video

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.

M+R Study Shows Changing Face of Philanthropy Looks More Digital Than Ever

Online giving is continuing its meteoric rise in prominence with a 23 percent increase in 2017 after a 15 percent jump in 2016.

This coming from the always wonderfully comprehensive M+R online giving benchmark report.

While the M+R reports shows online giving is up, securing those online gifts has become more complicated as the historically chief digital channel – email – is seeing engagement drop across the board with click through rates, open rates, and conversion rates all seeing reductions of six, one, and six percent respectively.

BUT, notably, email revenue increased 24 percent and accounted for 28 percent of all online fundraising. In part because we are emailing our supporters more than ever before.

So what does this mean? Ultimately, some nonprofits are doing online fundraising very well and gobbling up big numbers of the massive online audience. Which means those who are not taking advantage of digital will increasingly be losing their donors to the organizations that are doing digital right.

What can you do to be sure your development operation is among the digital winners? Below are three paths to consider following right away…

Everything starts with video – so start producing more video

57 percent of everyone who watches a nonprofit’s video will eventually make a gift to that nonprofit. (Google, 2013)

Simple, authentic video on Facebook is both affordable and effective for engaging donors and landing gifts.

Simple, authentic video on Facebook is both affordable and effective for engaging donors and landing gifts.

Video is, by far, the Facebook algorithm’s top choice for allowing content to be seen by your fans. And the Pew Research institute’s numbers tell us that roughly four out of five North Americans are now on Facebook.

Yes, video can be expensive. But it is worth its weight in gold when you consider how powerful video can be on social media, online, and with email.

And video doesn’t have to be expensive.

According to ThankView, the more raw or authentic the video, the more likely it is to drive giving. When comparing “uploaded” and often higher quality videos to the spur-of-the-moment “webcam” variety videos, the webcam videos enjoyed a 15 percent click through rate on a call to action (most typically “give now”), while the more polished “uploaded” videos only saw a 10 percent click through rate. A five percent difference on clicks to a “give now” button is substantial and has an immediate impact on fundraising.

In other words, don’t allow a desire for perfection to paralyze your video production efforts. Instead, democratize your video. Train your staff, volunteers, donors, students, grateful patients – anyone with a smart phone – to become guerilla video producers for your cause. Not only is this an affordable way to increase your video output, but data is telling us this lower-quality content might even be more effective at securing gifts than more professional-looking video content – especially when viewed online.

Make sure your video (and all digital content) gets seen

As prominent as Facebook is, the platform’s algorithm is now rendering the network virtually worthless to organizations if you’re not willing to invest in ad spending. While that is discouraging, the good news is that it doesn’t take much spending to make a big difference on Facebook. A $200 campaign, boosted by online ambassadors, can have tremendous reach and real impact in terms of fundraising success.

And again – ambassadors matter. Facebook will reward content with far more views if it notices a large number of people engaging with that content. If you can reliably drum up a few dozen likes and shares with your ambassador core, that will lead to substantial viewership for that content. Couple ambassadors with a small ad spend and the reach will grow exponentially.

In addition to deploying ambassadors and ad spend on social media content through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, be sure you’re sharing content via email, as well. Groundwork’s clients have been enjoying newfound email success through a combination of simplifying email messaging and relying on video to carry that message. Here is a quick outline of how to make this happen for your organization:

  • Focus on minimal text in the email body – ideally, the email’s body should address the recipient by name, include a pithy one- or two-line message and a link (maybe with a thumbnail) to a website featuring a video. Essentially, the email is a gateway that introduces and redirects the recipient to your website to consume the content. (Don't try telling the entire story in the email ... email is a gateway, not a novel)
  • The website to which the email directs recipients should be a simple page featuring the video, a call to action (“Give Now” “Register Today”), and not much more (Resist the urge to send them to your homepage ... in most cases, you want to be more focused)
  • Test everything you can – sender, subject, format of content
  • Use the word “video” in subject lines …and test it against emails that don’t have “video” in the subject line

Ultimately, it’s about multi-channel donor engagement, because our donors use multiple channels. And when we produce a sophisticated, coordinated, and aligned campaign across email, social media, and traditional channels like phone and direct mail, we see gains in fundraising across all channels.

Get mobile right

The M+R report was clear about the necessity of providing a quality experience on mobile. For example:

  • 40 percent of nonprofit website visitors arrived at the sites via mobile in 2017, up 9 percent from 2016
  • Mobile transactions increased by 50 percent in 2017

Groundwork’s clients are seeing similar trends. During our most recent client giving day (a large, land grant university), mobile donations were nearly three times greater than then were in 2017 (from 106 in ’17 to 287 in ’18) and accounted for roughly 1/3 of all giving in ’18 after accounting for roughly 1/5 of all giving day gifts in ’17.

If you want to be positioned to secure your organization’s share of the critical online audience, you must have a website, content, and giving experience that is optimized for mobile. Not just in technology, but also a fundraising strategy that lends to easy giving opportunities from mobile devices.

