Here's why. People read email!
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, "sending or reading email" (42%) and "using a search engine" (38%) are the top 2 activities that online adults engage in EVERY DAY! And those percentages have only increased overtime. In comparison, only 15% of online adults use a social networking site every day.
More important is the fact that most online giving is driven by email and donations to organizational websites, not by fundraising via social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Specifically, Blackbaud estimates that $15 billion was given online in 2008.
"Online giving has continued to grow year-over-year even during the recession. Blackbaud analyzed the Giving USA data, along with other important metrics, and estimates that more than $15.42 billion was given online to US charities in 2008. This is a 44% increase over 2007's online giving estimates. Online giving accounted for just over 5% of total giving to charities in the US during 2008 and has been growing for many years now." - Steve MacClaughlin, Director, Internet SolutionsIn addition, we know from the 2008 DonorCentric Internet Giving Benchmark Analysis by Target Analytics that email communication lifts direct mail response rates. Again, this is a quote from Blackbaud.
"Offline donors who have an email address on file, and who have no record of giving online, give far more per year and retain and reactivate at higher rates than those who do not have an email address on file. Providing an email address may indicate greater affinity towards an organization. In addition, donors who have email addresses on file may tend to be those who have had more opportunities to provide it to the organization, and who would therefore be those with greater giving loyalty or who receive more frequent communication from the organization."Now, I can already here the naysayers. "Yes, but I"m overloaded with email. Many days I delete half of the emails in my inbox."
Well, that's true and it highlights the challenge for all of us. We must start sending compelling emails to the right donors at the right time, right now!
1. Build and clean your online list. Ask for email addresses at every turn. Collect them via direct mail, events and on the phone. Looking for a big lift in your online subscribers? Do an email append.
2. Buy a subscription to an Email Services Provider. Be sure to contract with a provider that has a solid reputation for getting your email into the inbox. Idealware has done a good overview of email vendors that work specifically with nonprofits.
3. Improve your copy writing skills and learn to write for the Web. Copyblogger is well-respected blog that offers great copy writing tips for online marketing. Subscribe today!
4. Create an editorial calendar and stick to it! Map out the key events in the life cycle of your cause and use these dates to direct your online and offline campaigns. But also be willing to let current events drive your appeals.
5. Learn from the best. There are many nonprofits, including Conservation International, Care, The Carter Center, Defenders of Wildlife and Sierra Club that run first rate email marketing programs. Study their appeals and emulate as you see fit.
Email marketing is a tough road to hoe but if you're goal is to raise money online you have to master this channel.