Tips to Strengthen Your E-mail Campaigns
E-mail is a great option for fundraising communications because it's inexpensive and provides virtually instant access to friends and supporters. What's more, it's measurable.
In the session "The Right Message: Making the Most of E-mail Marketing in a Down Economy" at the DMA Nonprofit Federation's 2009 New York Nonprofit Conference, Allison Van Diest, senior product marketing manager for Blackbaud, shared best practices for creating strong positioning and message architecture.
Van Diest said today's nonprofit supporters:
- read e-mail before direct mail;
- satisfy their interests on their own schedule;
- expect information to be personalized;
- expect immediate feedback;
- expect information on progress/stewardship; and
- expect to share online experiences with others.
The first step to successful e-mail marketing is establishing a plan. Start with a calendar, think about the types of messages you send and include every department that wants to send messages. How can messages be combined or complement each other? What data do you need to collect to improve your coordination? Ensure that you have a healthy mix of messages.
The next step is building an e-mail list. The key to growing a loyal e-mail audience, Van Diest said, is hooking them early and keeping them engaged over time. Optimize your welcome message and send a follow-up message within a week (or less). After a few months of active e-mail, survey your list to see if you are meeting its expectations.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, for example, used poll data to subtly drive content and creative on its site and in e-mails, and saw online giving increase 12 percent in 2008.
Once you have an established e-mail list, the next step is segmenting that list. Segmentation can be done based on:
- Demographic and lifestyle (what can be observed);
- Preference and opinion (what someone tells you they care about); and
- Behavior (what people do, which Van Diest said is the best segmentation strategy).
Common e-mail segments include:
- New sign-ups — Introduce the organization, engage with prospective supporters
- Best addresses — Thank them, and keep them happy.
- Middle donors — How can you motivate them to do more?
- Lapsed — Re-engage or drop them.
Organizations also can segment by generation, keeping in mind the following general traits of each generational group:
- Boomers (born between 1947 and 1966). Detail-oriented. Don't be afraid to get "in the weeds," Van Diest said. Emotional storytelling is key. Include multiple anecdotes leading to a softly put ask late in the e-mail. Make your message come from an individual they'll come to know over time.
- Bust (1967-1979). Action-oriented. Describe tangible results of their help. Spell out ROI for gifts as part of your ask. Go with shorter messaging with brief callouts.
- Echo (1980-1994). Consumption-oriented. Feel free to send more messages in a shorter timeframe than to any other group, Van Diest said. Get to your point quickly, include frequent and direct calls to action, and think about including involvement devices like e-cards.
Van Diest said when in doubt, segment your e-mail list like you would for direct mail. And she stressed not to segment unless you have plans or ability to act on it.