Email Marketing

How to Communicate with Year-End Donors in the New Year

Whew—you made it! It was a crazy, busy season, but you crossed the threshold into the New Year. Congratulations!

So, once you’ve wrapped up your year-end giving, you can sit back and relax come January, right? Welllll, not quite. I realize you could probably already use a vacation, but one of your best bets for building momentum and donor retention in the first quarter is to build on your efforts in the last one.

And while I sincerely hope that your nonprofit reached or surpassed your end of year giving goals, these strategies can be implemented even if you didn’t. Either way, they’ll set you up for better months ahead.

How to Communicate with Year-End Donors in the New Year

Make Good on Your Promises

First of all, it’s incredibly important to make good on any promises from last year. Leftovers tend to start stinking, am I right?

This could include reports, updates, or any other documentation that you owe your donor base. For example, I’ve seen annual gala sponsorship levels that include quarterly reports to major sponsors and donors. If you’ve got something like that on your plate, take action now before another, “more important” task comes along.

And if you didn’t release an annual report as part of your year-end fundraising campaign, this can be another great tool to start the New Year. Show off the impact your work is having, while highlighting opportunities for growth and engagement.

Keeping and fulfilling any promises you made to donors, sponsors, and partners is just one more way you can prove that you’re trustworthy, responsible, and deserving of their time and investment.

(Tip: If at all possible, never let them have to ask you for this information. That looks bad. Do everything you can to put the information or resources in their hands first. If there’s going to be a delay, communicate that so they don’t have to wonder or, worse, think you forgot.)

Send Those Shout Out’s, High Five’s, and Horray’s

Don’t forget to celebrate those victories! As someone who can easily dismiss an achievement, especially a small one, and move on to the next thing, I encourage you to take the win every time.

Better yet—share it with your fan base! If you met your fundraising goal and are now able to provide more products and/or services to those who benefit from your work, let everyone know! Send out an email blast, post it on social media, host a Facebook Live, release carrier pigeons, shout it from the rooftops, or do whatever you need to do to let your fans and followers know they played a part in getting you there.

This is your chance to say, “We did it!” And when you tell them exactly how those funds will be used, you not only instill a sense of pride in your contributors, but you’ll subconsciously encourage them to give again!

But let’s say you didn’t meet you goals. What then? Well, don’t take that as your cue to forego any updates. You still need to do that, but you’ll obviously need to tailor the message. You can send out a thank you, and tell people what’s on the horizon. Remind them of what’s at stake, and how you plan on serving people this year. Get them excited for the future, and state how they can be a part of your incredible work.

Keeping your fans in the loop is one sure-fire step toward donor retention. When people don’t know how their money is used, don’t know who is being served, and don’t know what’s going on, they are far more likely to take their hard-earned money to someone who can check those boxes for them. So, stay in touch!

(Tip: If you’ve been lax on your marketing and communication in the past, use these kinds of updates to get you back on track in the New Year. Update, rinse, and repeat. Make it a habit you’ll keep going forward. And if you’re not sure what to send them, I’ve got a few ideas.)

Pencil In Your VIPs

Always strike while the iron is hot, as they say, but particularly when it comes to your largest contributors. Take a look back at the previous year (or years), and identify who gave the most, either in dollars or in-kind. Then, get these people on your calendar.

If they’re local, take them to coffee or lunch. If they’re not, opt for a phone call, or even better, a video chat where you can look them in the eye. But make these interactions personal on some level, and don’t just lump them in to a mass email.

Use the opportunities to say thank you, and let them know what’s been going on, especially if it’s been a while. Ask for their input, or get them involved in a deeper level with your organization. If they gave a substantial amount, it’s likely they are very moved by your mission and would be thrilled to hear how they can further meet your needs.

(Tip 1: Don’t leave the conversation without what we in the marketing biz refer to as a call to action. This just means you’ll be asking them to do something. It could be very simple or a bigger ask, depending on the relationship, conversation, or needs. Examples could include setting up a follow up appointment, making an introduction, becoming a larger donor, or a spot on the board. The point is to make the most of the interaction.)

