Optimize Fundraising E-mail Communications by Driving Engagement
While the world is moving toward mobile domination, e-mail is still an integral part to any fundraising communications strategy. Whether it is on their desktops, laptops or mobile devices, donors, prospects and supporters continue to utilize e-mail on a regular basis.
However, everyone is bombarded with messages daily. According to Marketo's "The Definitive Guide to Engaging Email Marketing," "on any given day, the average customer will be exposed to 2,904 media messages, will pay attention to 52 and will positively remember only four." So with so much noise to sort through, how do you get your organization's e-mail to break through the clutter? By driving engagement through engaging e-mails.
At Blackbaud's annual bbcon conference, Sophia Latto, principal consultant at Blackbaud's UX Design Group, and Scott Gilman, senior consultant of donor engagement at Blackbaud, shared the key attributes of engaging e-mail and ways to optimize e-mail communications in their session, "Email in a Social Media/Mobile Device World."
Create engaging e-mail
Engaging e-mail communications are trustworthy, relevant and strategic, according to Latto and Gilman. Trustworthy e-mails set expectations for the recipient, keep the housefile clean so only those who signed up and are interested receive the messages, and are consistent. Relevant e-mails are segmented, personalized and offer good content — i.e., the same message should not go out to everyone on your e-mail list. Strategic e-mails are readable and utilize analytics and testing to determine what types of messages to send and to whom to send them.
Prioritize e-mail sign-up
One of the most efficient ways to grow your e-mail housefile is to prioritize e-mail sign-up on your website. For instance, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has a call to action right on its homepage to "Sign Up for Bay Updates." The call to action is prominently displayed right below the opening image rotator, making it easy for any visitor to sign up for e-mail communications.
Latto and Gilman shared a few sign-up form best practices to eliminate unnecessary barriers for supporters, using Catholic Charities USA's form as an example:
- Connect to the form to the mission — Catholic Charities has engaging photos of its work to connect to the mission.
- Set expectations and communicate value — "Sign up for our e-mails to: Read inspiring stories; Learn about new programs; Get advocacy alerts; Hear about how you can get involved."
- Overcome objections — "And don't worry — we won't share or sell your information with anyone else and we won't overwhelm your inbox. We just want to be able to keep you involved in our work. After all, we can't do this without you."
- Short form — "Join our Email List!" (asks only for First Name, Last Name and E-mail).
Some possible additions to this form include making it clear that supporters can opt out at any time and also providing some links to sample communications.
Once a supporter signs up for e-mail communications, a confirmation e-mail should be sent that once again connects to the mission, sets expectations and adds value for the recipient. In the case of the American Red Cross, the organization does all three:
- Connect to the mission: "You're a part of a worldwide community of supporters actively committed to bringing relief to millions of people in need, whether it's a family rebuilding their home after a destructive tornado or a hospital patient in need of a critical blood transfusion."
- Set expectations: "As a Red Cross email subscriber, you'll receive breaking news on major disasters around the world, useful health and safety tips, and opportunities to get involved with Red Cross"
- Added value: "To say thanks, we want to share a special offer of 10% off your entire Red Cross Store order. use discount code WELCOME at checkout through the next month."
E-mail communications content
Once you have supporters on your housefile, it's vital to segment your communications to keep messages relevant and engaging. The most basic way to segment is by recognizing and thanking donors for past giving and acknowledging their support.
Other ways to segment communications for greater engagement include:
- Geo-based communication: e-mail centered on location. The Nature Conservancy sent an e-mail on "Great Places" to recipients based on their location, which featured images and stories on these beautiful places where nature is thriving.
- Behavioral-based communication: Behavioral communication goes beyond first name and geographic location, referencing and acknowledging the relationship between the organization and the supporter by referencing past behavior and action taken on behalf of or as part of the organization's community. For example, an Environmental Defense Fund e-mail referenced in the session referenced past activity and engagement, educated the donor on an advocacy program, created an opportunity to engage on a variety of issues and topics, and provided a passionate response.
- Quick survey e-mail: A quick way to measure interest and further segment your e-mail file is by sending a survey about the e-mail communications you send. Based off the response, you can decide what type of messages to send to whom.
- Single-them messaging: These type of messages draw special attention to a campaign or highlight and emphasize a targeted ask. These messages are often a little shorter. They are more focused on one thing and one clear call to action. For example, charity: water had a "Send an e-card this Valentine's Day and give a person clean water" e-mail with the simple call to action to send a Valentine's Day card.
- Single call to action: Similarly, a single call-to-action message has brief messaging with multiple links throughout to a single call to action. Feeding America, for example, sent an e-mail to share an infographic where the call to action was repeatedly linked, the messaging was brief, it was mobile-friendly, emphasized brevity of the action the repellent was asked to take, and had both visual and textual prompts to the call to action.
- Lapsed-response communication: referencing a past e-mail or advocacy action to try and re-engage lapsed supporters. United to End Genocide sent an e-mail that started, "We couldn't help but notice that you haven't been involved with the United to End Genocide community lately and we miss you." It then had prompts to stand with the movement or to take a break from communications.
Another tip: Video helps drive conversion, according to the presenters:
- Including the word "video" in an e-mail subject line can improve the open rate between 7 percent and 13 percent.
- Video in an e-mail drives an average 21 percent higher conversion rate.
- 52 percent of consumers say watching product videos makes them more confident in online purchase decisions.
It's clear that e-mail is still a great way to engage supporters, solicit donations and ask people to take action. But in this world of over-communication, it's vital to be engaging and relevant.