Is Your E-mail Message Getting Through?
Once you've identified your goal and your audience, the next step is to craft your message. You should engage your constituents and deliver on their needs. Use what you know about these people to determine how, and in what order, to describe and illustrate the benefits of your message. If you're sending a special-event announcement, they'll want to know the "what, when, why and how much." If you want to alert them about an action you want them to take, it makes sense to describe the issue and provide links that allow them to take the action you hope to drive (e.g., a link to your Web site that allows them to fill out a petition or automated letter to an editor). Many nonprofits tie their offline and online activities together. For example, e-mail a reminder notice to send back the donation form they received in the mail (or "click here to donate now").
It's important that the e-mail format you use matches your message. For instance, many people have become leery of large HTML e-mails -- they can look canned and impersonal, and have become associated with SPAM. For this reason, just a short, plain text message that gets right to the point can have much higher success rates. However, there is some content that recipients don't mind (and, in fact, expect) in HTML, such as full-color e-newsletters, holiday or seasonal promotions, event invitations, holiday greetings and more. That's why it's important to match the message with the vehicle. Many e-mail services offer templates that make creating these e-mails a snap. Plus, several of them host and manage your e-mail database (including unsubscribes and bounces), automatically format for HTML and text, meet SPAM-law requirements and provide instant reporting on opens, bounce-backs and other critical measures.
With everything set to go, you have to remember the old maxim "timing is everything." You should determine when your constituents are most likely to open and read your e-mail. Mid-day delivery is better than mornings or evenings, and Tuesday and Wednesday achieve better results than the beginning or the end of the week. Your audience might be different, so do some testing to determine the delivery timing that is right for you.