(Tip 2: Create reminders to follow up with these people throughout the year. Whether you’re just personally emailing to say hello or sending them some sort of update, check in with them at least once a quarter to let them know your nonprofit values their relationship. This will also take some of the stress and pressure off of having to squeeze everyone in at the end of the year—bonus!)

How will you communicate with year-end donors in the New Year?



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One of your best bets for building momentum and donor retention in the first quarter is to build on your efforts in the last one.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Top 5 Blog Posts Of 2018

Wow, I feel like I have a little whiplash from 2018. It feels like I’m just getting started, and yet, here it is December again!

My year was full of twists and turns, highs and lows, bumps and bruises, tears of laughter and tears of joy—much like I’m sure your year was. On one hand, I checked multiple locations off of my travel bucket list, including England, Ireland, and Scotland, as well as a cross-country Amtrak trip. I was also a guest on multiple podcasts and featured in several interviews. And I worked with some amazing new clients, along with some old friends.

On the other hand, while I launched two digital products, I was hoping for at least three. I also didn’t meet a few big numbers I set for myself, including the coveted income goal. And my health didn’t improve as much as I hoped it would.

So, my 2018 was a bit of a mixed bag. I’m trying to hang onto the good stuff and learn from the less-than-good stuff. Both of those things will help propel me in 2019.

But before we get there, I wanted to circle back to my five most popular blog posts of 2018. Since I publish a weekly blog post and you’ve got a lot on your plate, it stands to reason that you might have missed one or two along the way.

No worries! I’ll share what others found to be the most helpful in the hopes that it’ll help you succeed as well. Looking forward to a wonderful New Year with you!

Signify’s Top 5 Blog Posts of 2018

1. The Key to Your Success May Be Staring You in the Face (Literally)

Not only are you a human with a life and responsibilities, but you are also at a cause-focused organization, either for- or non-profit. So, whether your work deals with extremely sensitive and dark subjects like human trafficking or not, you still feel the pressure to succeed because there’s a social problem you’re trying to solve. There is a different kind of gravity to your work that few understand.

This can certainly wear on you over time, and without checks and balances, can lead to burnout. And burnout would be a terrible situation not only for you, but for your cause. The world needs your work!

So, what’s the answer to combating the fatigue and burnout? Community.

Read the full post . . .

2. 4 Insider Reasons Interns are Motivated to Help You

I made a couple of big, small business decisions in 2018, and one of those was to hire interns. I'd know for a long time that I eventually wanted to bring in some spry, young talent, but a couple of things were holding me back.

First, I didn't feel "successful" enough to bring anyone else into the mix. I still don't know what "successful" enough meant/means to me, but I finally decided it was time to put that thought to bed. I had valuable lessons to teach someone, and it was time to start imparting.

Second, I knew it would take some legitimate time and effort to get things in place and delegate. Most of us feel like we move at the speed of light, and slowing down isn't an option. But, again, I needed to take a step back. The reality is that I needed extra help, and there were people available to assist. And once I got things up and running, the hard part was over. So, in the end, I got over myself and found two, fantastic interns. 

Read the full post . . .

3. How to Share the Love with Your Amazing Volunteers

love volunteers.

I’ve always worked in nonprofits, and I've always relied heavily on volunteers to make things happen. Along the way, I have also learned a few things. Yes, people need to be needed. But, the warm and fuzzy feelings that first draw them to you will not always keep them around. As volunteers serve with you, or for you, they will eventually need more. And I’ve found that it is so important to continue to show them the love.

So, here's a list of the top five ways you can continue to love on your volunteers.

Read the full post . . .

4. How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

I don't know about you, but I love events. I love attending them, of course, but also working on them behind-the-scenes. When I was an event marketing director, I was able to help create a dynamic experience for almost 8,000 people. And with my nonprofit and social enterprise freelance clients, it's still a blast to see an event go from concept to completion, resulting in smiling faces, sales earned, and money raised.

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of working with one of my favorite local organizations, Atlanta Dream Center, on their annual benefit dinner. I had been volunteering with them for three years at that point, and they were Signify's first, official client, so they'll always have a soft spot in my heart. Understandably, I was thrilled to be working with them on a professional level now, too.

