Using Email in Fundraising: Top things to consider

email icon


So my last blog looked at why email should be used in fundraising and how it can be a great tool if you use it in partnership with other traditional channels like the telephone.

After a new report by IOF and marketing analysis firm by FastMap has recently claimed that donors prefer to be contacted by email, what better time is there to use this great communications channel to engage and sustain your donors:-

Opt-In Strategy- If you have a high volume of online sign-ups who haven’t opted in for phone communications, develop an email marketing strategy to encourage supporters to opt-in for telecommunications. Personalise the email to them, any particular cause they previously donated to? the channel in which they did it by etc? Also ask them questions, find out what motivates them and tailor future communications accordingly

Retires – Have a high volume of retired data with email addresses? Target them with tailored communications via email and monitor who opens what and where they click. You could also send email communications mid-campaign if you find supporters are not answering the call, an email to explain you’re trying to reach them with your contact number so supporters know when that number calls again, it’s one to pick up

Deeply Lapsed – Have a large data set of people who took part in a charity event a few years back? Re-engage with them via email tailoring your message around that event creating a sense of nostalgia prior to calling, ask them questions via an email survey so supporters feel more connected to the cause

Say Thank You, Now – We all know thanking our donors is key but how quickly we do this could really improve long term relationships, send thank you emails to your database 24 hours after they have provided a gift over the phone. Include share URLS in your email so that supporter can shout about their commitment to the cause to their social following

Follow Ups- This is more of an obvious email communication to adopt but something which shouldn’t be missed. If you have a list of supporters who have recently upgraded/started a Direct Debit with you don’t forget to not only thank them but to also keep them updated on how their donations are being spent. Supporters will love to see the outcome of their hard work and if you personalise and tailor your message, you can increase retention and inspire supporters to do more.



Account Pell & Bales

Supporter Retention: Why Email is your best friend


email lovel

Recently,  Fundraising Online held their annual fundraising conference #FRO16.

The series covered many inspiring topics around fundraising and marketing for nonprofits and took place over two days. One of the webinars I listened to was the informative session (you can register and download it here) on email marketing by @charitychap, Matt Collins. During his talk, Matt urged charities to become more acquainted with email as it is one of the top online communication channels we do not utilise enough.

Now, my background is Online Marketing so no one has a hard time convincing me of the greatness of email.It’s an effective way to reach out to your audience and has the flexibility to ever evolve along with your communication plan.

You can segment to your heart’s content to create tailored content and test, test and test again to make sure everything is performing at its optimum, from subject lines to CTA’s. During his talk Matt highlighted the success Ecommerce retailers have experienced through email and how charities could (and should) follow suit.

Matt also made provided us with some handy recommendations such as concise messaging, personalisation, clear CTA’s and A/B testing -all of which have proven to improve email performance in other sectors.

How to incorporate Email Marketing into your Telemarketing Strategy

Scratch that, we shouldn’t be thinking of ways to incorporate email into telemarketing, we should be working towards one holistic strategy where email and the telephone go hand in hand. Supporters use multiple methods of communication offering up numerous touch points and opportunities for charities to re-engage, provide tailored communication and most importantly, improve retention. This is something to think about when planning any campaign.


Account Director, Pell & Bales 

Stop taking selfies and get to know your donors

A couple of weeks ago Reinier Spruit posted a great post on the 101Fundrasing blog. He highlights the need to spend more time and effort learning about our supporters if we are to really drive retention;

“… We’re all taking selfies. It’s all “Me, Myself and I“. But we’re looking the wrong way… we should be taking pictures of our donors. All those snapshots will tell us a story about who they are and what they want…We don’t take the effort to really understand them, talk to them, let alone track their feelings about us!”

So, how do you ‘take pictures’ of your supporters? Here’s a few simple ideas for starters;

  1. If you use direct dialogue fundraising then go along to the phone room, join the teams on the street, at events and on the door steps in order to listen to your supporters and meet with them. Do this regularly. I am constantly amazed in how little time some charities invest this
  2. Ensure those same teams don’t just deliver you results and new donors each week, but insight too. Have an agreed process for this
  3. Set KPIs for donor satisfaction levels. Collect and monitor satisfaction (by email, mail, phone or SMS)
  4. Review and manage your supporter communications against a set of ‘retention criteria’. What drives satisfaction, commitment and trust, and how good are your communication at driving those things?  

Read Reinier’s full article including the inspiring vision for his retention fundraising here



How to redefine loyalty to yield meaningful and sustainable growth

Todays guest blog comes from Kevin Schulman, our U.S based friend and the founding partner of Donor Voice.

