Posts tagged ‘email’

January 15, 2019

Have You Done Something Stupid to Alienate Donors?

As 2018 drew to a close, my wife and I received a few good emails from nonprofit organizations. I even highlighted one of those in a recent blog post. Unfortunately, we received far more fundraising appeals that I can only describe as stupid.

The garbage email appeals simply mentioned that December 31 was fast approaching and, therefore, I should donate to that particular charity while there was still a chance to do so in 2018. Doing multiple count-down to year-end emails simply magnified the annoyance.

So, what’s the problem with that? Let me make it simple and clear:

The calendar is not a case for support!

Jack Silverstein, Vice President of Financial Development at the National Capital Region YMCA-YWCA (Ottawa, Canada), shares my frustration over this. He recently posted his views in “People Know When the End of the Year Is!!!” I encourage you to read it though it does contain a word some may find offensive.

Because I agree with Silverstein, I want to provide some highlights for you.

Your prospects and donors know when the year ends. They don’t need you to remind them. They’re not idiots.

With most charities engaged in year-end fundraising, people want to know why they should give to your nonprofit organization and why they should do so at the end of the year. The mere fact that it is year-end is not a reason. People can donate to any charity at year-end or, for that matter, at any time of year. You need to inspire them to give to your organization. In other words, you need to make a case for support.

A related mistake that charities frequently made was to highlight the tax-deductibility of donations. In the USA, some have estimated that as few as 10 percent of taxpayers will itemize. It’s only that small population that might be able to take advantage of the tax-deductibility of a contribution. However, even among that population, tax benefit is a low ranking reason why people donate. Furthermore, it’s no reason whatsoever why they should donate to your organization; after all, people can get the same tax benefit by donating to any qualified charity.

When charities send such terrible appeals, they are not being donor centered. Instead, Silverstein asserts:

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June 21, 2016

Stop Making Stupid Email and Direct Mail Mistakes

Last week, my wife received an email appeal that demonstrates that fundraising professionals continue to make stupid email and direct mail mistakes. I’m not talking about fundraisers who have failed to use cutting-edge techniques. Instead, I’m talking about folks who have made S-T-U-P-I-D mistakes when it comes to the fundamentals of making a simple appeal.

To help you avoid some common, yet stupid, mistakes with your email and direct mail appeals, I’m going to share the email solicitation my wife received from the Rosenbach Museum and Library:

Rosenbach Email Appeal copy

Now, let’s look closely at the appeal to see where the author went wrong:

Subject Line: The subject line on the email reads, “Please support the Rosenbach!” Unless the recipient was waiting around anxiously for some way to donate to the Rosenbach, why would she even bother to open the email? The subject line tells the reader what she needs to know about the content: The Rosenbach wants money. And it either wants lots of money or needs money desperately judging from the exclamation point.

Rather than opening the email, my wife mentioned it to me because of the ridiculously bad subject line. When I asked her to open the email and read it aloud, she initially refused, saying, “We know what they want. They want money. Why bother opening it?” (By the way, we actually happen to like the Rosenbach; that’s why we’re on their email list.) I replied, “I bet the email is equally bad and that they even mention the end of their fiscal year.” So, with a sense of amusement, she opened the email.

Tip 1: Write a subject line that will entice the reader to open the email. Avoid turn-off subject lines or those that are misleading. For help writing more effective subject lines and headlines, checkout the Headline Analyzer tool.

Inappropriate Personalization: Right at the start, the author missteps. The email begins, “Dear Lisa.” Some people, particularly younger readers, might not find this problematic. However, Lisa does not know the email’s signatory, Derick Dreher. It was presumptuous of Dreher to address her by first name rather than as Mrs. Rosen or Ms. Rosen. Interestingly, adopting a less friendly and more formal style by the end of the email, Dreher signed his full name rather than just his first name.

Tip 2: When addressing people, especially strangers you want something from them, it’s generally a good idea — and always good manners — to show respect and a bit of deference. At the very least, if you’re going to use a casual salutation, be sure to match that style with a casual sign-off.

End of Fiscal Year: No one cares about the end of your fiscal year. Let me be perfectly clear: NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE END OF YOUR FISCAL YEAR! Okay, your Chief Financial Officer cares. However, your prospects and donors do not. Unfortunately, in the very first sentence of the appeal, it mentions that the Rosenbach is nearing the end of its fiscal year. If this was tied to a challenge grant that was about to expire at the end of the fiscal year, that might have been a worthwhile point to make. However, by itself, who cares?

