out. You can do this visually by:
    • Placing it in a highly visible location in your email
    • Designing it with high contrast colors so it visually “pops”
    • Allowing plenty of space around it to give it greater impact
    • Making sure it’s big enough for fingers to click on it from mobile devices
  • Simplicity – Keeping your email imagery and text short and simple will make it more impactful.

Brand guidelines
Your brand guidelines will help ensure your design presents a consistent identity for your event or campaign. Some elements that can help you stay on brand include:

  • Image styles (for example, black and white vs. color; photos vs. graphics)
  • Fonts (the choice and use of type styles)
  • Tone of voice (for example, serious vs. playful)
  • Color treatment (for example, the specific colors and amount of color used)

The following items should carry through consistently on all design items for your campaign or event:

  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Heading styles
  • Button styles
  • Line treatments
  • Footer styles

General design
Here are some general design tips to help you create email communications with maximum impact:

  • Focus on the header – The top 300 pixels of your email are the most impactful for grabbing your readers’ attention. Your header should:
    • Include your campaign or event name and logo.
    • Feature a powerful headline.
    • Offer an incentive (such as “read more to learn…”) to read further.
    • Include a call to action (if possible).
    • Use alt text to make it easier for email recipients using screen readers to read the email.
  • Use space – Space gives your images and text breathing room that helps the reader focus more on each element in your email message. Use space liberally to give your entire email more overall impact.
  • Don’t forget the footer – Because it comes at the end of the email, the footer is often an afterthought in design. But remember that you can use the footer to emphasize your CTA; promote additional content, such as your blog; or include special offers or useful links. Use design elements, including space, text alignment, and line treatment, to enhance the design of this area of your email communications.

BONUS TIP: Motion can be a fun, attention-grabbing element in email communications. However, videos are not supported in email clients, so use a thumbnail image that links to video. For animations, use animated gifs, but keep them very simple or the file size might grow too large to be practical.

Responsive design
While statistics vary, most sources say that well over half of emails are opened/read on a mobile device. So, designing with mobile devices in mind is critically important. Some tips:

  • Use a standard font, and keep font size large – 14-point type or larger.
  • Use ample space between text and images so they are not too crowded.
  • Use clear, large, and well-spaced CTAs.
  • Use small snippets of text.
  • Center-align your headings when possible, and keep other text left-aligned.
  • Be sure that your email text looks good without images, as some email clients might block images.

Your email communications won’t do any good if they don’t reach your audience. While deliverability considerations could fill an entire guide on their own, here are some things to consider:

  • Test your email messages. There are two key aspects of the email environment: a) what email tool you’re using to send your email (such as Classy, Emma, MailChimp, or TeamRaiser), and b) the email client and platform the reader is using to receive and view the email (such as Gmail or Outlook email clients; and Android or Apple operating systems).

    Be sure to test your email messages on top email clients and operating systems to ensure that the emails are getting through and that they display the way you intend them to look. There are two ways to accomplish this:
    • Send test emails to people on your staff who check them on various email clients and devices.
    • Use a tool, such as Email on Acid, MailMonitor, or Validity, to check your emails. (This is a much more efficient approach.)
  • Remember accessibility. To ensure visually impaired readers can receive and read your email messages, be sure to design for accessibility. For example:
    • Choose clear, simple fonts.
    • Include ample space around images and text.
    • Maintain a logical reading structure, as screen reading tools read from left to right.
  • Check your deliverability stats. Complete a periodic check of your email deliverability rates and hard/soft bounces to get a better picture of how well your emails are doing at reaching your audience. You can use one of the tools mentioned previously (Email on Acid, MailMonitor, Validity, or many others) to check your deliverability statistics.

Learn more tips and best practices for building strong email communications for your peer-to-peer fundraising: Read the free guide, Building Powerful Email Communications for Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns and Events. This guide includes tips, techniques, lessons learned, and worksheets from experts at Cathexis Partners, Event 360, Peerworks Consulting, and Susan G. Komen, who have worked on countless peer-to-peer campaigns.

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