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For more than 15 years, the Center for Economic Growth has operated as a regional economic- and business-development organization in New York’s Tech Valley region, which spans 18 counties. Through much of its his-tory, CEG had no consistent way to communicate with its funding partners, members, clients or the general community. Then, a few years ago, it switched to e-mail marketing.
Currently, CEG deals with the postal service for only two of its dozens of events throughout the year. And even then, it mails to only a fraction of its total subscriber list. As for non-event messages, CEG uses e-mail exclusively.
As a result, the organization saves more than $100,000 a year in postage and countless staff hours. In the program’s first year, event attendance leapt by 75 percent. In subsequent years, the organization increased its e-mail subscriber base from 1,400 to more than 10,000 registered recipients.
Saving time and money
With fewer people donating money and time to nonprofit ventures, and with the remaining contributors giving less, CEG considers its e-marketing program a success on two fronts: reaching more people more effectively and using increasingly scant resources — money and time — more efficiently.
Whereas CEG previously used mailings to promote events and collected fees at the door, it now offers online event registration with online payment within e-mail invitations. The time necessary to draft, discuss and distribute a message was reduced from one week to approximately one or two hours. And CEG now can easily send follow-up e-mail to recipients who don’t respond to initial invitations.
With an innovative reporting function, the organization tracks the number of e-mails sent, opened and forwarded, as well as the number of users who clicked on embedded links. This provides valuable market information, including everything from which subject lines are most enticing to the best time to send e-mail.
Also, the e-mail application that CEG uses includes a specific fundraising module that allows users to send messages with a link to a donation Web page and tracks how many people donated as a result of any given e-mail. With each e-mail, CEG learns more about its audience and can refine subsequent communication, resulting in perpetually improving fundraising efforts.
Other fundraising organizations can benefit from such a winning strategy, provided they take necessary steps before transitioning from paper-based to e-mail marketing and practice smart outreach once the new program is initiated.
Take it easy
Organizations interested in shifting to permission-based e-mail marketing should take steps to ease subscribers into the new program, including explaining the decision to its existing contacts and gathering accurate e-mail addresses. By alerting members to the change and confirming their compliance, fundraisers can help ensure a smooth transition.
Also, when planning e-mail communication, organizations should be wary of sending too many missives, which waters down the impact of any given message or renders it altogether dismissible. CEG segments its master list so that it seldom sends any given message to all 10,000 subscribers. Rather, it targets subsections of its list, sending specific messages to predetermined interested parties.
In the wake of Can Spam, CEG actually found federal regulations helpful as they provide clear guidelines for legitimate e-mail senders. For example, senders must provide a clear means for recipients to remove themselves from the mailing list and must include their physical postal address in every message.
In addition to following the letter of the law, organizations should avoid the risk of their messages being misidentified as spam. CEG found that due diligence before sending a single e-mail, audience segmentation and Can Spam compliance helped maintain a healthy list of contacts, as well as goodwill among its audience.
Meghan Curtin is an e-marketing advisor at Informz, a Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based online marketing company. She can be reached at 888.371.1842.