Tag: email marketing

Your nonprofit newsletter is one of the most powerful tools you have to convert donors. However, converting donors isn’t only about making your fundraisers seen. It’s more important to use your email marketing for effective storytelling.

Donors love to see the impact their donations have. They want to feel re-inspired to give and reminded of why they love your cause. Your nonprofit newsletter needs to include elements of storytelling alongside other engaging content. Otherwise, you will find yourself asking for money too often and wearing your donors out.

Here are seven emails built to engage your supporters without over-asking. Each of them is designed to help you build relationships, gather more support, and show off your impact in the world.

1. Thank You Emails

The most obvious email you should always send to your donors is “Thank You.” Don’t automate a donation receipt and move on. Make sure your donors are thanked genuinely for their contribution.

Then, ask them to sign up for your newsletter so you can engage them all year long. Or, you can ask them to subscribe when they give by building an email opt-in option into your forms. Either way, make sure your donors feel appreciated and have options to stay connected after they give.

2. Welcome Emails

Welcome emails are different from the “Thank You” email sent right after a donation. This comes after someone opts-in to your email marketing newsletter. It has information on what kind of content you send out to your subscribers, how to support the cause by sharing your content, etc.

You should also have a subscription sign-up available on your website. People generally interested in your mission and the content you publish will sign up and become donor leads. Content marketing is an important strategy for nonprofits to embrace. It helps build your email list and your email list also drives traffic to your website in return.

The people interested in your content are good leads to convert to donors. You just need to nurture them with emails they’re interested in before you ask for donations.

3. Impact Stories

Of course, don’t forget the most important part of your newsletter: storytelling. It’s your job to show your organization’s work and how it’s made an impact. Donors especially want to see what impact they had. You did the work, but they feel pride. Help them feel the joy of giving by telling the story of how their money has helped you fulfill your mission.

You can write out the entire story, send them back to your blog to read the whole thing, or even a mix of both. When you send them back to your site, they’re greeted with more opportunities to explore your content and give.

4. Volunteer Stories

You should also include volunteer stories in your nonprofit newsletter. These are just as beneficial as impact stories. Your volunteers see things from a different perspective. Their point of view might inspire donors to become volunteers, give even more, or share the story.

Volunteer stories also serve as third-party validation or social proof. It gives your organization more credibility to share the experiences of those who volunteer to do the work.

5. Surveys

Surveys are wonderful tools to re-engage donors and keep up engagement during a slow season. You might find that you want to use a survey to see what kind of content your newsletter subscribers want to see. Some other survey question topics might include:

  • Have you seen the news? Find out if you need to educate your supporters on a news topic that has an effect on your mission in some way.
  • What’s your favorite? Ask your subscribers what their favorite volunteer or impact story is from your blog.
  • What’s the right stat? Quiz your donors and supporters on their knowledge of your cause. Do they know the right statistical data?

6. Factoid Updates

Send out statistics and facts. These can be short emails with one to two stats or a whole list of relevant research. How you design the email depends on your goals. Creating graphic-oriented emails helps encourage sharing on social media.

On the other hand, plain-text emails with more information may inspire more engagement and clicks-though. It depends on your audience and how they currently interact with your email content.

7. World News

Last, but not least, keep your supporters informed of relevant world and local news. Anything that affects your organization and mission or those who have benefitted from your services is worth sharing.

But Don’t Forget to Ask

Between the storytelling, transparency, and engagement emails, make sure you are still asking for donations. Ask regularly for general online donations and always segment your lists. If you have recurring donors, don’t keep asking them to sign up to donate. Instead, use segmentation to ensure they only get asks for larger fundraising campaigns.

Even when it comes to larger campaigns, like GivingTuesday for example, your emails should be framed toward each segment. Address your board and volunteers, past and recurring donors, and new supporters attracted by the campaign all differently. Segmenting is crucial for nonprofit fundraising emails.

Evaluate and Evolve Your Nonprofit Email Marketing Strategy

Take the time to evaluate your current email marketing strategy. Do you have enough mixed content or are you constantly asking for support? You might even find that you aren’t asking for support enough.