At the end of the evening, we had quite a surprise—we had not only met the fundraising goal, but we had quadrupled the previous year's total! High fives all around!

However, I don't think it was an accident. After working on so many events over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.

Read the full post . . .

5. What (and Why) You Should Be Emailing Your List

Everyone wants to talk social media all the time, but it's not the most important thing when it comes to engaging with your current donors and customers. That's right I said it—social media is NOT the most important thing. Breathe that in, people.

Don't get me wrong, social media is an important (and unavoidable) part of marketing, especially when it comes to finding new prospects, but it isn't the top priority for those currently in your circle of trust. I'd rather you stop focusing on social media, and start focusing on your email list. 

I've had many, many conversations with friends and clients about this topic. I get some slow head-nodding, blank eyes, puzzled looks, and then a question or two usually follows. Something along the lines of, "Why is email marketing so important?" or "Ok, but what should I send to my email list?" I usually also hear that people do send emails to their fans and supporters, but it's been a few...months.

Sending emails just sorta happens when they get around to it. Maybe they'd planned to send out an email blast, but there was yet another fire to put out. Or, they'll email again when they have something "important" to say. 

Any of this sound familiar?

I'm here today to tell you what and why you should be emailing your list. Because it's vital to the health of your organization. Yep, it's that big of a deal.

Read the full post . . .

Looking for more popular options? Here are some of my readers’ all-time favorites:

12 Unique Launch Ideas You'll Want to Copy

What You Need to Convince Potential Sponsors and Partners

A Comparison of 13 Popular Social Media Scheduling Tools

5 Must-See TED Talks for Nonprofit Leaders

10 Tools to Make Your Small Business Look More Professional (Most Are Free!)


PSST: Don't forget that you only have a few more days to enter to win a Communications Strategy Session, valued at $500! Details here. Resolve to make your marketing better in 2019.



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Resources, Tips, and Ideas for Your Nonprofit or Social Enterprise

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


10 High Result, Low Budget Launch Marketing Ideas

A few days ago, I laughed and cried my way through the Won’t You Be My Neighbor? documentary about Mister Roger’s and his famed neighborhood. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it!

As a kid who watched and loved that show, it brought back a lot of memories. However, as a kid who grew up to be a marketer, I can’t help but watch everything through that lens as well. Occupational hazard! One of the things that struck me was his approach to the concept of his show. He stripped away a lot of the fanfare and gimmicks he saw on other shows, leaving room for his authenticity, playfulness, and heart for educating children on important values. And kids loved it!

Okay, so what does this movie have to do with launching, you might ask? Well, it’s that same lesson I want you to take into your next launch. People will ultimately resonate with you and your mission, not simply because of some stunt or gimmick.

Sure, there might be times when those kinds of tricks enhance your launch, but don’t come to depend on them. If you have a sale every time you launch a new product, for example, people may start to only buy at that time. After all, when’s the last time you bought something full priced at Old Navy? With a new sale every other week, they’ve trained people to wait for the next sale before making a purchase.

I’m also reminded of those launches that give away the latest iPhone or a European trip. Does anyone else sign up for all of those? I know they do because I never seem to win! However, as soon as that giveaway is over, I jump ship and unsubscribe. That’s no way to build a loyal list.

But I also realize that people also have to see and hear your mission to get on board. So, let’s talk about 10 high result, low budget launch marketing ideas that I love. There are varying levels of time and energy required for each, but I’ve seen them do great things for other nonprofits and social enterprises, and think they can serve you well, too.

10 High Result, Low Budget Launch Marketing Ideas for Nonprofits and Social Enterprises

1) Empower People to Share About Your Launch

There’s still no better form of advertising than word-of-mouth. So, why not increase yours by empowering people to do just that? And it helps when you can give them a nudge, too!

I wrote a whole blog post about this idea, but the gist is that you should provide pre-written social media samples (text, images, videos, etc.) to your staff and key stakeholders for every major launch. Essentially, you’re giving them all the tools they need to help promote with little effort on their part. If they have to think hard about it or write their own, they’re much less likely to take action.

