Email Engagement

12 Proven Ways to Personalize Your Broadcast Emails

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12 Proven Ways to Personalize Your Broadcast Emails

If we want to get the most out of email, we need to make it personal. If every message we send sounds like it was spat out of a template, it’s going to be hard to hold anyone’s attention. The problem is, so many broadcast emails read this way. And it’s killing engagement.

There are two reasons for this:

  • We’re not trying hard enough. Making meaningful connections across digital mediums doesn’t happen by accident. It requires conscious effort and a set of specific tactics (more on this soon). If personalization isn’t a priority for your email strategy yet, now’s a great time to make it one.
  • Even when we think we’re trying hard enough, we’re not trying hard enough. We’re not competing on a level playing field. This medium is working against us. People expect list emails to be impersonal—which doesn’t offer us a great start. We need to try extra hard to overcome preconceptions.

There’s a silver lining to this sorry state of affairs: those who break this trend tend to be the ones who stand out from the crowd. The bar is low. But we can raise it.

People don’t have time for robots. They listen to humans.

Here are 12 things our team identified that we needed to do consistently in order to connect with supporters and stop sounding like robots.

Your guide at a glance

  1. Send from a person
  2. Be conversational
  3. Welcome feedback
  4. Don’t talk too much about yourself
  5. Use first names
  6. Use 1st & 2nd person pronouns
  7. Show up
  8. Be current
  9. Use what you know
  10. Ask questions
  11. Never address your reader as a group
  12. Hone your voice

1. Send from a person

First things first. If you’re sending your broadcasts from your ‘organization’, rather than an actual person, making a personal connection with your supporter is going to be tough. Organizations become more ‘real’ when supporters can see that they’re made up of real people. See why more and more organizations are introducing individual senders. Remember to help your supporter join the dots by including your organization’s name in addition to your sender’s name in the ‘from name’ field.

2. Be conversational

If you want your reader to feel connected, you need to sound like a person. Your supporter is a real person, too. Picture them across the table from you. Lean in. Be warm. Candid. Don’t be afraid to use wit or humor. Above all, be genuine—and be honest with yourself. If it feels forced to you, it will sound forced to your supporters.

3. Welcome feedback

If you can afford to, send broadcasts from an address you can receive replies to. You’ll gain valuable feedback about what does and doesn’t resonate with your audience.

4. Don’t talk too much about your organization

Some tough love here. We need to stop talking about ourselves. Even when seeking donations. Human psychology tells us that if we want someone to be interested in us, we should show an interest in them. This works for broadcast communication, too. Connect to your supporter by making them the hero of your story. They’ll pay closer attention and you’ll win favor simply for being the link between them and what they care about.

5. Use first names

Show that you respect your supporter enough to know they’re an individual. Opening with “Dear valued supporter,” is the fastest way to make your supporter feel de-valued! Consider repeating a first name near the end of your message to remind your reader you’re still focussed on them.


“Thank you, %firstName%, for refusing to turn your back on the animals.”

6. Use 1st & 2nd person pronouns

How you address your supporter matters a lot—and not just in that first line. Make you and your supporter part of the conversation by using: “you”, “me”, and ”I”. These are the pronouns that help build connection.

Consider the difference between:

We’re so grateful to our supporters.

I’m so grateful to you.

Keep learning.

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7. Show up

Make yourself harder to ignore by being real. Add a friendly photo of you in your signature block. Find opportunities to tell stories through your personal lens, with personal anecdotes and reactions.


“I’ll never forget the first time I saw...”

“The thought of this happening to other animals keeps me up at night...”

“I shut my eyes and I see hers...”

If you’re asking your reader to take a new or challenging action, consider breaking down the ‘us/them’ dynamic by sharing your experience of engaging in the same action.

8. Be current

Take advantage of the fact that emails can be written from anywhere with an internet connection (so, everywhere). Don’t let your reader imagine you sitting at an office desk every time they hear from you. Look for opportunities like this where presence and location can invite your reader into your world.


“I just received the first pictures from our investigators on the ground in Indonesia...”

“I’m writing to you from the steps of the Federal Court, where...”

“We’re live at the national live export rally and I wanted to share an incredible thing that just happened...”

9. Use what you know

Use segmentation to reflect something you know about your reader. For example, if you’re writing to monthly donors, mention the impact of their regular gift. If you’re segmenting to people who’ve taken a specific action, reflect on that specific action. And if they haven’t taken a priority action yet, you can even drop hints that you know that, too.

10. Ask questions

It might seem counterintuitive—you’re not expecting a response, after all. However, dropping in the odd rhetorical question here and there is a great way to involve your reader in your narrative while building connection and cementing shared values.


“How would you feel if...”

“Can you believe it?”

“Will you stand with us today?”

“Can you help us reach our goal?”

11. Never address your reader as a ‘group’

Avoid the rookie mistake of using ‘broadcasting’ language such as “I’m writing to you all today because...”, “As some of you may know...”. You’re not at a podium! You’re in someone’s lounge room. ‘Broadcasting’ language breaks trust with readers who want to feel personally connected and hurts your engagement through diffusion of responsibility.

12. Hone your ‘voice’

Your voice is an attention-seeking superpower. When we get a sense for someone’s personality, we naturally feel closer to them, and tune in to their voice. What is your voice? Is it insightful and thought-provoking? Cutting and direct? Familiar and knowing? Would you ever poke fun at your opposition? Or do you always see the best in others? Do you reference pop culture? Do you use slang or abbreviations? No? You get the idea.

Different tones can benefit different audiences and situations. Perhaps there’s a range of identities within your organization that can bring different voices to your broadcasts at the right time.

Organizational voice sets boundaries for what your organization will and won’t say. That’s important. But it shouldn’t mean that all your senders need to sound exactly the same. Find balance. Flexible organizational voices afford scope for some human personality, too.

How do you know when you’ve personalized an email enough?

There’s a simple test you can use to know if you’re taking advantage of email personalization. Try this: ignore your salutation and signature block for just a moment. If your email text could just as comfortably sit on a web page, you can afford to personalize your message more.

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Karen Nilsen

Hi there! I’m Karen. I’m on a mission to reach my former self. Had I known 10 years ago what I know today, I could have achieved more good, made fewer mistakes, and had more weekends. Every time we share what works, we win faster. Let’s create digital experiences that move people — that grow our base and fuel our movements. Are you with me? Please share this with someone you know who wants to up their digital game!

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