There are trees, and there is forest. There are anecdotes, and there is data. There are the pinprick pixels of our individual experiences, and there is the vast picture they paint together of the world we share.

The M+R Benchmarks Study is our annual attempt to bridge that divide. This year, we have collected an extensive array of data points from 154 nonprofit participants. Each of them marks a single digital interaction with a supporter: an email opened, a donation made, a petition signed, a website visited, an ad clicked, a Facebook post liked, or tweet retweeted. All told, these add up to 4,699,299,330 email messages, 527,754,635 web visits, and 11,958,385 donations.

NTEN is proud to partner with M+R once again for the latest Benchmarks report. Explore or download it here.

 

Digital marketing strategies come in all shapes and sizes. Even if you don’t have a fully baked strategy, you probably have all the ingredients you need. So let’s mix it up!

Remember who you’re baking for

A successful digital marketing strategy starts with an examination of the people you are trying to reach and convert. Who are they? What excites them? Where do they hang out? I am a big fan of developing personas, or shorthand descriptions of the key groups you need to reach, because I can test my ideas against an imaginary person: “How would Sam react to this?” Even if you’re lucky enough to have data-driven segmenting as the centerpiece of your marketing strategy, you are not off the hook. You need to know who your targets are, otherwise you’ll be serving cheesecake to vegans.

Choose your tools wisely

My friend’s grandma thinks I buy billboards for work. To her, marketing is advertising and she knows I work for a nonprofit, so she knows expensive TV advertising is out of the question. Ergo, she’s convinced outdoor advertising is what I do. As much as I’d love to see NTEN’s work writ large on the Highway 1, it would be grossly inappropriate for an organization with members in Baltimore and Bangalore to target hundreds of thousands of motorists who would not consider NTEN membership relevant to their lives.

It’s a ridiculous story but it’s a mistake nonprofit marketers make every day: failing to use the right channel for the market. If the bulk of your conversions come from your email marketing and there is growth in your content marketing program, you don’t spend all your dough on Snapchat—you double down on what works and expand areas of opportunity. That same grandma has been using the same antique oven pan to make Yorkshire pudding since the 1960s for the same reason: she knows it works. A good digital marketer will understand their channels and how they differ, and be able to identify the ones that work the best for their needs.

Technique matters

If you have ever cut corners baking, you’ll know firsthand that the order of your ingredients and how you treat them can mean the difference between macaroons and maca-ruined. Tactics combine your understanding of your targets and the channels you identify as the most effective, but process is also important. It’s not just about the individual tactics you choose: it’s how they work together. Cinnamon is bitter. Sugar is saccharine. But together, they’re heavenly.

Let’s say you’re developing a multichannel campaign to promote an education campaign. Maybe you have a loyal list of email subscribers, an engaged social media following and friendly local media, so those are the three channels you decide to leverage. Which comes first?

You could start with email, encouraging your subscribers to take a challenge or show their support on social media. Your campaign grows large and interesting enough to be newsworthy and so you leverage a good relationship with local journalists to cover not just the campaign but the issue you’re trying to address. Your digital communications strategy is what allows you to put the pieces of this campaign together and combine for success.

 

Is your digital communications strategy a delightful croquembouche or a sticky mess? Join us at a Nonprofit Tech Roundup in New Mexico or Oregon this fall, to learn from the experts.

This article first appeared on Jo Miles Digital and is republished here with permission.

You probably don’t want to think about year-end fundraising right now. Here in DC, it was in the 90s this weekend, the sun is blazing, and November feels far away. But winter is coming, and now is the time to prepare.

You’re no sweet summer child. You’ve seen year-end fundraising before, and you know that, however busy you are this summer, you’ll be busier come year-end. Anything you do now to set yourself up for stronger fundraising will help you succeed when it matters.

And the good news is, like the farmers of Westeros socking away extra food, many of your fundraising preparations are things you should be doing anyway. They don’t even have to take away from your current work. Here are a few projects you could take on now to save yourself some pain when winter (and year-end) arrives:

Tend your infrastructure

Is your Google Analytics set up to track donations? Are you tracking conversions on Facebook ads? Do you have the data you’ll need in your CRM? Now is a great time (especially while your coworkers are on vacation) to make sure your systems are all talking to each other and that your data is being stored correctly.

