|The Direct Marketing Association recently stated that the overall e-mail marketing ROI for 2011 was a staggering $40.56 for every $1 invested. For nonprofit organizations, that investment is money well spent; yet this continues to be a highly underutilized tactic.In a survey taken of nearly 1,300 non-profits worldwide, nearly 77% said they utilize their e-mail list at least once each month. However, to generate a presence yet avoid e-mail fatigue, creating a bi-weekly schedule is recommended.|
Initially, the bi-weekly schedule may seem overwhelming, but here are a few recommendations on designing a campaign to reach donors easily and effectively:
Segment your list
To illustrate: A university wouldn’t send a mass e-mail requesting $1,000 – $5,000 donations to everyone in its database. Alum and corporate sponsorships may contribute, but current students or recent graduates may take offense and unsubscribe to all future messages. This would result in a valuable segment of the list becoming unusable.
Discover the segments that would be valuable to your organization: from donor level, volunteer activity, gender, geography to income or interest. Ask your list to update their profile, attracting them with a small “thank you” gifts for their time—like a magnetic photo frame or a Post-It® note pad.
Test your list by designing two versions of the same e-mail and delivering them to the different segments. You can then track the results to determine the preferences of each segment.
Create highly noticeable calls to action
When placing them into the context of the e-mail, don’t oversaturate them with text. Make them colorful or contrasting from the rest of the message.
Engage your audience with content
On average, people spend 4.4 hours each week reading e-mails and they are constantly looking for ways to reduce that time, so keep your message simple. Remember that many e-mail systems block images, so ensure the text is visually appealing and concise to make the message easily readable. For example, one disaster relief agency recommends becoming a donor because they provide “warm blankets to cold disaster victims.” This is short, sweet and evokes emotional imagery.
If creating content sounds overwhelming or expensive, consider crowdsourcing in the form of a contest. The guidelines can be specific to your mission and offer a cash prize or swag to attract participation. Participants will generally join to generate exposure for themselves; but depending on the marketing budget, a cash prize, an iPad® with a carry case/sleeve or MP3 player with ear buds, would sweeten the deal.
With a little foresight, e-mail campaigns can be the best tool in your toolbox. Consider San Diego’s Invisible Children, Inc.: Although steeped in controversy, their Kony 2012 campaign did several things correctly according to one blogger. First, their compelling video used a child to tell a simple story about a complex message. Second, the video effectively engaged social media users. And third, their call to action was simple: spread the word—and the people obliged. With proper execution and a solid message, a well-planned campaign could go viral and bring your organization heightened exposure and donations.
Magill, Ken. “Email Remains ROI King; Net Marketing Set to Overtake DM, Says DMA” The Magill Report. 4 October 2011. 2 April 2012.
Painter, Harrison. “Nonprofit Communication Trends 2012 (Infographic)” CoffeeWithHarrison.com. 7 February 2012. 2 April 2012.
Hopkins, Lee. “More time spent on social media than e-mail worldwide” Better Communication Results. 4 November 2010. 2 April 2012.
Tunheim. “Kony 2012 Case Study: Three Things You Can Learn From the Viral Video” perspecTive. 23 March 2012. 2 April 2012.
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