Tip 3: Be donor centered and recognize that donors care about their own fiscal year, not yours. Unless you have a very good reason to talk about the end of your fiscal year, don’t do it.

Engagement: As if the first sentence wasn’t bad enough, the author made it even worse by referencing that Bloomsday has come to a close. There are two reasons this is a negative. First, my wife and I have no idea what “Bloomsday” is. So, why should we care about it?

Second, if Bloomsday was some sort of fun, worthwhile event, telling us about it after the fact is simply annoying and would make us feel terrible that we didn’t know about it in advance (hint, hint). Perhaps, the Rosenbach should have segmented its email list to send slightly different messages to those who did and did not participate in Bloomsday.

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April 8, 2016

#Fundraising Moneyball: Track 3 Numbers that will Make You a Champ

[Publisher’s Note: This post is part of a series kindly contributed by guest authors who attended the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference. These posts share valuable insights from the Conference. This week, I thank Carrie Horton, Director of Content and Education at Kindful, for highlighting the seminar “Fundraising Moneyball: The Only Metrics that Matter in Digital Fundraising.”]

 

While freezing temperatures continue to chill many in the USA, the boys of summer have nevertheless returned for the start of the 2016 baseball season. What better way to mark the occasion than drawing a parallel between the baseball book and movie Moneyball and fundraising?

Okay, enjoying a hotdog and beer at a ballpark would be a better way to celebrate the start of the new baseball season. But, the second best way is to explore some of the highlights from Jeff Stanger’s session at the AFP International Fundraising Conference: “Fundraising Moneyball: The Only Metrics that Matter in Digital Fundraising.”

The book and movie Moneyball presented the true story of a revolutionary approach to baseball introduced by Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s. With a lean budget, he relied heavily on statistics, rather than personalities, to build a winning baseball team.

The Moneyball lesson for your nonprofit organization is that by leveraging statistical data, you can build a winning development program.

So, what statistics should you track? What goals should you set?

Carrie Horton, Director of Content and Education at Kindful, has identified three key points from the seminar that you need to know. Kindful is a nonprofit CRM software that offers powerful online fundraising tools, intuitive donor management, and comprehensive reporting analytics in one centralized data hub. Here’s what Carrie found most valuable from Stanger’s presentation:

 

If you’re anything like us at Kindful, when you hear the word “moneyball,” you think of Michael Lewis’s bestselling book and Brad Pitt’s killer acting. But thanks to the AFP International Fundraising Conference and Jeff MoneyballStanger’s impeccable session, we’ve got a new definition. Stanger’s session – “Fundraising Moneyball: The Only Metrics that Matter in Digital Fundraising” – sets forth a simple and straightforward digital strategy for nonprofit fundraising success. According to this renowned speaker and fundraising consultant from Cause Geek, it’s not rocket science, it’s statistics.

Stanger showed us that a successful digital fundraising strategy isn’t about trending on Twitter or gaining the most “likes” on Facebook. Instead, he urges nonprofits to focus on small steps taken with the insight of data and metrics behind them. Sustainable growth, Stanger says, comes through clear and simple goals that are easy to measure, quick to show return, and effectively reveal what works and what doesn’t.

What are the three goals that Stanger suggests you focus on? Again, Stanger’s recommendations are straightforward:

  1. Increase the number of subscribers to email
  2. Increase the number of volunteers
  3. Increase the number of monthly givers

Seems simple enough, right? These aren’t principles that are overly complex or hard to define. They’re straightforward and easy to measure. Even smaller nonprofits with limited funds and limited resources can achieve great success through a series of small victories.

But, where do you start? Well, if Stanger’s argument is that these goals are important because they are measurable metrics, then it only makes sense to start with metrics as well. We might be a bit biased (being the donor management provider that we are), but Kindful thinks that clean data and insightful metrics are at the heart of every successful digital fundraising strategy. However, don’t take our word for it. Here’s a quick breakdown of Stanger’s three goals and how an integrated CRM can help make you a fundraising champ:

Goal #1: Increase the number of subscribers to email

In a world where 95 percent of consumers use email and 91 percent check it at least once a day, the importance of growing your email marketing and distribution list is a no-brainer. In fact, Stanger mentioned that 75 percent of social media users still say that they prefer email communication! Email addresses provide you with a direct link to your audience and, when used wisely, help you cultivate donors who will be invested in your organization for years to come.

