E-mail Should Complement, Not Replace, Direct Mail
As the nature and characteristics of various donor-base paradigms evolve, the Internet will be the response medium of choice for a fast-growing number of donors and prospects. Setting up a successful e-mail fundraising program requires patience and investment.
Meanwhile, aggressive direct mail probably will remain the core technique, certainly among those whose initial or ongoing gifts have been achieved via this medium. Rather than a replacement, e-fundraising is another tool in the arsenal of cultivation and fundraising programs -- one that will fit both a specific niche as well as a complementary role.
Following are some tips for creating, sustaining and upgrading donor relationships by elevating current levels of communication via this relatively new medium.
1. An e-mail newsletter program is based on ongoing and aggressive “subscription” drives, executed by all means, including periodicals, direct mail, phone and e-mail, as well as cross-pollination of direct mail and e-mail. Information about the newsletter program should appear in all direct mail appeals, and direct mail packages should contain a heavy graphic and copy emphasis encouraging donors to provide their e-mail addresses.
2. The process of acquiring and assuring e-mail address accuracy must be continuous. Meaningful income can only be possible if the e-mail blast list becomes large enough.
3. As addresses are acquired, each addressee should be “grandfathered” into the newsletter subscription base (with a clear and visible opt-out).
4. Singular branding is very important, so the graphics involved in all mediums should be consistent.
5. Donor survey also are essential, as they cultivate and engage the donor and initiate the process of stimulating responses in a new or complementary type of donor relationship.
It should be noted that e-mail is not for everyone -- just as is the case with direct mail, phone solicitations, etc. And it must be stressed that income derivative from e-mail can fluctuate wildly by client type. Today, the most successful online fundraising programs are those that are emergency- or urgency based. General appeals, especially those from organizations with more esoteric missions, generally provide moderate income streams.
But many of these types of organizations acknowledge the role of the Internet in educating and maintaining the interest/involvement of their publics. Many have successfully used the Internet to complement other marketing techniques or branding -- with the goal of both improving overall donor involvement and acquiring a better understanding of donor needs.
Mark Jacobson is vice president of the fundraising division of DMW, a full-service, direct-response advertising agency with offices in Wayne, Pa.; Plymouth, Mass.; and St. Louis. E-mail him at email@example.com.