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Writing (and Testing) Effective Political and Advocacy Emails

Michelle Stockwell

Crafting smart and effective emails can be challenging. (We’ve rounded up a few good examples to get you started). Every list is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to writing effective emails.

Luckily, there are a few tried-and-true principles to guide your writing. Once you've got something drafted, take the time to test your emails. Test everything from messaging to subject lines. Knowing your list well will empower you to be a  more effective digital organizer and fundraiser.

Writing Effective Emails

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Set your intention. Before you write your email, set your primary intention. Do you want to raise money? Do you want people to take action? Or do you want to share a story? That intention will help keep your email focused.

One Email = One  Idea. Your subscribers don’t want a comprehensive summary of your candidate’s policy platform, but they may be motivated to donate when they read your candidate’s plan to improve the quality of public education by hiring more teachers. If you're not sure how to structure this, try including three supporting points before you make your big ask. Pick one idea for your email and stick with it. 

Start with a theory of change.  Present a problem, a solution, and a helpful action that the supporter can take. Keep in mind that the solution should be realistic and match the scale of the problem. Show them what you can achieve with their help and you’ll earn their donations, their time, and their trust.

It can be great to talk about what you’ve already accomplished, but it’s even more motivating to share how their actions or donations can help build on your existing momentum to help you achieve even bigger goals.

Speak to the heart. We’re driven to act by our values and by our emotions. Hearing statistics about the harmful effects of a policy may rally people to oppose it, but consider showing your audience how the policy affects other people’s lives.

Tell the story of the family that might lose healthcare coverage when they need it the most. Not all appeals have to be negative. You can also motivate your audience by telling the story of the staffer who moved across the state to work for a candidate that represented her values.

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Be Authentic. Write each email like a personal letter to your supporter. If you are channeling the voice of your candidate, a staffer, or a supporter; it is important to write like they speak, but a little more clearly.

If you’re struggling to capture the voice of your candidate, get a recording of them talking about why they’re running. Or record staffers talking about why this race matters to them. You can always refer back to these recordings when you are trying to convey the voice of your campaign. Authenticity builds trust with your supporters.

Move your subscribers up the ladder of engagement. The ladder of engagement isn’t just for field organizers. After your supporters take the desired action, you should be prepared with a next step that invites them to deepen their involvement. If they take an action, consider asking them to make a donation. If they make a contribution, consider asking them to attend your next volunteer event. NGP VAN’s targeted email tools make setting up an engaging thank you sequence very easy.

Consider including simple graphics. Simple infographics or gifs are a great way capture the attention of your audience and engage visual thinkers. The trick with graphic emails is breaking up the images into sections. The images files are smaller and load more quickly than one large image.

If you want to include photos, limit yourself to one or two that help tell your story. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram are great for sharing photos of your campaign. 

Center Your Supporters. Instead of centering your campaign or candidate in every email, talk about how your supporters are affecting change. You literally can’t win this campaign without them, so make sure they know how much you value their contributions.

Test Everything

Photo by Mia Baker on UnsplashTesting early and often is essential to the success of your email program. Every list is unique and knowing yours will empower you to be a more effective digital organizer and fundraiser.

Some lists will respond really well to emails packed with graphics, while others will prefer simple plain text emails. You may have a good sense of what works for your list, but running tests allows you to ensure that your email program is fully-optimized.

Testing Your Emails

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Test one variable at a time. This is simple. If you want to know what the best subject line is, the only thing that should change between Test Email A and Test Email B is the subject line. If the copy differs from email A to B, you will not be able to tell what made the successful email stand out.

With our digital tools you can run A-J tests (meaning you can test up to 10 different subject lines, etc.), so you can run the tests they need to optimize their programs and ultimately, raise more money.

Select your test audience. Send both emails to a subset of your full list. Be sure to exclude supporters who have their donation information saved with FastAction (one-click donations). These supporters are most likely to give, so you want to send them the most effective email possible.

Measure success carefully. When deciding which email to share with your full list, it can be tempting to select the email with the most opens. This is a good metric if your goal is to share a note with your supporters, but if your goal is to raise money, be sure to send the email that resulted in the most supporters making contributions or in the largest amount raised.

Keep testing. Once you get a result, you shouldn’t assume that it will always hold true for your list. People may have responded to the novelty of a new button, but still respond better to a donation link overall.


Want to take a deeper dive? Sign up for our free email fundraising course, which covers everything from list-building to rapid-response. 

Topics: digital fundraising, Digital, Organizing, Fundraising, Email