If you have time, do an audit of your data systems, paying special attention to fundraising-related data. If you notice something broken, during an audit or your daily operations, fix it now.

Set up your pilot projects

Remember last December when you said to your teammate “I wish we could…” but it was already too late to try it during that campaign? Maybe you wanted to take donations directly over SMS or Facebook, or thought you could finally apply for that Google Grant, or had a cool interactive content idea. Dredge up those project ideas now and decide which ones you want to tackle for this year-end.

Implementations often take longer than you expect, so an early start could be the difference between having it ready for year-end, or not.

Gather your stories, photos, and videos

Great stories are often the key to great fundraising content, but finding the right stories isn’t always easy. The same goes for great visual content. Start keeping an eye out for the stories you want to re-tell during year-end, and when you find a good candidate, record it. Get in touch with the subject, do a write-up, and get photo and video if you can. That way, it’ll be easy to repurpose when you start creating fundraising content.

Grow your list

You should be growing your audiences all the time, but the second half of the year is especially important. Now is the time to step up your recruitment, and get as many new supporters as possible onto your email list so you can build a relationship with them before a big flurry of fundraising asks.

Test your forms

Testing is another task that, ideally, you should be doing regularly. If you’re not, think about your donation forms and the experience they’re providing your supporters. What questions have come up in internal discussions about your forms? Now is the ideal time to undertake some testing to prove or disprove your hypotheses about what drives donations, and it’ll boost your conversion rates down the road.

Way back in the late 1990s, I learned HTML on a whim. Inspired by my travels through webrings, I wanted my own place to share my budding activism and earnest poetry. I had no idea the effect it would have on my career, and how it would eventually change my life.

Back then, we were willing to spend hours downloading AOL on our 2800 (yes, twenty-eight-hundred) baud modems and websites were mostly just for big companies or discussion forums. Then GeoCities hit the scene and suddenly anyone could have a website, dedicated to pretty much anything at all.

I immediately planned to make my own site in the West Hollywood neighborhood (I know it was for gay men, but there was no neighborhood for lesbian/bi/queer women, so…). I was working for a small computer consulting firm as an office manager, and I asked our newest technician if he would help me set it up.

In many ways, he embodied the worst stereotypes of computer nerds: he was often rude and condescending, and personal hygiene wasn’t high on his list of priorities. But he knew his stuff. He said he’d help me, but on one condition: I had to learn HTML, so I could do it myself.

He probably set that condition so I wouldn’t keep bothering him with changes and fixes after his initial help getting my page going, but it stuck with me.

After I moved on from that first office job, I found small ways to use my newfound proficiency at other jobs. I made copious use of Webmonkey (RIP) and their wealth of HTML glossary and tutorials, and I kept playing around with various free web platforms like Blogger and WordPress. With enough practice, the code became familiar to me, like a fluent second language.

I’m no developer, not by a long shot, but having a good grasp of HTML (as well as some basic CSS) has helped me be able to:

  • fix weird formatting issues in emails,
  • update one nonprofit’s website for several months after the server crashed (taking with it the custom-built content management system) and all updates had to be hand-coded,
  • save another nonprofit thousands of dollars by bringing email creation in-house, and
  • learn CSS more easily, since there are some similarities.

Most importantly, it helped me eventually transition into doing work that I love and which engages and challenges me every day. In my current role with NTEN, I create and code all of our emails and format our blog posts and web pages (among numerous other communications-related duties). I use my knowledge daily, from basic creation to solving bigger issues like making our emails more mobile-friendly, as well as looking under the hood at other emails or websites to see if I can adapt their code for our purposes.

So how much HTML should you learn? At a minimum, it’s helpful to know how to make text look pretty: bolding, starting new paragraphs, making bullet point lists, etc. Cultivating your attention to detail and nitpicky-ness is also important: precision is key in coding.

