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Two Lies You’re Telling Yourself about Email Marketing

On a recent conference call with a prospective client, a board member asked a question about our proposal. “Can we send emails quarterly instead of monthly?”

I should have a recorded version of my response considering how many times I’ve had to answer this question.

Instead I responded with my own question. “Why would you want to do that?” Of course, I already knew the answer and right on cue, a few more board members and the executive director chimed in with objections:

“We don’t have enough to say to send an email every month!”

Content creation can be one of the most burdensome aspects of the job for a non-profit executive director, or even for a marketing or development specialist charged with communicating to donors. Not enough news is a common objection to the “17 communications a year minimum” we set for our clients. But a quick run through our content planning process consistently reveals more content than we can feature. If you don’t think you have enough to say, you’re doing something wrong. Our team specializes in storytelling that engages donors and motivates prospects to join in. The good news is, you don’t have to be an expert at creating content; but you can’t let it stop you from keeping in touch with meaningful, relevant touches.

“Our donors will get annoyed by hearing from us so often!”

According to a 2008 Bank of America survey, the number one reason existing donors stopped giving to a particular charity because they no longer felt connected to the organization. Your donors want information that lets them see that their support is making an impact. According to the 2010 State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey, donors at 42% of nonprofits asked to be updated on how their contributions were being spent, at bare minimum, quarterly. Is the bare minimum enough when you’re competing for charitable gifts with churches, schools, and other national and community causes? Our clients in all non-profit sectors regularly see open and click through rates above industry standards on monthly emails, and special email marketing to communicate specific initiatives, events or special funds. In fact, our client that sends a weekly eletter consistently earns a 50% open rate or higher among their donors and supporters.

Email is a powerful tool for sharing the story of your mission in action, celebrating the impact of donor generosity, and driving donors directly to your online giving page to renew their support. If you’re struggling to create meaningful content that you can deliver every month, help is out there! If you lose a subscriber or two, or a board member complains about your annoying emails, remember that you can’t please everyone all the time. Don’t let one-off comments throw off your entire communications program.

Need help building out your monthly content plan? Check out these resources, including best practices for communicating to donors and survey questions that spur moving, emotional responses about why your non-profit matters!