Want to build your email distribution list?

Pull a report to find out how many email addresses you have in your donor database. Integrate with your email-marketing provider to pull in stats related to how many people open your emails and click through them. Use data to understand what’s working (and what isn’t) and refine your strategy to send better emails and increase engagement. In other words, make sure your emails deliver value to recipients.

Goal #2: Increase the number of volunteers

Did you know that nearly 80 percent of volunteers donate to charity, compared to only 40 percent of non-volunteers? (Visit VolunteeringInAmerica.gov for more information.) It makes sense – those who are the most engaged with your organization will be the most likely to give financial support as well. And it’s not just that volunteers are most likely to donate…they’re most likely to raise money for your organization as well! Especially with the rising popularity of crowdfunding platforms, volunteers who engage through peer-to-peer fundraising don’t just bring in more money, they expand your audience.

Furthermore, over time, many volunteers will choose to donate in significant ways including through planned giving.

Want to build your volunteer base?

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January 15, 2016

3 Direct Mail & Email Lessons from the For-Profit World

The nonprofit and for-profit sectors can learn a great deal from each other. For example, there are three powerful insights from the for-profit sector about direct mail and email marketing that fundraising professionals can certainly benefit from.

In a never-ending search for the latest, greatest tactics and ways to cut costs, the nonprofit sector has embraced email fundraising while frequently questioning whether direct mail is dead.

So, what can the for-profit sector teach us?

Lesson 1: Direct Mail is Alive and Well

For both customer acquisition and retention, the for-profit sector knows that direct mail still works. That’s probably because 73 percent of consumers prefer direct mail, according to Epsilon. Furthermore, Interquest Digital Direct Mail Printing reports that direct mail delivers 30 times the response rate of email.

Direct Mail v Email InfographicWhile the numbers will be somewhat different for the nonprofit sector, or for particular organizations, the reality is that consumers (also our donors) like direct mail. That’s why they respond to it. While direct mail is not as effective as it was several decades ago, it remains a powerful fundraising tool.

Now, I’m talking about high-quality, well-crafted direct mail, not something you just throw together. I’m talking about direct mail that is donor centered and touches the prospect’s emotions. I guarantee you that bad direct mail will produce poor results. However, a good direct mail appeal will still achieve meaningful results.

Lesson 2: Direct Mail and Email Work Better Together

It’s not just chocolate and peanut butter that go together. The marketing agency Merkle has shown, in a study for one of its pharmaceutical clients, that email can produce a greater response than direct mail. However, when direct mail and email were used together in a multi-channel marketing campaign, the result was a 118 percent lift over direct mail alone.

For a wealth management client, Merkle found that it could generate a call response that was 1.5 to 3.8 times greater when using email and direct mail together rather than direct mail alone.

Direct Mail and Email 2Sometimes, nonprofit organizations think of their fundraising efforts in silos. “Let’s plan our direct mail appeal. If people don’t respond, we can call them later to renew. But, we’ll need to make sure the timing doesn’t interfere with our email appeal.” Sometimes, I’ll see charities that will exclude people from the direct mail pool who are in the email pool; it’s often seen as a cost-saving tactic.

The reality is that multi-channel, coordinated marketing (and, yes, fundraising) works. Some people are more direct mail responsive (whether or not you have their email address in your system). Other folks are more email responsive. Some individuals need to hear from you a couple of times before you capture their attention. For all of these reasons, multi-channel fundraising could help you get better results. By the way, it’s not just a matter of coordinating direct mail and email. You can also coordinate direct mail and the telephone, email and advertising, etc.

Lesson 3: Test!

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August 20, 2015

Fundraising and Marketing Does Not Have to be Hard or Costly

Marketing and fundraising for a nonprofit organization can be time consuming and expensive. But, it does not always have to be.

One way to market and raise money for your organization with little effort and no cost is to include a simple tagline in your email signature. The tagline can promote a program, event, general fundraising, or even planned giving.

email symbol on row of colourful envelopesRecently, one of my readers contacted me looking for email tagline tips and examples. Because I take topic requests, I’m devoting this post to the subject of taglines. If you have a subject you’d like me to address, just let me know with a comment below.

