Think about how many times you check your email every day versus the number of times you elect to visit different companies' or organizations' websites.
Email marketing can be an effective tool for nonprofits, but remember: it's easy to talk only about ourselves or to treat our supporters like ATMs (which, by the way, they're not so fond of) when reaching out is as easy as clicking "Send."
For better results -- and happier donors -- pay attention to these seven nonprofit email best practices for building relationships full of two-way communication:
- Avoid "spray and pray." One of the beautiful features of email marketing is the ability to segment our audiences and target particular groups. Based on the information you collect from your subscribers over time, you can reach out to folks based on their geography, demographics, or even their response history. (For instance, you can send a message just to folks who have clicked through your email campaigns.) What better way to build a relationship than to make the email recipient feel as if you're speaking directly to him or her?
- Talk about information other than "we need money." We all have friends who are mooches: They're the ones who never pick up the pizza tab, and you've come to associate their phone calls with outstretched palms. Use your email outreach to build a relationship that your subscribers view positively. Be sure to incorporate inspirational material, volunteer stories, opportunities to get involved and other compelling content that encourages supporters to look forward to your emails, rather than dread them or opt out of them.
- Send follow-up information. They say that communication is the key to any good relationship. Use your emails as an opportunity to continue or start a dialogue. Have you recently sent a donation appeal? Follow up with a status report. Thank supporters often. Share information about how their support is being used. Pass along a testimonial of someone your organization has helped thanks to the generous support of your donors. You've asked for action; your subscribers have taken it. Now it's your turn to speak again and continue the conversation.
- Give your organization some personality. Email subscribers are in a great position to get to know the real "you"-as in who your organization is. When composing your email copy, think about the tone you're using, the word choice and where the emphasis is being placed. Make sure it is in line with who you believe your organization truly is-that fun-loving volunteer coordinator, the serious social enterprise or the dedicated handy-man or -woman.
- Pick the right messenger. Next time you send an email, think beyond "From: Organization ABC, email@example.com." Perhaps your next email is written from the perspective of a donor, a volunteer or even a dog.
- Create a feedback loop. Did you host a fundraising walk or gala recently? Was their a volunteer-interest meeting? Are you curious about how subscribers are enjoying your newsletters? Use email to receive feedback from your supporters. Set up a survey. Take an informal poll. Request that people email you or give you a call-depending on how many responses you anticipate. People want to know that they're being heard, so be prepared to make some changes once you've asked for feedback!
- Lead subscribers back to your website. Include links in your emails that lead back to your organization's website, social media profiles and upcoming events. When you get your supporters in the habit of visiting your site often, it will deepen the connection they feel with your organization. Plus, it's a great way to test-drive new content. (For example, send people to your new blog or a page that contains starter text for supporters to post on their Facebook pages.)