2) Update Your Website . . . In More Than One Place

This may seem like a silly thing to state, but remember how we’re all still waiting for common sense to catch on? Yep, this goes in that category. I’m saying it because I see it.

If you’ve got a huge launch coming up, and you don’t make it prominent on your website—and in multiple places—you’re doing yourself a big disservice. It’s common to put a launch image or blurb on your homepage, but what about other pages? It might be a great fit there, too. And, depending on how someone found you, they may not even land on your homepage first, so you don’t want them to miss the memo.

3) Add Bonuses to Your Launch

Bonuses are usually my preference over discounts. This way you aren’t devaluing your service, product, event, or whatever else you may be creating. Plus, they can make your launch even more exciting, resulting in more eyes paying attention.

Bonuses are normally offered during the pre-launch or early launch phase, and examples can include one-on-one time with you, an additional product, a video series, a gift from one of your partners, etc. The options are endless!

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes sales and discounts are the way to go, but take a look at bonuses as well. “Limited time offers” fall under this umbrella, too. They’re a great way to ask people to take an action with a deadline in mind, which is often very beneficial for you in the planning stages.


4) Email Your Tribe (More Than Once)

Inboxes fill up fast, so don’t rely on just one or two emails to make your big announcement. And people often have great intentions to buy or donate, but they’re also bombarded with a million distractions every day.

So, create a series of emails to educate and inspire your tribe to take action. Find different angles of your launch to address in each one, rather than simply repeating the same information.


5) Jump On Facebook Live and Instagram Live

Over the last couple of years, video has become hot, hot, hot! For this introverted copywriter, that’s a real bummer, ha! For others it may be great news. Regardless, it’s important to sit up and pay attention. Takeaway —> You can’t ignore video!

So, it’s time to jump on Facebook and Instagram Live. What you should love about this marketing channel is that it’s super cheap. As in free. You don’t need a studio or all the fancy lighting. With the click of a button, you’re in business.

If video is new or uncomfortable to you, I suggest starting with Facebook and Insta Stories because they disappear in 24 hours. Less pressure, hooray! Once you have a little more courage, or if you prefer to force yourself as I do, give Facebook Live a chance. Video allows you to talk to your fans almost as if you were in the room with them, giving you a fantastic opportunity to talk about your launch and cause.

6) Utilize All Your Real Estate

If your organization has multiple websites, email lists, social media channels, or apps, make sure they’re all involved and promoting. This is no time to be timid!

When I was an event marketing director, our main sources of revenue were events and curriculum. The curriculum purchasers logged in regularly to view materials, and we also had an internal bulletin board on their website for announcements. So, you’d better believe I promoted events over there!

Besides your main website and social media, where else can you communicate to potential donors and customers?

7) Ask Partners to Promote Your Launch

Who do you know that can help promote your launch for free? This can be individuals or companies. It might be official partners and sponsors, or casual friends of your nonprofit or social enterprise that want to see you succeed enough to promote on your behalf.

This is a great opportunity to get in front of entirely new audiences. Just remember, however, that you may need to scratch their back in the future, too.

8) Let Your Audience In On The Process

Create ready-made buyers when you give people a say in the end result. Allowing your audience to provide ideas, feedback, or suggestions during the pre-launch phase to gives them ownership and gets them excited. They’re more likely to participate and share the launch as well.

I’ve seen authors allow their fans to choose book covers, course creators ask for suggestions, product makers seek out testers, and much more. How can you get your people involved?

9) Share Customer Reviews or Testimonials

We all love social proof. It’s the reason we seek out Yelp and Amazon reviews. It’s nice to know that someone has come before us and already loves what we’re interested in. It simply helps us proceed with confidence.

Obviously, some launches lend themselves better to this idea than others, but don’t be afraid to think out-of-the-box. If you have a fundraising campaign, for example, add testimonials to your site (and giving page) from those that have benefitted from your work or have previously donated.

Here’s an example from Signify.

