Email MORE Not LESS

It’s “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for nonprofit organizations. Collectively, we receive about 40% of our donations in the last 3 months of the year.  But fundraisers everywhere are biting their nails, worrying about whether or not their appeals will result in the gifts their organizations need to be able to meet their budgets and asking themselves what more they can do.

So what can you do?  Email more, not less.

I know.  I know.  I feel your pain.  You are imaging suggesting to people internally at your organization that you increase the frequency of your emails to your constituents.  In response, you have people in your organization wailing in protest,

“But we CAN’T email MORE!”

“We’ll offend people.”

“We’ll annoy our donors.”

“They’ll unsubscribe.”

“Our open rates will go down.”

“That might work for other organizations, but it won’t work for us”

Dela Quist of @AlchemyWorks writes that there were two factors that drove donations for the Obama campaign and its victory over Mitt Romney:  (1) email frequency and (2) list size.  Quist writes that as email frequency went up, open rates did decrease, but the number and size of donations increased.

But Quist suggests that the preoccupation with open rates is misguided.  He writes that if you dramatically increase the number of emails you send and a lower proportion are opened, you still might find that you are reaching more people and that overall your number of opens is growing.  He argues that what is true of politics is also true in retail.  (You can read the whole article here).  

But is it also true in nonprofit fundraising?

The experience of Charity Water suggests the answer is resoundingly yes.

Trying not only to increase donations but also to increase the number of constituents who ran individual fundraising campaigns (#DIYFUNDRAISING #P2P), Charity Water decided in 2012 to dramatically increase its email campaigns.  Moving, in some cases from one email per month to two emails per week, Charity Water increased its giving for end of year campaign from $500,000 in 2011 to $2 million in 2012.  Further, in the process, the organization increased its email open rates 21%, demonstrating that increased donations do not have to come at the cost of annoying donors.

Charity Water focused its emails on calls to action, asking its supporters to read targeted articles or watch specific videos.  The articles and videos highlighted the impact of donations.  They focused on educating and inspiring their followers, rather than direct asks for donations. You can read the case study by @MarketingSherpa.  Marketing Sherpa’s case study also has links to samples of the campaign’s emails, landing page, and more and provides other helpful insights into why the campaign was such a huge success.

 The Take-Aways both from both politics and Charity Water:

(1)    Email marketing can be a way to increase end of year donations.

(2)    Don’t be afraid to email more often.

(3)    Foster engagement with your supporters.

(4)    Be sure to demonstrate the impact of giving.

(5)    Keep building your email list.

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