How to Create an Effective Email Communications Strategy for Your Next Peer-to-Peer Event
Email communications may not be the newest digital way to reach donors, but it remains a critically important and effective tool for nonprofits to interact with peer-to-peer participants, optimize fundraisers and build relationships. But having a strategic plan is key.
For Pieta House, its Darkness into Light event began in 2009 with 400 participants at its signature Dublin event and evolved to 200,000 participants across 200 events in 16 countries a decade later. Peer-to-peer fundraising alone made substantial gains thanks to its e-communications strategy. Here’s a look at its fundraising revenue growth (converted from euros to U.S. dollars):
- 2015: approximately $41,000
- 2016: approximately $411,000
- 2017: approximately $1.3 million
- 2018: approximately $2.5 million
“A lot of the growth here really came down to the e-comms strategy,” Jillian Stewart, founder of Peerworks Consulting, said. “There really wasn’t much else that would have impacted this kind of growth. This is how we really drove these results.”
Stewart, who worked with Pieta House from 2016 to 2018, walked through this success story last week during a Peer-to-Peer World virtual conference session. Week one of the Peer-to-Peer Email Communications Workshop also included strategy lessons from Kari Bodell, Susan G. Komen’s vice president of development programs strategy.
“As we go into this, I want to be sure from the very beginning we all know that email is a tactic,” Bodell said. “Email is a tactic that moves people along the path we want them to take to achieve our goals. We’re not emailing just to email. And we all know that when we do that we get in trouble. We get in trouble with spam filters. We get in trouble with deliverability scores. We get in trouble with the people who have trusted us with their email address. So we want to do this really really thoughtfully, so we need an email strategy.”
Here’s a brief overview of two must-do aspects of developing an email communications strategy.
Determine Program Strategy Prior to Starting an Email Strategy
Avoid letting your event become a yard sale. Too many offerings can cause you to lose sight of the true goal. Advocacy is getting phone numbers to connect people to their representatives. It has to appeal to corporate teams and families, too. Marketing wants great photo opportunities. The list can go on and on.
“What I really want to zero in on here is priorities,” Bodell said. “And when a program, a campaign, an event tries to be everything to everyone, it quickly becomes a total mess.”
Bodell recommended asking these three questions to discover the goals of the event:
- What are the goals and priorities of the program?
- What must the program do in order to be viewed as successful?
- How does it relate to, complement or compete with your other peer-to-peer or event fundraising programs and other revenue channels?
Those steps can then guide the email communications recruitment strategy. Pieta House, according to Stewart, focused on these areas to increase fundraising revenue:
- Engage participants from the past three years.
- Encourage people to register earlier to maximize fundraising potential, including eliminating last-minute registrants with early-bird discounts and guaranteed T-shirts by mail.
- Provide VIP treatment to former top fundraisers and volunteer committee members.
- Do a soft launch to test new peer-to-peer platform and email flows.
Know Your Audience
Before attacking the email communications strategy, nonprofits also need to determine their ideal or expected audiences in order to segment and cater communications to each one effectively leading up to the event. Example audiences can range from those participating solely for the activity to those committed to the organization. Other categories of interest could include “top fundraisers,” “survivors,” “board members” or “first-timers.”
“At Susan G. Komen, I don’t need to know that they’re a pet lover, but you better believe at the Humane Society, they do,” Bodell said. “Now, if I decided to do a pet walk to raise money for breast cancer, I’m going to want to know that they’re a pet lover, so you’ve got to get really clear about what’s important for you to know.”
To learn more about email communications strategy, view the recorded sessions for week one of this workshop and all the other sessions you may have missed here.
Or, sign up for a future session here:
- Timing and Segmentation: 11:30 a.m. Sept. 17
- Calls to Action and Content: 11:30 a.m. Sept. 24
- Design and Deliverability: 11:30 a.m. Oct. 1
- Execution, Analytics and Adjustments: 11:30 a.m. Oct. 8
Editor’s Note: NonProfit PRO is the exclusive media partner for Peer-to-Peer World.
Amanda L. Cole is the editor-in-chief of NonProfit PRO. She was formerly editor-in-chief of special projects for NonProfit PRO's sister publication, Promo Marketing. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.