Here are just a few of my favorite resources:

  • Lynda.com: an inexpensive way to start learning
  • Treehouse: great beginner and advanced tutorials
  • W3.org: look up HTML codes for just about anything
  • Litmus: resources & forums for advanced email designers
  • WebAIM: tips and tools to improve accessibility

While GeoCities has since shuttered and taken my site with it (though a few intrepid souls have created some archives), today there are myriad options for creating your own site—too many to list, in fact. And though many of the platforms feature easy-to-use drag and drop systems, it’s still quite handy to to be able to understand the underlying coding so you can easily customize templates to your liking.

It’s easier than you think—go forth and code!

It took me three months into my social media dream job to realize why the word “online” was part of my job title. It was 2010, and I had finally found a job that had social media marketing at its heart, at a small AIDS nonprofit that planned to use Facebook, Twitter and dating apps to connect with people living with and at risk for HIV.

Even before my first day, I’d had a run-in with our horrible, outdated and very difficult website, but I knew there was a web developer on retainer and I figured it was his problem. Or maybe it was the Executive Director’s problem. Or perhaps the office administrator. I don’t suppose there was someone on the board who could help? A volunteer? Bueller?

As anyone who works in digital marketing or fundraising knows, your organization’s website is at the crux of how people relate to your organization and its work. When something is wrong, it hurts your ability to attract, engage, and convert the people you need to make your work a success. As it turned out, our website was my problem, and to solve it, we needed to build a working digital strategy.

What is a digital strategy?

For many nonprofits, technology adoption isn’t hard. We’re smart people, and we’re perfectly capable of finding the tools we need to help us perform particular tasks. But what often happens is that an organization will accrue a slew of tools, all of which maybe do what they should perfectly, but still aren’t getting the results that you need them to. Perhaps your content strategy is bringing scores of people to your website but you aren’t capturing them in your email list for fundraising campaigns, or you’re gaining lots of Instagram followers but none of them know about your online forum. A good digital strategy will knit your tools and aspirations together into a cohesive plan to meet your goals.

We’re here to help. NTEN is producing two conferences this fall—in New Mexico and Oregon—and both are designed to help you develop and refresh your digital strategy. The program includes case studies, workshops, panels, presentations, and tactical sessions, to help you formulate the best strategy for your organization, and show you how other nonprofits have done it.

That seems like a big task. Where do I even start?

I am a people person and NTEN relies on members to survive, so I like to start with personas. What are the groups of people that want to engage with your organization, how did they find you, what do they want to know, how do they want to engage, and what do you most want them to do? Plot their journey from an unconnected community member to engaged part of your inner circle, donor or member. What’s their ideal journey? What roadblocks are in the way right now? How can you clear them?

Identify the top handful of actions you really want your constituents to take—for example, donate, advocate, join or inform others—and consider the technologies they need to do that easily. Find data that can tell you how you successfully moved them to that action (or “converted” them, in marketing-speak). How many touch-points do you need? What’s the story to tell them, and where and how is it best told? Which are the channels that net you the most success, and why do you think that is?

Like me, when I finally realized the website monster was mine to tame, you will have a lot of questions. But it’s only through considering the (sometimes difficult) questions that you can build a digital strategy, pulling together your organization’s disparate parts and making them work better, for you and the communities you represent.

Best of luck! We hope to see you in the fall.

The digital landscape is changing at a dizzying rate and sometimes it feels like the plans you made yesterday are obsolete by morning. But help is at hand!

For the third year, NTEN is proud to partner with Care2, hjc and Resource Alliance on a report that sets the standard for nonprofit digital planning. But we need your help. The 2017 Digital Outlook Report is powered by responses by nonprofit professionals just like you. The survey will take about 10-15 minutes to complete and you’ll be entered in the drawing for some great prizes.

Take the survey today and be the first to know when the findings are published later this year.

 

How many emails is the right number to send to your constituents? What kind of fundraising appeals are most effective? These are the questions that keep nonprofit marketing and development staff awake at night.

This year, NTEN is again teaming up with M+R on its Benchmarks Study: an in-depth look at nonprofit data, strategy, and trends. The study helps nonprofit fundraisers, organizers, and marketers make smart decisions based on the experiences of their peers. But we need your help.

