Nonprofit email is down - keep your email up with these tactics

You may have heard - nonprofit fundraising email had a bad December.

M+R surveyed 23 organizations and found December 2018 email revenue was down 18% for the median. (For more stats, click here)

This downward trend in email performance fits the larger, still developing narrative that small-gift fundraising is falling on hard times. Whether uncertainty in the economy, the new tax law, email overload, or something else, our work as fundraisers appears to be getting more difficult.

But the news is not all bad - especially for those nonprofits who have a deep understanding of digital. For example, email response rates are up 26% and revenue up 2% for those who reduced email list size. This approach to email hygiene is critical if we want to beat spam filters and actually connect with those we email.

Which is why conducting a robust and ongoing email hygiene program is one of our two key tactics for beating the odds with email.

Improving email tactic #1

We have to be comfortable “breaking up” with our email connections who have ghosted our outreach attempts. When we send emails that are ignored (not opened) by a large swath of the recipients, our ability to reach ALL of our list members is severely damaged. Inbox providers like Gmail and Yahoo punish those who send to unresponsive lists by sending more of our emails to spam more consistently. (Sound interesting? Read more on email spam flagging here)

So if you want to stay out of spam folders, ditch those who don’t open what you’re sending. One easy way to do this is the “break up” email. You might literally use a subject like “It’s us, not you” or something else to playfully suggest

“hey, we get it, you’re not that into us. That’s OK. We’re going to remove you from a lot of future emails unless you click below and let us know you want to stay together.”

The last piece is key. Give the email recipient the chance to stay with you. If they’re reading that email, it means they’ve opened it (the whole point, really) and they are paying attention. In fact, this can be a great data refreshing exercise, because you can request new information when the person re opts in to your email program. Provide a link to an OPTIONAL data form that can pull new email addresses, social media account info, phone numbers, volunteer interest, etc.

And keep redoing this process every six months. Remove those who don’t open the “Break up email.” Because remember - recent stats say smaller email lists actually raise more revenue.

Improving email tactic #2

Make people glad they opened and clicked on your email. Give them content that reminds them why they followed you in the first place.

It’s not easy, but a robust video program coupled with a resource-intensive online ambassador program leads to annual fund AND seven figure fundraising success. Many of Groundwork’s partners have unlocked six figure gifts through these tactics while also injecting an energetic burst of new, warm major gift prospects.

To enjoy game-changing digital fundraising success requires content. Did you know that 72% said they stopped giving due to “poor, vague, or irrelevant” content? (Source: Abila Donor Loyalty Study) 3/4 of your donor churn can be fixed by fixing content.

Invest in video producers. You can hire an in-house team, hire out, or do both. Ultimately, your goal should be at least one new piece of video content per week for social media. The top performing social media videos can then be shared with your email lists. “Hey - this is our most popular video!” subjects with no or a passive fundraising request. This builds trust and engagement with your email audience and boosts open rates to maintain your email program’s overall health. Then, when you need your list, it is healthy and ready to provide conversions during busy events like giving days or end-of-year campaigns.

Next, get your ambassadors involved. Find your top group of about 10 to 50 ambassadors. Personally manage the relationships with these ambassadors and produce content that features the ambassadors. When someone is actually in a video, telling their story about why they support your mission, that ambassador will share that content more aggressively than anything else your org can produce. Plus, you have the added benefit of more authentic content that audiences resonate with.

Content is everything. And good video content is everything times infinity (Statistically speaking). Commit to content your audience wants to see, then email it to them regularly (as well as share across social media).

Email may be down, but a healthy email list combined with robust video engagement can keep your fundraising and engagement numbers up. Good luck!

Want to learn more? Email me at GroundworkDigital.com.