Tips on Customizing E-mail Communications
FS: What are some key benefits of customizing messaging using constituent information? Where does customization take place?
BM: The point of subscribe is a great place to start — but only if you collect information that is relevant and that you plan to use. For example, simply asking the subscriber’s level of interest (e.g., education about the cause, donation, community involvement, etc.) can inform the content strategy of your e-mail cadence. If a subscriber chooses community involvement, make local events a prominent portion of their message flow. This taps into the exact need and expectation of the subscriber and quickly develops an advocate for your organization’s cause.
FS: What kind of information are nonprofits currently gathering? What information should they be gathering?
BM: Of the 50 organizations included in our research, 34 percent required full online registration in order to subscribe to the e-mail program. This included 76 percent that asked for name, 70 percent that required geographic information (like address or state) and 20 percent asking for demographic data. That’s a lot of personal detail to disclose in order to receive an e-mail. We recommend only collecting the data that is relevant and will be used, which will vary from organization to organization. If a nonprofit is collecting geographic information, for example, at least some of the e-mail content should be focused on local issues/events.
FS: What are some recommendations you can offer organizations on how to better their e-mail practices by adding this strategy?
BM: Start small. Identify the data that is most informative and useful for your program — it may be geography, or interest level, or some other key component. Prioritize your subscribe form to include the key data points, and eliminate any nonessential form fields. Be clear with your subscriber on exactly how the information will be used — and fulfill that promise within the e-mail content. Use the data point to identify groups of similar subscribers (everyone located in Florida, for example) and send localized content to that group only. This recognition of community creates a more personal relationship with the subscriber, engages them more quickly with your cause and primes them for involvement.