10) Pre-Sale Your Launch

Wouldn’t it be a wondrous thing to have money coming in before you’ve officially launched? That’s the beauty of a pre-sale.

This is why some events allow you to purchase tickets to the following year before you even walk out the door. It’s also why movies sell tickets months in advance. And don’t forget about those books that come with pre-launch bonuses, or courses that give you a discount prior to hitting the market. The pre-sale has definite advantages for both you and the buyer!



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Let’s talk about 10 high result, low budget launch marketing ideas that I love. There are varying levels of  time and energy  required for each, but I’ve seen them do great things for other nonprofits and social enterprises, and think they can serve you well, too.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors


Today’s guest post comes from Amy Crowell, a fundraising pro if there ever was one! Her company, Next Stage Advisors, helps nonprofits through event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Amy and I go way back to the days of when I was at a hospitality PR firm and she was at a little ol’ org called Share Our Strength. Yep, that one. During her time there, she raised more than $3 million dollars for their No Kid Hungry campaign, so she definitely knows her stuff.

Below, she’s boiled down donor communications to a few, main points that you should be aware of. If you’re strapped for time and resources when it comes to talking to your donors, make sure you at least cover these five bases.

PS: These same ideas work for social enterprises, too!

5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors

Nonprofits, no matter their mission or size, are always on the lookout for more donors. But some organizations aren't event sure how to start the process of engaging new people into their mission, never mind actually turning them into donors.

Donors come in all shapes and sizes. Your donor may be someone who writes a small or large check, but they could also be a volunteer, committee member, special event attendee, board member, or a donor of products or services that your organization needs.

No matter what type of donor you are talking to, nonprofits need to consistently communicate with donors, while at the same time targeting the specific message that prompted the donor to initially become engaged. Keeping everyone informed may very well graduate them from one level of supporter to another. Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.


Essential 1: Who or What You Help

This is a no brainer, right? Of course you are going to tell your potential donors who or what you help. However, it’s more than that. Yes, donors need to be told specifically who you are helping, but they should also be informed of the numerical statistics for the problem in your community you are helping.

Specific and detailed information about the problem you are working towards solving will show that your nonprofit is one that needs to be supported. For example, if a local organization tells you that the teen pregnancy in your state was triple the national average and then explained how they were helping to solve that problem, a donor would be much more likely to support them than if they were merely told that they help cut the teen pregnancy rate.

Tell your donors the specifics, such as:

  • How many people in your community deal with the issue that your nonprofit is trying to solve? Is it increasing or decreasing? How quickly?

  • What progress have you made so far?

  • What innovative methods are you using to fulfill your mission (especially if they are more successful compared to similar organizations in your community)?

  • When you accomplish things that work toward your mission, what changes?

  • How is your community a better place because of your organization, its mission, and successes?

Essential 2: Real Stories About How Your Organization Has Made a Difference

Showing your passion can go a long way to creating a new donor. Most donors give to an organization because they feel an emotional connection. Help potential donors feel this connection by telling them true stories about the work you are doing. Share success stories about people you have served.

Do you have video testimonies from parents or principals that have firsthand knowledge of how your program changed a child? Stories about how your organization extended the life someone, allowing them to attend a major life event of their child or grandchild? Examples of how someone you helped felt less stigma about a problem they had, which helped them to build their self-esteem and have a more “normal” life? Or perhaps you can take them on a tour of your facility to show your organization at work.

If you are looking for new donors, you should have a set of emotionally-driven stories that demonstrate your work in action and the benefits to those you serve.


Essential 3: Why Your Organization is Different

Many organizations look similar on paper—potentially serving the same type of person, geographical area, or otherwise. It’s important to differentiate yourself from others that may appear similar. Why would I give my money to you when XYZ nonprofit down the road does the same thing?

Donors want to know what your organization does that makes you different and worth investing in. Do you tackle the same problem in a new way? Does your program go a step further in that it follows people for six months after they leave, ensuring they continue their path to success? Are you the only organization serving X in this zip code? Do you address something that other similar organizations don’t? Perhaps your organization has more of a “teach a person to fish” versus a “give them a fish” philosophy? Tell your donors!