Will you take part in the 11th Benchmarks Study in 2017? By adding your data, you’ll help make Benchmarks more useful. Your investment will be just a few hours of effort to collect and report your data to M+R, which will confidentially roll it up into the final study.

Complete the expression of interest form to take part.

If you’re anything like me, your email list is your work baby.

You’ve worked hard to build your organization’s email list. You send out a regular newsletter with all your latest links and information. You A/B test your subject lines and monitor your analytics to see what’s working and what’s not.

You do all these wonderful things to take care of your list and as a result, your open and click-through rates are on par with nonprofit averages.

But you don’t want to be average. You want to be great: a leader, the head of the pack, the top of the class. You want your boss to say “wow!” at your next review.

Meanwhile, your boss and fellow staff members don’t quite understand what it takes to increase open and click-through rates, especially in this day and age when people are so inundated with information. And sometimes, they can get even get in the way of your organization’s success without even realizing it.

For example, one day during a check-in meeting with your boss she tells you how excited she is about the newest partnership you’ve formed with another organization. She can’t wait to tell the world about it and wants you to put an announcement the next e-letter.

The problem is there’s not much of a story to tell quite yet so this information is only relevant to a small group of your closest supporters. Now what?

You’re in a bind—you don’t want to be the one to always say “no” to these kinds of requests, because you know how important this partnership is to her. At the same time, you also don’t want to keep sending out announcements that not many people care about and risk having low click-through rates or people unsubscribing.

Don’t you wish there was a way you could say “yes” to your boss’s request and improve your open and click-through rates?

This is where email segmentation comes in.

Instead of sending information to everyone, you can use email segmenting to send an email to one specific slice of your list.

If you haven’t used this tactic yet, this will bring your email strategy to the next level. When done right, you’ll see much higher open and click-through rates for emails sent to one segment. Another benefit is people on your list will get more information about things they like to hear about, and less information about topics they don’t care about. You can interact with influencers more often without bothering your more casual subscribers. And, finally, you can say “yes” when your boss tells you to send out an announcement you know your entire list doesn’t want to hear about.

Here’s how to get started segmenting your email list:

The first step is to figure out how to divide your list. You can break up your list by interest, audience type, and/or an action they’ve taken.

Let’s use an email list for an animal shelter as an example. Here are some ways to divide that list:

Interest: Dogs, cats, rabbits, or some combination of the three types of animals you take in.

Audience type: Volunteers at the shelter, animal foster parents, animal activists, and people who have adopted an animal from your shelter or who are interested in adopting.

Action they’ve taken: Whether they’ve donated in the past, signed up for your animal wellness training, or opened or clicked one of your recent email campaigns.

More than likely, many people on your list will fall into more than one of these groups, and that’s ok.

Next, figure out how to sort people into those groups.

Here are some ideas:

  • Use the information you already have in your database to segment your email list
  • Ask people about their interests when they sign up for your enewsletter
  • Track which page people were visiting when they signed up for your enewsletter online
  • Sort people based on what kinds of events they attended: If they attended a volunteer orientation, you can put them in the “volunteer” group; if they attended a bunny basics class, you can put them into the “rabbits,” “attended training,” and “potential adoptee” groups, etc.
  • Use their open and click activity from past emails to sort them into groups. This is a good practice to help you divide the more and less engaged subscribers and target your emails accordingly

If you use MailChimp, this guide can walk you through the process in more detail.

Finally, start sending targeted emails to your segments. You should target both your highly engaged subscribers and your more casual subscribers in different ways.

For more engaged groups, send emails that feature one highly-targeted article, announcement, or resource roundup. Don’t worry—you don’t have to create new content just to send emails to your segments. These emails can include information that you may have already featured or are going to feature in your regular newsletter. You can also send these groups “sneak peeks” of new resources to generate some buzz before you make a more formal announcement.

For less engaged subscribers, use email segmentation to experiment with new messages and subject lines. For example, if people didn’t click on the “donate” button in your latest email fundraising campaign, target that audience and try a new email format, video, or story to see what might resonate with them.

Another easy segment to target is people who didn’t open a previous campaign. Copy your most recent email and send it again a week or two later with a different subject line to the people who didn’t open the first one.

