30 November 2017
I received a message a few weeks ago that changed the way I think about mass emails.
If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I’ve advocated strongly against using mass emails when asking friends and family to support you (see here and here). Especially on your first campaign when friends and family can make a big difference. I discuss in this article how mass emails are impersonal, unengaging, and easy to ignore.
Most mass emails I get from friends and family aren’t for Kickstarter. Rather, they’re for some kind of charitable opportunity, like a 5k run for cancer awareness or a gaming marathon to support a local hospital. Even with these emails, though, I questioned the tactics: If they really believe in the cause, why not spend the extra hour or two sending out personal messages instead of a mass email?
Now I know. I’ve been looking at it all wrong.
A few weeks ago, I got a fundraising request from my cousin. He spoke passionately about a program that made a huge difference in his personal development. With him graduating this year, he wanted to leave behind a financial legacy so the program could impact others as well.
I was moved by the message and chose to donate. However, I realized that I was thankful it was a mass email, because it removed any sense of targeted obligation. Because it was sent to dozens of people instead of just me, I felt free to act or ignore.
I’ve talked about the idea of “make it about them,” as in, focus on other people instead of yourself when you’re trying to create something or raise money. Up until now I thought the best way to do this was to write a personal email to each friend and family member, but that puts a lot of pressure on them. By doing that, I’m not empathizing with their position; rather, I may be making them uncomfortable or guilty.
So I’m changing my stance on solicitation emails to friends and family. I think mass emails are fine, and here’s a few elements I’d recommend including in the message:
- Be at least a little selective: Think about the members of your friends and family who might want to support you or might have a personal connection to your project/cause. When in doubt, do a role reversal–think about how you might feel if they solicited you for money or help.
- Send different messages to friends vs. family: I speak in different ways and about different topics to my friends versus my family. Rather than lump them all together, send two messages. You can still reuse a lot of the message, but the greeting (“Hey friends!”) and other content may vary.
- BCC, don’t CC: I don’t mind getting a mass email from you, but it’s annoying to later get reply-to-all messages from other people. Unless it’s a rare circumstance where you’re looking for a group discussion, please BCC the recipients, not CC.
- Choose a powerful subject line: This can be the difference between someone opening your email and completely ignoring it. The right subject line for you will depend on the project/cause; I’d just recommend spending some time on it.
- Share your passion with a specific example: Tell people why this project or cause means so much to you in a specific and even vulnerable way. If you’re raising money to fight cancer or build a house, share why this is so important to you. Assume that the person isn’t up to date with your life. If this section ends up being longer than 4 sentences, break it into multiple paragraphs.
- Include a clear call to action: Near the end of my cousin’s email was a request to support the program and a link to make a donation (if you can, use a link for which you can track conversion rates, like bit.ly). This can be particularly effective if you share what two different dollar amounts can do (one small and one big): “Your pledge of $20 can cover X, or your gift of $100 can do Y.” That way the person knows that even if they can’t contribute much, they’re making a difference.
- Add a PS: Oddly enough, I’ve read that the PS section of an email can draw a lot of attention. This is your final chance to bring someone back to the call to action after they’ve passed it up, so use it effectively. I would suggest using the PS to link to a photo of you that relate to the project/cause.
Does this only apply to friends and family? Yes, I think so. For complete strangers, I still believe in creating real, genuine relationships. Your first contact with a stranger shouldn’t consist of you asking them for something. The exception is if the person has opted into being contacted you, like via an e-newsletter.
What’s your take on mass emails?