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Flights, Email Fundraising & Repetition

Three hands showing one, two and three fingers respectively.
Three is better than one!

One of the most common objections fundraisers get from their bosses is “It’s too repetitive.”

Successful visionaries understand the power of repetition.

Nowhere is this more crucial than in email fundraising. Traditionally, fundraisers will send a single email solicitation and wait for responses over the ensuing days.

But, understanding the power of repetition, fundraisers will get more money when they send their email appeals in what Joe Garecht calls “flights.”

What is an Email Flight?

This happens when you send your email appeals in sets of three.

If you have read my book Visionary Fundraising, you know I am a fan of the rule-of-three. I think it applies to email fundraising also.

What is the rule-of-three? A rule that grew out of ancient storytelling tradition that holds that telling things in threes is more memorable, humorous, and effective. Think Three Blind Mice, Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.

A flight of emails might involve sending an email at the middle of the week, another at week’s end, and another in the middle of the following week. These emails would share a common theme or topic and feature the same call to action.

This strategy outperforms standalone emails.

Your donors inboxes are inundated with emails. Multiple touchpoints are often necessary to cut through the clutter. In today’s culture, what is not repeated is not heard.

“I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once.” Thomas Wolfe

Are there drawbacks to Email Flights?

Some non-profits fear annoying donors or prompting unsubscribes by sending multiple emails. I am fond of saying that effective email fundraising will get you two things:

  • More donations

  • More unsubscribes

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. But if your ask is compelling, some people will give, and some people will unsubscribe. It’s OK. The increase in income more than makes up for it.

Give it a try next time you ask for funds. Most non-profits will see a significant uptick in donations compared to single solicitation emails.

Remember the fundraising rhythm. Before you ask, tell a lot of stories. You should consider a flight of three emails as one ask. For every ask, have at least three storytelling non-asking communications.

In your CRM or email-service-provider, you can remove folks from the second and third send out when they give.

In crafting email flights, a series of three emails, following this rule-of-three, will yield optimal results. While success can be achieved with two emails, adding a third often substantially increases returns. Sending five or more emails may risk overwhelming recipients.

The length of emails should decrease as the flight progresses. The initial email can be the longest, followed by progressively shorter ones. Email #1 may range between 400-500 words, while subsequent ones could decrease to 300, 200-250, and 150-200 words, respectively.

Each email should maintain a consistent theme and call to action. Referencing previous emails in subsequent communications can be highly effective. For instance, acknowledge whether the recipient received the previous email and reinforce the urgency of the ask.

Experiment with Email Flights in Your Next Fundraising Campaign

If you’ve yet to explore email flights, consider incorporating them into your next fundraising appeal. Give it a try, hopefully you will get a higher response rate, increased donations, and minimal unsubscribes.


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