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The Nonprofit Blog

4 comments - Last on 10/26/2009

E-Communication for Nonprofits: Email Analytics

Last Thursday's Nonprofit Times posted an article about the drop in "open rates" for nonprofit emails.  Since we are preparing for the biggest holiday season to date for email appeal solicitations, this is a very timely article.  If you are into statistics, you will especially enjoy the article.  I question the size of the sampling, but based on my own personal habits, I concur with the statistics.  The more emails I get from an organization, the fewer I open.  It's as simple as that.  But that's just me. 

The emails from our favorite charitable organizations, schools and cultural groups are typically:  e-newsletters, calls to action for volunteers/advocates or solicitations.  Paper mail is becoming outmoded and stamps are way too expensive.  E-correspondence saves money.  However, the REAL value is analysis or analytics.  With old-fashioned mail, we had no idea what arrived at a valid address; what was opened; what was read and how carefully the prospect studied our materials.  The inexpensive ISPs such as Constant Contact and Vertical Response identify: incorrect addresses, open rates, bounce rates, click throughs and forwards. 

If you are using e-communications, budget the time to do the analysis.  It will inform your frequency and content; it will identify some very good prospects.  Good luck.

 

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I agree!! the more emails I get from an organization, the fewer I open. Too much information can turn out to be seen as irrelevant. Organizations should have a strategic emailing plan to avoid this from happening. Organizations should also take into consideration the aspect of analysis, as we can see it is extremely important!!!


While I certainly agree that more does not mean more effective, I am interested in the idea of eye-catching subject lines.  Though it should be something that grabs the reader's attention, one must consider the organization's culture and constituency to determine what is appropriate.  I wonder if such techniques and strategies vary by sector.  Which sectors would prefer something more conservative, for example?


Like Ameta mentioned I think eye-catching email subject lines is an interesting area to research. I get tons of emails from groups I really care about and from groups I just gave my contact info to at some point. But even with the over emailing that often happens...some subject lines get me to open and read and even act. Last month twice I opened, read and acted on emails that I got from groups that send me a ton of emails...most of which I delete without reading at all. But both times these specific emails worked on me. One got me to attend a meeting and one actually got me to renew my membership. The subject lines were the key.


I agree that doing the analytics is key -- and tracking open rates allows the emailer to test the effect of different subject lines on open rates, as well as the effect of content on click through rates. Because of the proliferation of emails it is especially important to analyze effectiveness, and to monitor frequency. Some friends have told me they think a particular charity emails too often -- but since they want the charity to do well they don't mind -- however, there will come a point when these emails don't get opened. I think a charity using email appeals should plan out a testing strategy with analytic decision points and constantly revise strategy using open rates and click throughs and donor amounts as guides.


Annual Appeal: Email or Direct Mail ... redux

How nice to have comments.   (Of course it helps that I bribe my Masters students, offering extra credit for their comments on my blog.)

There is so much to say about email vs direct mail (in reaching out to prospective donors) that another blog entry is in order.  Certainly, the email appeal should mirror the original appeal as should it mirror the donation page of our website.  Branding and a uniform Case for Support will help donors understand that we know what we're doing.  Repetition is good as long as we tweak the presentation to get people's attention.  Some respond to a long letter, others respond to a great photo or a catchy phrase.  The important thing is to analyze and measure the response to different presentations of your appeal.

Just as we pay special attention to the look of the envelope in direct mail (make the prospect feel he/she is going to miss something if he/she does not open that envelope,) be sure to consider very carefully exactly what you will say in the subject line of the email appeal.  Gather the creative energy of your staff together to brainstorm a subject line that will implore the prospect to open and read the email.   

The onslaught of annual appeals is about to begin.  Study carefully which ones make an impression on you, and why. 

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2 comments - Last on 10/12/2009

2009 Annual Appeal Readiness: Email or Direct Mail?

Two short years ago, one of my NYU students inquired whether it was considered good practice to send an Annual Appeal by e-mail.  At the time, I replied, "Absolutely not."  The Annual Appeal letter, like the official thank you note, was sacrosanct - it should be formal, official and worthy of first class postage.  Fast forward to Fall 2009 and boy, have I changed my tune.  Forty four-cent stamps;  lean nonprofit budgets; increases in demand for our services; and first-rate, economical email service providers such as Constant Contact  make email appeals the method of choice for many organizations.

In fact, if you are one of the organizations lucky enough to have valid email addresses for most of your constituents, you will be able to analyze the impact of your E-appeal in ways that will revolutionize your future planning and goal setting.  Be sure to use an email service provider that offers analytics including:  who opened the email; how much time did they spend reading the email; who went back to it more than once; which addresses are invalid; and more.  

Of course, you must have seamless online giving on your website to which your donors can quickly click and donate.  Overall, online giving is still in its childhood stages and represents a small piece of the pie.  However, those charities that make the process of giving online easy and efficient and successfully drive their donors to the site (just a click away with an an email appeal) do quite well.  Their donations are typically higher than mail-in donations.  And, those who make their websites dynamic, newsy and interesting attract return viewers and additional donations.

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Great advice. I'm wondering how much you think that the email and direct mail should mirror each other. Will it be redundant or will it reinforce the message even more?


Some thoughts about the last comment: I think direct mail gives us enough space for the whole story we need to tell. Although the messages (direct mail/email) cannot be too different from each other since they share the same title and purpose, at least in this case, I just think it is important to make the email message shorter and more attention-grabbing than the direct mail message but at the same time, enable our readers to have a better (quick and convenient) access to all our stories and resources. 


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4 comments - Last on 10/26/2009

E-Communication for Nonprofits: Email Analytics

 Read more...
 

Annual Appeal: Email or Direct Mail ... redux

 Read more...
 

2 comments - Last on 10/12/2009

2009 Annual Appeal Readiness: Email or Direct Mail?

 Read more...
 


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