Before I get to email signature taglines, I want to quickly make a point about email signatures, in general: You should always use one. An email signature, with your name and full contact information, will make it easier for people to communicate with you and, if they are so moved, to give you money. So, use an email signature block in new and reply emails. If you want tips on constructing an email signature, checkout my post: “Remove Obstacles to Giving!”

An email tagline should come immediately after your email signature block. There are six factors that will make your micro-message standout:

1.  Actually use a tagline. As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is showing up.” If you want a successful email tagline, you have to use an email tagline. Even a mediocre tagline will be better than having none.

2.  Speak to Your Audience. Before you can speak to your audience, you need to know your audience. In the case of orchestra supporters, many like to see themselves as true patrons of the arts. Therefore, using a term such as “musical legacy” might resonate. For other types of nonprofit organizations, however, the term “legacy” might be off-putting. So, be sure to know your audience before crafting your message.

3.  Keep it pithy. An email tagline should be no more than 10 words in length. The fewer words you can use to get your point across, the better.

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December 28, 2012

Top Ten Posts of 2012, and Other Reflections

We’ve survived another “Doomsday”! Now, as 2012 draws to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back briefly before we march into the new year.

 

Champagne Toast by viking_79 via Flickr

Happy New Year!

 

For starters, let’s look at which of my posts have been the most read in the past year:

1. Survey Sounds Alarm Bell for Nonprofit Sector

2. Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?

3. 10 Essential Tips to Protect Children from Real Monsters

4. Garth Brooks Sues Hospital for Return of $500,000 Gift

5. 8 Valuable Insights from a Major Donor

6. Overcoming the 9 Fundraising NOs (Bernard Ross)

7. Breaking News: Brain Scan Study Gives Fresh Insight into Charitable Giving Behavior

8. What NOT to Do in Your Email or Direct Mail Appeals

9. 20 Factoids about Planned Giving. Some May Surprise You.

10. Two Major Factors that Demotivate Donors

I invite you to read any posts you might have missed by clicking on the title above. If you’ve read them all, thank you for being a committed reader.

I’m honored to know that I have readers from around the world. (I love the Internet!) While I appreciate all of my readers, I thought it would be interesting to look, beyond the United States, to see my top ten countries for readership:

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August 17, 2012

What NOT to Do in Your Email or Direct Mail Appeals

Writing an effective email or direct mail appeal is not as simple as writing a note to a friend. It’s a real challenge. Sometimes, organizations hit the mark. Sadly, this post is about one of those other times when an organization misses the mark.

A short time ago, I received the following email from a performing arts organization (which will remain nameless) that my wife and I care about and have supported in the past:

Subject: We’ve Missed You!

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Michael J. Rosen,

With just a few weeks to go before the end of the [ABC Organization’s] fiscal year, we are writing to ask for your support of the [Organization] at a time of increasingly good news. As you have undoubtedly read, the [Organization] is no longer in bankruptcy. We officially exited from financial reorganization on July 30, 2012. As we look to the future with confidence, we hope that you share our excitement about the beginning of [John Doe’s] tenure as [artistic director]. With [John’s] first season coinciding with the 100th anniversary of [John Smith’s] arrival in Philadelphia, the stars truly seem aligned!

We are grateful for your generous past support of [the Organization]. Several seasons ago, you helped us make possible all the outstanding performances … and the extensive educational and community partnerships that enable us to engage, inspire, and serve Philadelphia.

Today, we ask you to rejoin the thousands of Philadelphians and audiences worldwide in demonstrating your love for our magnificent [Organization] by making your gift. Now, more than ever, we need to have you with us!

“Donate Now” [button]

Sincerely,

Senior Director of Individual Giving”

While it was smart of the organization to send an email appeal to lapsed donors, there are several serious problems with the appeal that will negatively impact results. My wife and I are among those who have chosen not to renew our support.

By providing a detailed critique of the email appeal, I hope to help you avoid some of the same mistakes. When you do, you’ll get stronger results.

To begin, the email is not donor centered. I created a Worlde using the text of the email:

A Wordle is a graphical representation that makes words that are emphasized larger than the words used less often. In the Wordle I created, you can see that the following words are most emphasized:

  • organization
  • ask
  • now
  • support
  • Philadelphia

Of the five emphasized words, only “Philadelphia” reflects me and my community. The other four words are all organization focused.

