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Are Your Email Images Helping or Hurting Your Fundraising?

Published by Jeff Giddens

When used properly, images can help to bolster the value proposition in email appeals. But we always have to ask, Are my email images actually helping to achieve my goals?

One common practice we see is placing a default image at the top of an email page. Many email templates have an image section, and it’s easy to drop in an image as you fill out the whole template form. The truth is that those images might actually hinder your email responses as you market to your donors.

How email images can convey urgency and lift conversion and average gift size

Experiment #412

The experiment below is one that Dallas Theological Seminary ran as a part of their calendar year-end campaign. This is the time of year most nonprofits raise a large percentage of their revenue. It’s a nice, natural deadline, and we talk about this idea in their email here. This email was one of the last two emails in their CYE campaign, and it has a direct call-to-action to make a gift.

Email Images - Experiment 412 - Control

We wondered if we could use an image to convey a message of urgency more effectively than the control does with text: time is running out, and it’s time to give. To convey urgency through an image, we decided to test a countdown clock animated GIF that continuously counted down to December 31st. The countdown was placed into the email, and the original copy was left untouched. We wanted to see how it would improve the click-through and response rates.

Email Images - Experiment 412 - Treatment

The treatment produced a 51.1% increase in response rate in donor conversion, and increased the average gift by 106.6%.

Key Learning

Added urgency has the ability to affect both donors’ willingness to give and the amount they give. In this case, we see how email images can be powerful. However, it’s not just putting images in an email that matters, but it’s also about where they are placed.

How the placement of an email image affects click-through rate

Experiment #2822

This was a premium-focused email appeal for Harvest Ministries, a nonprofit based out of Riverside, California. The premium was a book called “The Biggest Story,” and the book image was placed after the call-to-action in the initial email.

Email Images - Experiment 2822 - Control

This image placement intrigued us. If the book is designed to incentivize people to give immediately, then these elements were out of order. By placing the image after the call-to-action, I’m forced to decide whether or not give before I even know there is an incentive.

We wondered how it would affect the results of the email to place this image before the call-to-action. For the treatment, we moved the image of the book before the call-to-action to properly order the incentive and call-to-action.

Email Images - Experiment 2822 - Treatment

The treatment produced an 87.7% increase in click-through rate, and an 89.4% increase in donor conversion.

Key Learning

Email images can reinforce our brand and increase the authority of our email, but they can also give away to the recipient that our email is marketing. If images are over-used or not used properly, they can keep people from taking the intended action.

This tells us that we need to be careful with the purpose and placement of the image. Both should bolster the value proposition and the incentive. Images placed at the top of an email page are seen before the recipient gets any kind of context from the copy. This isn’t necessarily bad, but we need to make sure that we always use images to our advantage to get the intended action from our donors.

Conveying an effective value proposition with your images

Why Should I Give to You?The key to effective images in your emails is using them in a way that bolsters your value propositon. To bolster you value proposition, you first have to be able to answer the fundamental value proposition question:

Why should I give to you, rather than some other organization, or not at all?

Grow your conversion rates by learning to answer this fundamental question through this free eBook, Why Should I Give to You?


About the author:

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Jeff Giddens

Jeff was the 1994 Georgia State Spelling Bee champion.