Essential 4: What Their Donation Can Accomplish

Whatever donors are giving—time, money, services, or products—they want to know how it is helping your nonprfoti fulfill its mission. Even though every organization needs non-restricted funds to pay for expenses like rent, utilities, and supplies, most donors would prefer that their donation be connected more directly to the mission they are supporting.

This is where equivalencies come in. Being able to tell donors that $1 connects a child to 10 healthy meals, $500 pays for a month of diapers for a previously homeless child, or something similar, goes a long way to help visualize what a donation can accomplish and how it helps those you serve.

These equivalencies can be used in multiple places, including online donations, special events (ex: live or silent auction, fund the need campaigns), or challenge/matching grants. Being able to show specifically what dollars can provide is important and will bring more donors to the check writing stage.


Essential 5: Share Your Organizational Goals

No different than deciding which mutual fund you want to invest your retirement savings in, donors want to see long-term goals and a healthy organization working toward them. They want to see an ROI on their investment, such as increased growth towards the overall mission.

Share with donors where you want your nonprofit to be and when. Do you want to reach 85% of your target market by the year 2020? Increase the hours you are open by 10% this year? Hire a new staff member?

Talk about both short- and long-term goals so that donors feel like they are part of your progress and that their money is actually an investment not only in your organization, but to the people or problem you are trying to help. Communicating a high-level vision and what it takes financially to get there will make donors more invested overall, potentially moving them from a one-time donor to a reoccurring one.

These “5 Essentials” can go a long way towards building a pipeline of supporters that can help you not only have increased donations, but also fill other important roles your nonprofit needs such as board members, volunteers, special event attendees, and more.

Be sure each essential is documented so you can share them with all the key stakeholders in your organization—especially staff and board members. Once you have them, you’ll likely find that not only are they helpful when speaking to supporters, they can also be used in other communications such as your website, newsletter, grant applications, and more.

Don’t have all five in place? Add the missing pieces to your priority list to increase success in the future.


Amy Crowell, Next Stage Advantage

Amy Crowell, founder of Next Stage Advisors, has more than two decades of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, event management, and strategic and financial planning. She has overseen numerous nonprofit fundraisers, including grassroots campaigns, events of all sizes, and national multimillion-dollar corporate-sponsored programs.

Amy helps nonprofits meet and beat their fundraising goals via event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your nonprofit’s reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


What (and Why) You Should Be Emailing Your List

We've been talking all things content marketing this month, and today's subject is a biggie. Everyone wants to talk social media all the time, but it's not the most important thing when it comes to engaging with your current donors and customers. That's right I said it—social media is NOT the most important thing. Breathe that in, people.

Don't get me wrong, social media is an important (and unavoidable) part of marketing, especially when it comes to finding new prospects, but it isn't the top priority for those currently in your circle of trust. I'd rather you stop focusing on social media, and start focusing on your email list. 

I've had many, many conversations with friends and clients about this topic. I get some slow head-nodding, blank eyes, puzzled looks, and then a question or two usually follows. Something along the lines of, "Why is email marketing so important?" or "Ok, but what should I send to my email list?" I usually also hear that people do send emails to their fans and supporters, but it's been a few...months.

Sending emails just sorta happens when they get around to it. Maybe they'd planned to send out an email blast, but there was yet another fire to put out. Or, they'll email again when they have something "important" to say. 

Any of this sound familiar?

I'm here today to tell you what and why you should be emailing your list. Because it's vital to the health of your organization. Yep, it's that big of a deal. Whether you're concerned about content marketing for your nonprofit or social enterprise, or not, email needs to move up on your priority list.

What (and Why) You Should Be Emailing Your List - For Nonprofits and Social Enterprises

WHY EMAIL MARKETING IS IMPORTANT

Though social media is the shiny object of the marketing world, email marketing should be the staple. It's true that nothing will ever beat in-person conversations; those should always be the first option. But for electronic or online communication, email should be your focus.