Now, let’s look at the subject line: “We’ve Missed You!”

My wife has spent the past several months engaged in a fight with cancer. As a result, we have refocused our philanthropy. In addition, we haven’t been getting out as much as we once did. However, with my wife’s health returning to normal, we’re looking forward to the start of the new performing arts season.

When I saw the “We’ve Missed You!” subject line, I was excited because I saw the email was from an organization my wife and I have an interest in. I assumed the email would tell me about the upcoming season. And, as it’s been awhile since we’ve been able to attend performances, I thought the email just might also contain news of a special performance or ticket discount offer to entice us back.

Then, I opened the email. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the organization really did not miss my wife and me, it only missed our money. The email contained absolutely no information about the upcoming season and did not even include a link to the 2012-13 performance schedule.

I’ll give the organization credit for crafting a powerful subject line. Unfortunately, the subject line merely sets the reader up for a letdown.

The organization missed a great opportunity to leverage reciprocity and inspire gratitude. If the email had invited us to make plans to attend an upcoming performance, if the organization had supplied a link to its 2012-13 performance schedule and, especially if the organization had included some sort of promotional offer, it would have inspired a sense of appreciation.

By giving us something small, even just information, we would have been more likely to reciprocate with a donation.

Instead of beginning the email with something of interest to me (i.e.: upcoming performance information), the organization chose to write about the upcoming close of its fiscal year.

Guess what? Very few prospective donors care about an organization’s fiscal year. We care about our own fiscal year. The line used by the organization is quintessentially organization-focused and not the least bit donor-centered.

Rather than focusing on the end of its own timeline for giving, the organization would have been wiser to focus on the impending start of the new performance season. That would have been more donor-centered as it would have involved future engagement of the reader. As a result, the message would have been more inspirational and giving would have been more likely.

The next sentence in the email is just a bit strange and, perhaps, pointless. The sentence begins, “As you have undoubtedly read…” If I’ve “undoubtedly read” about the organization’s emergence from bankruptcy, why is the author telling me about it? If I had not read about it already, the phrase would make me feel foolish for not having read about it. If I had read about it but forgot, the phrase would make me feel silly for not having paid more attention.

Phrases like “As you have undoubtedly read” or “Of course” or “As you know” serve no possible useful purpose. Instead, they can actually be offensive to readers. When using such a phrase, you’re either about to waste the reader’s time or make them feel ill informed.

The email expresses confidence in the future now that the organization has emerged from bankruptcy. However, the email does not explain why the organization is confident. Many of the organization’s board members who led the way into bankruptcy continue to serve. While it’s certainly good news that the organization has emerged from bankruptcy, it’s unclear what changes have been made to ensure the organization’s strong management and long-term viability.

It’s not enough for the organization to say things are better. It needs to prove it. I’ve given them money before, but they still ended up in bankruptcy. How do I know it won’t happen again?

The email shares more good news by reminding readers that a new staff leader on the artistic side will be taking the helm in the new season. The email tells me this news is exciting and suggests, therefore, that I should be excited. However, I’m not told why I should be excited.

What follows is insider-speak about the new guy coming on board 100 years after a famous other guy came to town. Some supporters might not really know the historical figure or why he’s so important. I have no idea what “the stars truly seem aligned” means. It’s a mildly interesting historical coincidence. But, beyond that, so what? Will the new guy be doing some sort of tribute to the old guy? I don’t know, but I’d certainly like to know if that’s the case. If it’s not the case, why mention it at all?

The organization did do something correct in its email. It thanked my wife and me for our “generous past support.” That’s good. You want to thank past supporters before again asking them to give.

Unfortunately, this email takes things a bit too far. While my wife and I have been supportive, we certainly have not been generous enough to have “helped [the organization] make possible all the outstanding performances … and the extensive educational and community partnerships that enable us to engage, inspire, and serve Philadelphia.” I’ve heard of stretching a dollar, but this is just silly. By telling me I’ve made all things possible when I know I haven’t, the author really isn’t telling me anything at all.

Organizations should tell donors how their money was really spent. Or, organizations should tell donors what their money, when combined with gifts from other supporters, made possible.

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