They've Got Mail

The holiday season has come to an end, and with it the almost daily barrage of email marketing messages from non-profits requesting donations. Organizations that survive on generous donors make the majority of their yearly haul between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's for this reason they invest a good portion of their fund-raising efforts to crafting email messages to send off to their user-base during the final month of the year. Chances are your organization did the same. There's just one problem…. it's not 2004.

Remember the good old days when getting an email was actually exciting? The “You've Got Mail” sound was an exhilarating moment anytime you logged onto the internet, back when you actually had to log onto the internet. These days we're always connected and our inbox is overflowing with messages. When was the last time you actually managed to clear out your inbox let alone read and respond to all the messages sent to you? Combine that with Gmail's creation of the promotions tab, and it's not surprising that most email messages aren't even being seen, let alone read. What is surprising, however, is how many folks in the non-profit space ignore this and continue to solicit donations via email.

According to MailChimp's 2016 statistics, the average open rate for email campaigns from non-profits is 24.85%.  This means that 3 out of every 4 individuals you send a message to aren't even opening it. Click through rates are an abysmal 2.78%!  To put it another way – 97% of folks couldn't care less about your emails.

This isn't because folks are less interested in donating to your cause or supporting your organization – this has to do with attention and where people are placing it.  While folks still have to use email on a daily basis, it has become a far more functional tool – something we do more for work than leisure. Therefore taking the time to read long requests and learn more about an organization just isn't feasible. We scan the subject line and often hit delete before we even open the contents of the message. What's worse, when those types of requests start accumulating like winter snow in December, bulk-deletion is really the only way to survive. Your well thought-out request never had a chance.

So where are people putting their attention? On social media – namely Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other popular services that curate content in an easily digestible format. Next time you're walking around on a lunch break or riding mass-transit, look around and notice how many folks are staring at the tiny screen in their hand. These folks aren't checking their email – they're checking their feeds.  A smart organization not only needs to develop an informative and engaging feed to attract followers, they also need to develop a paid-marketing strategy to get their content in front of potential donors who aren't yet aware of the communities they serve. Just because someone doesn't opt-in to hear daily messages about the homeless doesn't mean they wouldn't support a fund-raiser if approached correctly. Just because someone isn't a subscriber doesn't mean they wouldn't be a donor. Paid-social goes beyond organic followers to find new audiences and educate individuals about your organization who wouldn't normally be seeking out that information.

We recently helped Transition Projects with a promotion for their annual coat drive. While they sent out the information via their traditional email list and also posted to their Facebook followers – the largest awareness builder came from a small paid-marketing spend on Facebook.  By spending less than $50, they were able to get their message out to a much larger audience beyond those who had LIKED their page in the past. Over the course of two weeks the video promotion for the coat drive was watched over 8,000 times on Facebook, received nearly 100 shares and more than 75 LIKES. This level of engagement dwarfs anything an email blast could have accomplished and brought awareness to an event to countless individuals who hadn't LIKED the organization, but might have an extra coat laying around to contribute.

This becomes even more important if your organization is trying to educate individuals who aren't even aware of an issue, or it's a topic that your desired audience wouldn't necessarily "follow", but should still be informed of. If you're trying to warn teenagers of the dangers of soda - you shouldn't expect a huge organic following for your anti-soda campaign. You can however use paid-social strategies to make sure those campaigns appear in the feeds of your target demographic. If non-profits take a hard look at their organic following, they're likely to realize they're often just preaching to the choir - sharing information with others in their field rather than educating those who need it most.

Sending emails is easy and cheap. But cheap and easy are hardly the ingredients of a successful campaign. If everyone else is doing something, that should be a red flag that it's probably not going to be effective. Nonprofits need to start taking a hard look at the effectiveness of their awareness and fund-raising efforts and start marketing like it's 2017.  Figure out where your potential donors are placing their attention and then determine how best you can get your message there. One thing is for certain – it's not on the Promotions tab of their Gmail.


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If you're looking for digital marketing solutions for your organization, that's a conversation we'd like to have! Either fill out the form below or give us a call at (202) 505-4171 so we can learn more about your organization and discuss solutions to transform your fund-raising and awareness efforts.

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