Why? You "own" your list. We've already seen a handful of algorithm changes on Facebook this year alone, and they're all making it more difficult for your business to get seen by your fans and followers. That's great for us as individuals who want to see more pics of our friends kids, pets, vacations, or last night's dinner. Not so great from a marketing standpoint.

And as things change again, and they will, you'll be further and further removed from your audience, unless you are paying to get in front of them. However, with an email address, you land directly in their inbox. Whatever you need to communicate to them is front-and-center. They don't have to go hunting for it, and they don't have to wait to just see it occasionally, if the internet powers that be, decide today's the day to show them.

Plus, if one of those nifty social networks goes away tomorrow, or decides to remove businesses entirely, you have no way to reach those people. Poof! They're gone. But you know what you do have? That's right, your email list!

You also have more real estate in emails to get your message across than on social media, and emails still have the highest conversion rates as well. Two, more very good reasons!

Oh, and if you're slightly panicked about neglecting your social media, here's my solution.

(Side note: I recommend setting a reminder to download your list a few times per year so you never lose it either. Unfortunately, nothing is guaranteed!)

WHAT TYPES OF EMAILS YOU SHOULD SEND TO YOUR LIST?

Okay, now that you understand why you should be making more use of your email list, you might be stuck on what to send. Besides a lack of time, this is the issue I hear most.

So, what should you email to your list? The good news is that the options are pretty limitless! 

Here are just a few examples:

  • Program/product/service updates

  • New hires, job openings, or internship opportunities

  • Recent blog posts

  • Behind-the-scenes details

  • Thoughts from the founder or staffers

  • Links and resources your audience would find helpful

  • Tips and tricks

  • Surveys

  • Needs list (ex: resources a nonprofit might need to further their mission)

  • Staff or recipient profiles

  • Holiday announcements or celebrations

  • Photos or videos of people using your product/service

  • Testimonials and stories

  • End of year impact reports

  • Recent press/media

(Want 85 more ideas? Click here!)

Think about it: These people willingly gave you their email. That means they want to hear from you! And they want to hear from you more than a couple of times per year... So, don't neglect sending just because you don't have any "big announcements." 

I also recommend keeping a list somewhere of topics that would be good for your emails, even if it means they need to wait a while. You don't want to lose any good ideas! I use Evernote, since it's always handy, but you can use Google Docs or Sheets, a Word doc, a sticky on your computer, or whatever is a good fit.

To make things even easier on yourself, you can even set up a template for your regular email newsletters so that all you have to do is just drop in the new content each time. This is exactly what I do with Special Features. I have a formula that I follow of specific things I want to communicate to my audience. Each section has a purpose. Doesn't mean that it'll stay that way forever, but right now, it works for me.

 

A FEW TIPS ON FORMATTING YOUR EMAILS

Photos and graphics, or no photos and graphics? Headers or no headers? Long or short?

The truth is that I've seen emails of all shapes and sizes get the job done. Some are beautiful and some are plain. So, whether you have yours laid out by a professional graphic designer or not is your call. What works with your brand and your voice? That choice is up to you.

Here's what I will stress, however: It needs to be easy to read on laptops, tablets, and phones. (A LOT of people are reading your emails on their phones these days!) That may sound completely intuitive, and like I don't need to say it, but trust me, I do. I have seen some emails that likely have great content, but they are so hard to look at and read that I just hit delete. I'm sure you've done the same.

So, what's the cure? Well, a lot of the advice we've been giving over the past few months for websites and blogs carries over here, too. 

Namely:

  • Write is short paragraphs of one to three sentences. If you're reading anything on a phone, do you want to just stare at a wall of text? Answer: Nope.

  • Use headers where needed for clarity and changing topics, especially if the email is long. People are skimmers, whether we like it or not. Don't fight it.

  • Let white space be your friend.

  • Leave the jargon at the office. Keep the language easy to understand.

  • Give clear calls to action (telling people what you want them to do), and make it easy for them to do it.

  • Make it about the reader as well as your organization. Make the content relatable, and let them feel a part of your work.

  • Go back to your brand standards. All your fonts and photos should match your brand, or be extremely complementary if, for example, you have a really uncommon font. But make sure everything looks like goes together—and matches your brand. Watch out for sizes, spacing, and keep those headers in check, too. Tip: Look at it like a blog post. Get all matchy, matchy.

