Remove Obstacles to Giving!

There are many obstacles to philanthropic giving. Sadly, many of those obstacles are put in place by the very nonprofit organizations that are seeking and dependent upon contributions. I heard a ridiculous example of this recently when I was presenting at the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference. Let me share with you what happened.

I was teaching “Donor-Centered Marketing: Tips to Boost Your Planned Giving Results.” I explained to my audience that it’s important to make it easy for prospects to contact us. I told the group that their full contact information should be used in their email signature block. That’s when someone challenged me. She said that she had read a magazine article about sales that said that email senders should stop using signature blocks since they 1) clutter email messages, and 2) since readers know how to contact the sender or can easily find out how to contact the sender. (She cited a mass-market publication that supposedly espoused the view she was sharing, but since I have been unable to find the referenced article, I will not name the magazine here.)

There’s no reason to consider not using an email signature. The argument that it clutters the message is bogus. An email signature comes at the very end of an email message. If someone doesn’t want to look at it, it’s easily ignored. If someone wants the information, it’s right there.

The suggestion that we should not use an email signature because people know how to reach us already or can find us if they want to is utter nonsense! Why in the world would we force people to find us in order to give us their money? Why would we make it difficult for people to reach us and donate? Good grief!

Photo by Rafael A.G. Mendoza via Flickr

We need to make it easy for prospective donors and supporters to get in touch with us. That’s the donor-centered thing to do. If we force folks to play detective and hunt for our contact information, they may rightly think we don’t care about them, and they may just as easily search for the contact information of another organization. So, don’t frustrate your email recipients by making them search for how to contact you the way they want.

To make sure that your email signature works hard for you, follow these seven simple rules:

  1. Use an email signature. Use it on all messages you send. Use it on all replies. It will make it easy for people to contact you and to pass along your information to others.
  2. Include all important contact information such as name, institution, mailing address, phone number, email address, web URL, Facebook link, Twitter link, relevant tagline. Make information clickable.
  3. Do NOT include jokes or clever quotes in your signature. They take up space and quickly get stale.
  4. Automate your signature using your email system’s settings. This will allow you to avoid forgetting to add your signature block, and it will make emailing easier for you.
  5. Separate your signature block from the body of your email. At a minimum, put “–” on a line and begin your signature on the following line. This should be at the bottom of your email to avoid getting in the way of your message.
  6. Keep each line of your signature block to under 80 characters. Some suggest keeping it under 50 characters per line. This will minimize broken lines at the recipient’s end.
  7. Make sure your email signature block can be read on mobile devices. Don’t get too fancy. Keep it simple and readable.

The easier you make it for people to contact you, the more likely they will be to actually do so and the less frustrated they will be. So, if you’re not currently using an email signature, set one up now. And, if you do use a signature, double check to make sure it is complete. While you’re at it, make sure your name and contact information appear on your website; people are more likely to reach out to an individual than an organization.

That’s what Michael Rosen Says… What do you say?

14 Responses to “Remove Obstacles to Giving!”

  1. Michael Rosen said:

    “The easier you make it for people to contact you, the more likely they will be to actually do so and the less frustrated they will be.”

    Jeff Steele says:

    Very true, Michael. And an excellent argument against the use of voicemail, except when it is ABSOLUTELY UNAVOIDABLE, or after extended business hours.

    The inability to reach a live person at many charities is one of the greatest frustrations to callers. I can personally attest that, over the past 34 years, charities have lost literally millions of dollars from clients who tried in vain to get quick answers to relatively simple inquiries or requests. Unfortunately, instead of remedying the situation when brought to their attention, it’s been my experience that MOST fundraisers just dig their heels in and get defensive.

    • Jeff, thank you for sharing your insight. I absolutely agree with you that nonprofits should have a person answering the phone. Automatic call directors should be banned from nonprofit offices. Calls should only go into voice mail as a last resort. Calls not taken should be returned within 24 hours. Because many organizations do not share our view, it makes it easier for others to really stand out. Those organizations that provide a high-touch experience to individuals will certainly reap the rewards.

  2. Great advice Michael. Congratulations on receiving the award at the AFP Conference for your book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. I have the book and know the award is well deserved.

    • Lorri, I appreciate the kind words about this blog post and my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. The book is the first about gift planning to receive the AFP-Skystone Prize in over a decade. By the way, you might also be interested to know that it reached number one in planned giving at Amazon. I’m delighted that so many folks are sharing the donor-centered vision. Thank you for being one of them!

  3. Yes, to all of the above. But what say you about including a .PIC .GIF .JPG image along with your signature. I admit that it looks good at the bottom and reinforces your organization’s brand, but it also seems to include an “attachment” icon, which causes me to think that the message has an important attachment. Could it be my Outlook settings, or am I on to something here?

    • Steve, thanks for your suggestion. Adding a photo or logo or iconic image can make an email signature block look pretty. And, as you’ve stated, it will make the email look like it has an attachment (depending on email program and settings); this might encourage folks to open the email though I haven’t seen any research about this. However, there is a potentially serious downside: Emails with attachments are far more likely to be snagged by spam filters than emails without attachments. Also, if sending more than one email message to an individual, the person will quickly catch-on and then might become “blind” when you actually do send them an email with a real attachment. Over the years, I’ve used simple email signatures and fancier ones. Today, I use a fairly simple one believing the most important thing is the information itself. Email users might want to experiment a bit with each approach and see which works best for them.

  4. Hi, Michael.

    Thanks for bringing our attention to email signatures. Too often we completely ignore the opportunity available in the last lines of our email messages.

    I appreciate the perspective you’ve shared, but I tend to want individuals to provide FRESH content in their email signatures. I wrote a brief blog post on my suggestion:

    So nice to read your blog. Looking forward to following your blog even more – now that we connected at AFP!

    Thanks, Jessica

    • Jessica, it was very nice to see you at the AFP International Conference. Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to share your thoughts. I like your idea of keeping one’s email signature block fresh. Providing complete contact information does not mean an email signature cannot or should not also contain a fresh message (i.e.: promoting an upcoming event). A powerful email signature will do both.

  5. Thanks, Michael, for your response! Now, we’re talking! I like the use of BOTH – full contact information and fresh promotional text. Keep up the great work!

  6. Thanks for this post. I need to recommend a common email signature for all our staff next week; this gives me exactly what I need. You didn’t mention having common signatures in an organization, but I think it’s very helpful for branding and for donors. Even though I’m the only full time professional fundraiser, everyone relates to the public, to donors, to friends, and to the public.

    • Catherine, thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m happy to know that you found my post useful. You are correct; I did not suggest having a common email signature among all staff. I did not mention that because I’m not convinced it’s the best way to go. While I would agree that everyone on staff should have an email signature with the same fundamental look (i.e.: same logo, same structure, same font, etc.), different staff relate to different folks in different ways. For example, as your organization’s fundraising officer, you might have a development-related tagline in your email signature. However, a staff member who provides service to those your organization serves might have a very different email tagline. Nevertheless, I do agree with you that the style of the email signature should be uniform.


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