The continued rise in online giving is a difficult adjustment for some nonprofit fundraisers. Unless you are magically experiencing a boost in your operating budget, doing more in digital means doing less in traditional channels such as mail and phone. But the ROI is there. Savvy, digitally-minded fundraisers are raising more money, more efficiently. To learn more about how, click here and send us an email. We’re happy to share more clients stories and offer tips for your organization to revolutionize fundraising with tested and proven digital tactics.

Video Campaigns that Drive Huge End-of-Year Fundraising Results

57 percent of everyone who watches an online video produced by a nonprofit will go on to give to that nonprofit. (Google, 2013)

Keep that in mind, then go look at the number of views you have on some of your strongest Facebook or YouTube videos. And imagine 60 percent of those views becoming donors. Technically, that should be the case.

If only it were that easy ...or maybe it is?

The following are three tips to build a video-driven content strategy that leads to your organization's strongest ever end-of-calendar-year fundraising push.

Facebook Live - do it and do it often in December

Launch an end-of-year Facebook Live telethon. On New Year's Eve or the week before, invite your best supporters who are also digitally active (your online ambassadors) to a special end-of-year party. Be sure there are plenty of food, drinks, and entertainment ...and an experienced Facebook Live crew.

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During this event, conduct several interviews with attendees and have them talk about why they gave back to your organization in the previous year and why they will continue giving in the new year. You might also interview a person or two who has been positively impacted by your mission. This could be a student, a patient, or a dog-in-waiting to be rescued ...you get the idea.

To increase the audience for your Facebook Live, make sure everyone you're interviewing shared the Facebook Live with their friends and family as soon as you go live.

And of course, throughout the Facebook Live event, be sure to frequently remind donors they "can give to support your mission by clicking 'donate now' in the Facebook post.

We call this the "modern Facebook pledge drive." For more details on how to conduct a Facebook pledge drive, click here to watch our webinar

Keep it simple for more video

You might have heard from various digital experts that lower quality, more authentic video is more effective for fundraising. 

At least in some cases, that's true.

According to Thankview, lower-quality, webcam-recorded videos are watched to completion 61 percent of the time, while higher-quality, uploaded videos are watched to completion only 47 percent of the time. More importantly, webcam-recorded videos lead to call-to-action clickthroughs on an email link 15 percent of the time, while uploaded videos only lead to CTA clickthroughs 10 percent of the time. 

If you're sending 10,000 emails, that's an extra 500 people who go to your gift form from the lower-quality video.

That's not to say high quality video doesn't have it's place. (Wait until you see what Groundwork is doing with virtual reality and major donors) But we should never avoid sharing videos with our donors, because we feel the quality is unbecoming of our mission. Can you see the video? Can you hear the video? If you answer "yes" to both and the message is on point, then share that video with your donors and prospects. Especially via year-end appeals. This approach will lead to more video messaging and, ultimately, more gifts.

Sell virtual seats to your holiday season gala

If you've experienced virtual reality, then you are aware of the medium's transformative power. VR can place a person in a different time and space while giving them an emotional experience similar to being present (in the literal sense).

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Imagine using this technology to democratize your high-priced, end-of-year donor galas. Of course, nothing beats the real thing - actually being there - but for $50, a donor can experience the event virtually as opposed to paying $5,000 for a table. Access to watching the speakers, hearing the musicians, enjoying the celebrity keynotes... can all take place from the comfort of home and at a more approachable price point. This gives the annual fund donors unique access to high-end experiences without cheapening the experience for large gift donors, because the large gift donors still have the exclusive benefit of literally being there.

This tactic could also be used as a leadership annual giving tool by moving the $50 up to $500. Especially if you're concerned about cheapening the high-price live gala experience.

Using VR to widen the reach of a gala could be done through Facebook Live or could be recorded and edited for later use. For example, gift officers could carry VR headsets with them to donor visits and allow those who couldn't attend in person to watch the next best thing.

Is your development operation ready to transform your fundraising outcomes with video? Groundwork Digital builds sophisticated digital strategies and produces award-winning videos for clients. Ask us about it by clicking here and completing our contact form.

Modern Pledge Drive with Facebook Live

Facebook Live is a powerful tool that can instantly drive thousands of attentive viewers to your organization’s mission and message …when it is done well. Content, the right equipment, an energetic host – there are many factors to producing a game-changing Facebook Live event.

Join Groundwork Digital and Mighteor for a FREE “Facebook Live for Nonprofits” webinar on Wednesday, September 27 at 3pm ET/noon PT. Click here to sign up.

During this webinar, Mighteor Founder Liz Giorgi and Groundwork Founder Justin Ware will cover:

  • How to build an hour-long Facebook Live Pledge Drive that leads to real fundraising results
  • Developing a Facebook Live strategy to enhance your 12-month content marketing plan
  • Plugging Facebook Live into online giving days and #GivingTuesday for record-breaking results