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Museum Digital Fundraising and Email Marketing

Email marketing has become a staple within the museums communications world. It’s an effective way to regularly ping updates and information straight into follower’s inboxes and make meaningful impressions. Rather than the one quick graphic and condensed caption that social media allows, email marketing provides an opportunity to curate a specific message, or messages accompanied by several graphics, even videos that speak directly to potential supporters in one-to-one environment.

In this article, we will talk about how to incorporate digital fundraising into your existing email communications as well as a how to create impactful targeted appeals and measure their success. If your museum isn’t yet using email marketing, now is the time to jump aboard! Check out this article covering the importance of email marketing as well as how to get started by MuseumNext.

To see and be seen

Have you heard of the marketing principle, “The Rule of Seven”? Simply put, it states that a prospective customer needs to see or hear a marketing message seven times before taking action. This mantra of consistent impressions applies to digital fundraising as well which should be woven into all museum communications.

Make a habit out of including an appeal section at the bottom of every mailer that spells out your museum’s need for the reader’s support and what they can do to help. This can be done in the form of masterfully crafted call to action text, a graphic, or even a GIF showing visually what their hard-earned money will support. Check out this MuseumNext article on how to create eye-catching marketing graphics and video for inspiration.

Working smarter, not harder

Another great thing to include at the bottom of all mailers in your “support” section, is how readers can help your museum to reach funding goals by making some small, but impactful changes. For example, PayPal Giving Fund connects donors and charities by making it easy for potential supporters to connect their PayPal accounts with eligible charities and then handing over any accumulated funds directly to the organisation sans pesky transaction fees. After supporters donate using PayPal Giving Fund, a little helpful tickbox will appear for donors asking for a one-off donation to support your museum with subsequent transactions – and those can add up over time! eBay for Charity also offers buyers and sellers the choice to add on a donation during checkout or to donate a certain percentage of their sales to an eligible charity.

Take advantage of these programmes if your museum is eligible and weave them into your marketing plan by using the rule of seven. It’s likely that audiences that are signed up for your regular communications like email and social media want to support you, they just need to be trained on how to do so. Schedule in those regular reminders about platforms like these that supporters can take advantage of without disrupting their regularly scheduled programming.

Creating impactful appeal emails

Email provides the opportunity to engage with people in a one-to-one environment – no one gathers all of their friends around a computer to read an email! Whether it’s on a phone, computer or tablet, there is that moment (often just a few seconds) in which your message can resonate with the reader. The most successful marketing and fundraising campaigns take that intimate moment and make the most of it. Here are our top tips for creating dynamic appeal emails:

  • Be a good storyteller – are you able to communicate your message by telling a relatable story with a narrative? Giving your readers something to identify with in your campaign can help boost engagement and elicit empathy.
  • Make it personal – take advantage of merge tags to address emails directly to readers using their first name. When drafting your email appeal text, think about how you would craft this message as if speaking to a friend. The more personal you can make your email, the higher the chances are that the person reading on the other side of the screen will feel valued, empowered and be more likely to donate.
  • Short and sweet – sure you might be willing to read through a longer article like this (thanks!), but would you give that same attention to a fundraising email? Most people spend just a few seconds reading text within emails and will move on if their interest isn’t peaked. Be sure to keep your message snappy with just 2-3 sentence paragraphs broken up by related and engaging visuals.
  • Show them where their money will go – it’s unlikely that many people are eager to throw financial support into an institutional museum void. Attach your funding goals to actual projects, programmes and objects to give your audience a clear sense of the impact that their financial contributions will make for your museum.

Measuring success

Once you’ve followed all of the tips and tricks above to create a stellar appeal email, you’ll want to be sure your museum does due diligence by tracking the results in order to evaluate success. Email marketing platforms like MailChimp, Constant Contact, SendinBlue and Moosend all offer campaign insights which provide valuable information on how many people engaged with your email and took your message to heart by following through on clicking links etc… The following email marketing metrics are the most important to review post-campaign:

  • Open rate – This metric shows how many people opened your email. It’s important to measure, but not to take too seriously as it only indicates that an email was opened, not that readers engaged with it or even read your message.
  • Clickthrough rate – This indicates how many readers clicked on one or more links within your email campaign. This metric is really valuable because it allows insight into the level of real engagement with your campaign and also indicates what kind of content future readers are likely to click on.
  • Unsubscribe rate – It’s normal to lose a few subscribers with every campaign, but you’ll want to keep a consistent eye on this metric which indicates how many people have unsubscribed from your mailing list. Asking for financial support isn’t an easy thing to do and it’s difficult to toe the line between empowering people and alienating them. If your unsubscribe rate jumps up after a campaign, pause and evaluate your language and focus to see where you might have been too aggressive or just off the mark.

We’ve highlighted the basics of email marketing analytics here but be aware that there is a whole wide world out there and many other important metrics to monitor. Investigate the campaign insight capabilities of your museum’s email marketing platform and you’ll begin to pick up on patterns and trends which can all be really helpful for benchmarking your campaigns and setting you up for digital fundraising success.

In conclusion

Not only is this our way or wrapping up the article, but also how we touch upon a very important final appeal email tip – including an impactful conclusion. It takes great skill to weave in powerful call to action language while also letting readers gently know about the consequences of them not acting (e.g., without your support our museum programmes won’t be able to continue…). Setting the tone for appeal emails is incredibly important and culminates in putting together a powerful closing which makes donors feel heard, valued and empowered.

Just as we are so grateful for you taking the time to read this article, but sure to thank your donors in advance and remind them of why their contribution matters to your museum. Email provides an intimate space to speak directly to donors of the past, present and future. We hope the advice and tools above can be helpful to you in crafting an engaging and empowering appeal email. Time to go forth and fundraise!


About the author – Devon Turner

Devon Turner is an Arts & Culture Writer. She has worked extensively in arts marketing for both the visual arts and performing arts in the US and UK. Now living in London, Devon works in the arts and culture sector and enjoys traveling to visit museums.

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