More Email Equals Higher Donor Retention

Want to increase your retention? Email your donors MUCH more frequently.

Seriously. Data says so.

A M+R Benchmark study of 4,699,299,330 email messages and 11,958,385 donations tells us that EVERY additional fundraising message per subscriber was related to 0.2% increase in overall donor retention for the year. And there were no signs of that correlation dissipating as the emails increased. The formula looks simple: more emails = more retention.

Of course, while I don’t have data to prove this, it stands to reason that emailing your donor database every day with a subject line and body that basically says “Give again today!” will not lead to better retention. (Just a hunch)

So how do you develop a high-frequency email program that does encourage higher donor retention? As with anything, content counts. Here is what Groundwork recommends…

Treat email as a gateway, not a final destination

Assume people are checking and not reading email. Keep you emails short, succinct, and to the point. Link out of the email to your website where great content (preferably video) awaits the reader. Include only one call to action and highlight that CTA in bold with the hyperlink to your website. In most cases, we want an email to grab someone’s attention and send them to an online destination where they can “learn more,” “sign up,” or “give today!”

Key to this approach is producing great content for your website(s) and gift form(s). Investing in powerful video content is one of the most important moves a nonprofit fundraising organization can make. The relationship between high email volume and increased retention is just one of the many reasons why content is critical.

Always Be (A/B, get it?) Testing

A/B test to no end. The “gateway not a destination” recommendation I just gave above? Test it. Try long form emails with group A and three-sentence emails with group B.

But to bring this back to retention, conduct a year-long email retention test. Send donor group A your current planned frequency of email and then send donor group B three times that number. Do your best to provide quality content and keep the solicitation ratio equal across both groups. (Group A gets 4 soliciations and 8 impact of giving emails, group B gets 12 solicitations and 24 impact of giving emails) Which group retains better after 12 months of this approach? Everything can be A/B tested including this high email volume = better retention theory.

Thoughts? Is dramatically increasing email frequency a tough pill to swallow? We would love to hear from those who have experimented with email frequency in the comments below!