Don’t be surprised if emails sent to less engaged groups have a lower open and click-through rate than your regular newsletter. However, this practice gives you another opportunity to reach people on the outskirts of your list and may boost the total number of clicks to the articles in your newsletter.

Final note: Email is one of your best communications tools to reach multiple audiences. Segmentation gives you many possibilities to increase engagement with both your power users and your more casual subscribers. Go give it a try!

mfom2014.png

On August 2-3, I attended the 5th biennial Money for Our Movements (MFOM) social justice fundraising conference in Baltimore, Maryland, convened by the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training.

I felt really humbled to be amongst a highly diverse group of both budding and seasoned grassroots activists. The last time I was in Baltimore was in 2007, with Amnesty International at their regional conference, attending as a bright-eyed student organizer trying to learn how to more effectively spread the good word of social justice and human rights (the story of how I got involved in nonprofit marketing!).

At #MFOM14, I participated as a speaker, leading one workshop, Email Marketing to Support Year-Round Online Fundraising, and as a panelist for the session, Visual Communication: Create pictures, videos, and presentations quickly, easily, and affordably.

Key takeaways from the Email Marketing workshop that took place on Day 1:

  • Fundraising is dependent on relationship building: Nonprofits should work year-round to cultivate and maintain relationships with donors, so that “the ask” is not a cold call at the end of the year. Channels such as social media can really help with this.
  • Think about goals and audience: Before youcreate content, first think about the ultimate goal and the target audience. Let that inform your decisions on what channel(s) to use to reach your audience. For example, if you’re trying to reach new donors, consider participating in #GivingTuesday (in addition to running your year-end campaign) to help increase visibility by connecting to this broader movement. Download this free recording from Blackbaud’s webinar about setting your goals for #GivingTuesday.
  • Set your own benchmarks: Guidelines, benchmark reports, and best practices are helpful to know, but ultimately it’s important to know your audience. To learn this, test as much as you can in order to get to know your audience well and understand what resonates with them. For example, consider creating a strategy for segmenting your emails and testing, this is a great resource from Kivi Leroux Miller.
  • Everyone is a fundraiser: People donate to entire organizations, not just to one department (or silo). Make sure you’re set up for integrated fundraising success by regularly checking in with staff/departments to ensure that you’re accurately representing their work. Learn more about the three common barriers that nonprofits often face on Nancy Schwartz’s blog.

To learn more about how you can use email marketing to support year-round online fundraising, I’ve uploaded my slides to Slideshare.

While my workshop on Day 1 focused a lot on internal processes and best practices, the next question that we anticipated from attendees was, “What tools can I use to help create this compelling content?”

mfom14_visualcommspanel.jpgOn day 2, I was part of the Visual Communications panel with four panelists (some you might recognize from the NTEN Community!): Tomás Aguilar, Progressive Technology Project; Yee Won Chong, Fundraising Consultant; Nadia Khastagir, Design Action Collective; and Chris Tuttle, Tuttle Communications. (See photo on the left)

Together, we joined forces and presented on the top tips and tools for creating visual media with a limited budget, and explained why it’s so important. We drew information from Resource Media’s Seeing is Believing report, and explained how the language of pictures is universal – picture processing is an ability that we’re all born with, as opposed to reading literacy. This is especially relevant if you’re working with audiences around the world that communicate in multiple languages, or are illiterate.

Check out our presentation slides, as it’ll give you a lot of new ideas that can help support your year-end fundraising, as well as day-to-day content creation for social media, marketing, and beyond. Specifically, here are the key tools that are free/low-cost and easy to use:

We also asked the audience what tools they would recommend through Poll Everywhere. Here’s what they said.

Special thanks to the mighty team at the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training! To learn more about the 2014 MFOM Conference visit the conference website, and check out the conference hashtag on Twitter: #MFOM14.

I’d love to continue the dialogue about these two topics! Please post a comment below to share your thoughts and ideas about email marketing or visual communications, such as:

  • What are some email marketing tips that work for you and your organization?
  • What free or low-cost tools do you rely on for creating visual media?