Big Returns, Big Hearts: Email Marketing for Nonprofits
You look out the window and spot a ticket tucked under your windshield wiper. Apparently, you can’t park on the 33rd% of the north corner of the block between 1:47 and 3:43 PM on the seventeenth cloudy day of the summer equinox as defined by the City Planning Commission’s Tertiary Regulations Committee. You’re in no mood to hear about someone else’s success. No thank you, e-blast. Delete.
You barely know this kid in your son’s kindergarten class, but you received an invitation to his birthday, and if you don’t get a gift, you’re “that mom.” On top of that, your nephew is graduating soon, neighborhood association dues are due, and you got stuck at the front of three traffic lights populated by panhandlers. Yeah, they’re a great non-profit doing great work, but I’m tired of feeling obligated. No thank you, e-blast. Delete.
We’re a marketing agency. We care a lot about statistics, we thrive on strategy, and we hold ourselves accountable to measurable results. That said, we also know that marketing results are, to an important degree, out of our hands inasmuch as they depend on mood. We create and act on studies and data that tell us the optimal day, time of day, delivery system, and so on for effective email marketing, but as we do so, we temper our expectations with the reality that the most ironclad preparation can be undone by what the heart wants at any moment.
We recently created an e-blast for Gateway 180, one of our favorite organizations and one that we’re honored to work for. They provided us with the stories they wanted to tell and with their e-blast hopes: thank their backers; report on a recent gala; get people to join them on Facebook.
As a writer, I took their content and made it more concise and direct and, I trust, readable. I created a simple e-blast subject line that would, at the least, not deter anyone from opening. I then got out of the way. Crystal, our designer, had the harder job, to design and execute a template that would, first, faithfully represent the Gateway 180 brand and, finally, help convince readers to take action.
I’ll be honest–I don’t know exactly how she did it. I asked, and she gave me an answer, and she could tell from my double-raised eyebrow that I’m no designer, so she let me off the hook by saying that what she does is a combination of study and intuition. Well, however she did it, it was effective–when I received the statistics for the e-blast, I nodded along at the expected results until I arrived at this: 32% click-through rate.
For the sake of tempering my excitement, I reminded myself that Gateway 180 is a not-for-profit and, as such, is likelier to elicit a higher click-through rate than almost any other category (the rate across all categories is just under 6%). I convinced myself that the e-blast was sent on a particularly nice day, a day, also, on which street sweepers and their attendant ticket givers weren’t on the prowl. But still, 32%. That’s an amazing result, one due, no doubt, to the combination of good content, thoughtful design, smart strategy, and the hearts of those on Gateway 180’s email list.
To top it off, within two hours of sending the email, Gateway 180 had received two new donations. The human heart is an incredible thing.