This is a practical seven-step guide to help charities and not-for-profits improve their email communications. With budgets tight, email marketing can be overlooked in the broader communication strategy. However, statistics show that charity emails have better open rates than other sectors, and, if used well, can be an essential part of your fundraising toolkit.
Step 1: Identify key success factors
Consider the following:
- Is your email marketing a two-way conversation? Are you engaging your audience in a meaningful dialogue? It’s crucial for charities to be focusing on this.
- Is your content relevant to the people you are sending it to? Have you segmented your audience?
- How persuasive and engaging are the emails? What incentives are you offering? It’s worth considering incentives such as a free gift, download or a prize draw.
- Are you sending your emails at the best time? Do A/B split testing to determine this.
- Are the emails integrated with other channels? You can use email as a testing ground for campaigns before wider release.
- Are they creative with good, clear, engaging copy? They need to look good and for people to be able to get the message by skim-reading.
- Make sure you are sending people to the correct landing pages with your links – use the links to generate desired actions and outcomes.
Step 2: Set goals and build your list
As with all marketing, defining your aims helps to quantify success and make changes based on what is and isn’t working. Are you looking just to maintain contact with your database or to boost engagement? Perhaps you want to increase website traffic or are specific about needing to generate income or contribute to a lobbying campaign. Consider your aims and set goals for each one. For example, increase clicks/opens by 25%.
Build your list – find ways to acquire new emails. You can do this in many ways, website sign-up is the most obvious and easiest, but you can also do it via social media, or collect emails at events, over the phone and from direct mail campaigns. Just ensure the process is simple and you are clear about what people are signing up for.
Step 3: Define your proposition
In order to get people to sign up, you need to be clear on your proposition – so what people get when they sign up to your newsletter. This includes things like finding out where donation money is being spent, hearing about causes, events in their area and services they can access. A nice thing to do is send an automatic thank you for signing up email, letting people know what to expect and that their support is valuable.
Step 4: Segmenting and targeting
You are probably already segmenting your audience for the rest of your marketing activity by things like areas of interest, frequency and value of activity. You should also factor in engagement. With your email lists it’s a good idea to break it into people most likely to open, the least responsive and the middle ground. By doing this, you can be more highly targeted and keep the cost of email down. You can also target the unresponsive group to attempt to reactivate them.
Step 5: Integrate your strategy
It’s important to integrate your email communications with your wider marketing strategy to make it more effective. By doing this you can extend your reach, boost the ways you communicate with your audience and make your cause more prominent. For example, use it as a follow up to a real life interaction and integrate it with social media campaigns. You can also convert more web visitors to give money online by re-marketing – so use email to follow up with those who have begun but not completed a financial transaction online.
Step 6: Creative and effective templates
Ensure you are using the right blend of images, heading, body copy and clear calls to action to make your emails deliver the impact you need. With each email, be clear on what you would like someone to do once they have read it – this will inform the content. Look at a strong lead image that communicates your message, prominent calls to action and short, clearly distinct sections. Keep it brief with links to more information and address the reader directly by using ‘you’.
Step 7: Test, learn and refine
Email is an easy way to test what’s working and what isn’t. Consider elements such as;
- Timing; test which time of day generates more opens and test the day as well
- Subject line; test two or more
- Format; plain text vs a more visual style
- Call to action; test different wording and button styles
- Copy volume
Then look at the engagement comparisons and refine your emails on the basis of this information. The key is to never stop learning in order to get better results from your email campaigns.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful. If you would like to discuss any of this with us in more detail please get in touch here.