If you think that you do want to include graphics, but aren't good at design, have a graphic designer create templates that you can use over and over, just replacing text and photos as needed. This is what I did.

I had my designers create a standard template for my monthly newsletter, a couple variations for different categories of opt-ins, and a really generic one for simple announcements. Now, anytime I need to create a new email blast, I just choose the right template and switch out the info and graphics—presto! Now, I don't have to reinvent the wheel every time. (Hint: This also makes coming up with your content easier because you know what "boxes" to fill in!)

Your formatting is just as valuable as your content, so don't skip this step.

 

WHEN SHOULD YOU EMAIL YOUR LIST?

As with pretty much everything else, there are no concrete, black and white answers. Sometimes that's a good thing because you may feel bad that you can't keep up with "standards." However, sometimes that's bad because you don't have a guaranteed blueprint to follow for success. What works for some may not work for others.

But, here's what I tell my clients: I'd like you to email your list at least monthly. I guarantee you've got something to share each and every month. If you can email more frequently with smaller updates throughout the month, do it! But if you wait more than a month, you risk being forgotten.

Remember, we're all out of sight, out of mind creatures. So, if you aren't talking to your list, you'd better believe someone else is!

I'd also like you to figure out a consistency or frequency that you can stick to. This is an effort to make sure it happens, and also helps people expect when to hear from you. Both are uber important.

For example, in an ideal world, I'd email my list a couple of times per month with small updates and information that will be helpful to them. But as a solopreneur, I've got a lot on my plate. So, for now, Special Features goes out once per month. Specifically, the first Thursday of the month. I even have a reminder in Asana to help keep me on task. One particularly busy month, I worked late and finally hit send about 10:00 p.m., because come h*ll or high water, that thing was going out on the first Thursday of the month! It's a promise I made to myself and my tribe.

Others I know send emails every Friday, or every other Wednesday. So, make the decision of when you're going press the magic button, and commit to it.

THE NUMBER ONE EMAIL MARKETING MISTAKE

One of the biggest problems in not emailing your list very often is that you only tend to email them when you need something. This is a big no, no.

It takes time to build the "know, like, and trust" factor with your audience. This is what leads them to action.

Like real life, this is a relationship to be nurtured. So, how would you like it if you had a friend that only talked to you when they wanted you to buy something or donate to their cause? Ewwww. I imagine they'd move off your friend list pretty quickly!

Yet, this is what I see nonprofits and social enterprises doing again and again. They get busy, and only email their fans and followers when it's convenient for them. As a result, donations flounder and sales fumble.

The result? Organizations are left thinking email marketing doesn't work. So, once again, they put it off.

But the lesson should be to change the strategy. Begin working on the relationship with your audience regularly and gradually, rather than using it part of the backup plan.

 

EMAIL MARKETING AS A STRATEGY

Here are Signify, we're big on strategy. Yes, it's good to be sending those emails, writing those blog posts, and connecting on social media, but it becomes much more effective when there's a strategy behind it.

Other than, "because I have to," WHY are you sending the email?

Do you need to sell a product, drive donations, announce a new program, or promote an event? All of these are pretty big "asks" and will usually require more than one email. A series of emails primes them to take action. This gives them all the information or motivation they need to make the decision. And this requires planning. You'll need to figure out ahead of time what what to say and when to say it.

Often, once you lay out on a calendar or spreadsheet all the things you absolutely need to say in a year, you'll see how fast space actually fills up. Then you can plug in other types of emails such as the above examples.

Of course, the unexpected will come up, and that's fine! Nothing wrong with a special announcement now and again.

If you find it overwhelming to think about a year's worth of emails, start with six months, or a quarter, or heck, even a month. But it's time to get intentional. Email marketing is too important to ignore or leave to chance.

What questions do you have?

 

Read the other posts in this series:



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Whether you're concerned about content marketing for your  nonprofit  or  social enterprise , or not, email needs to move up your priority list.

Kristi Porter of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.