Get the first (or second) gift
No relationship is more exciting than when you’re first getting to know each other, and your relationship with donors is no different. As in direct mail, recency is critical. Shortly after they join your file — whether via e-mail sign-up, an action or something else — send prospective donors a series of welcome e-mails designed to elicit initial gifts. If they first joined your online file via donations, this series should inspire second gifts.
Some organizations automate this process, sending two to 10 (or even more) e-mails featuring a standard mix of appeals, updates and/or actions. Other organizations, particularly those that focus on multiple issues, tailor their welcome e-mails to the specific issue the advocate or donor showed initial interest in.
For example, someone who signed an online petition about alternative energy with an environmental organization would get a series of e-mails about the organization’s energy campaign. She might later be exposed to the organization’s other campaigns, but the initial focus is on getting a gift related to the specific issue that first compelled her to take action.
To maximize the impact of your online communications, adopt a culture of testing. For example, if you send a monthly e-news-letter featuring two topics, instead try sending out two e-mails each month, each devoted to a single topic, to a test segment of your file. Then add a third e-mail — a direct appeal, say — in one of the extra weeks. After a few months, compare the test segment with the control group to see which performed the best.
Mastering these five steps takes time and resources, which are in especially short supply for the sector these days. Growing beyond these basics requires more investment still, along with a healthy dose of creative thinking on how to translate your organization’s unique passion and competencies into compelling online initiatives.