Kevin is already leading the global sector in strengthening donor relationships,  increasing retention rates and driving truly donor-centric fundraising approaches.  Kevin shares with us a belief in the fundamental truth that retention is ‘the problem and solution to your fundraising challenge.’

The good news is he shares the solution as well …..

 “Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if the non-profit sector is to thrive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships…” (FDR, May 27th 1933)

Truer (modified) words were never spoken.

Relationship is the key to retention and by extension, sustainable growth.  The math is clear – it can cost up to 10 times as much to bring in a new donor as keep an existing one.

So what to do about it?  The ‘relationship’ word is thrown around at non-profit conferences and by consultants by the truckload.  It has been a “soft”, just-believe concept.  And yet, as FDR noted, there is a science to it, which can be summed up as follows:

1)     The underlying elements constituting a healthy relationship between non-profit and supporter are known

2)     These elements can be measured using a proven model and formula

3)     This same proven model and formula are used to determine the organizational touchpoints (e.g. message, communications, events, donor service) that actually matter and by extension, those that don’t

This last point bears further discussion.  This is a model and framework to identify the touchpoints across functional areas that cause loyalty and in turn, the decision to stay or go.

This gets charities into the cause and effect business. No statistical model using transactional or engagement data is doing this.  Those models and purveyors are focused on efficiency of selection.  They want great predictions of certain, often singular, behavior (e.g. reactivate, upgrade, etc.) This is all well and good BUT greater efficiency, while worthwhile, is not going to yield meaningful growth.

Meaningful growth requires real, empirical relationship building that focuses on identifying what you do that truly matters to your donors, then optimizing the hell out of it (to the exclusion of everything else).

This is about building a 6 to 12 month test that is different from the “control” not by virtue of who is in or out (i.e. selection) and not simply by virtue of marketing message, but by a radically different set of touchpoints and experiences over a period of time.

Defining this different set of touchpoints is not guesswork, nor concocted from thin air. By applying the right model…one that adheres to basic laws of cause and effect AND combines attitudinal data (by measuring commitment and  performance of your touchpoints ) with transactional data…well then the blueprint becomes very specific and empirical, as illustrated below;

kevin schulman loyalty graph

And perhaps the greatest kept secret to better retention is revealed!

It is not about spending more money, nor about “creating” new experiences (at least initially). The answer to greatly improved retention is about getting a handle on the current world of communications, messages, publications and human interactions. Doing so means we can empirically identify those that cause loyalty, those that matter but are currently hurting loyalty and those experiences with organizational time, effort and spend against them that don’t cause loyalty.

With this framework the implementation plan is quite simple (albeit not easy since change is never easy).  If you send this communication, loyalty goes up.  If you send another it goes down.  If you don’t fix this in-person experience by delivering a different message and training staff to be more knowledgeable about issue X and Y (but not Z because now you know it doesn’t matter), you will lose 5% of the expected lifetime value.

This is radically different from the world today that is hyper obsessed with segmenting and slicing like crazy to identify who to target.  What gets served up to these people is an afterthought.  Perhaps there is some attempt to differentiate marketing message by segment. Perhaps.  But then what?

Too often this is the end of the segmentation mindset and these donors get put into the general flow of appeals, communications etc.

If you’re coming to IoF London next month you’ll hear me and Charlie talking in more depth about this, but in the meantime here are your top 10 things to remember:

  1. You need a retention plan.
  2. It has nothing to do with segmentation or targeting.
  3. It has nothing to do with frequency of contact or ask amount.
  4. A retention plan is not a marketing message test.
  5. This is far more than saying “thank you” differently (though that typically is required).
  6. A retention plan comes from getting a handle on the CURRENT world you serve and modifying it in significant ways based on empirical guidance.  Fix key experiences/touchpoints that matter but are broken, scale up key touchpoints/experiences that matter. Get good performance scores and reallocate time, effort and spend away from those touchpoints that don’t matter.
  7. If you build a new donor journey that is not significantly different from your “current” one then don’t expect a different outcome.
  8. If you build a new donor journey that is significantly different that you concocted internally then you should expect a different outcome – a worse one.
  9. You cannot A/B test your way to this answer
  10. You cannot build a predictive/selection model.  You must get into CAUSE and EFFECT mode.
  11. Bonus:  Don’t look at innovation as “risk” unless you are willing to assign a risk level to the status quo.  Too often the status quo is seen as 0% risk and innovation is seen as 100% risk.    ’Failure’ is acceptable if you do it quickly and cheaply – but there is far too much slow, expensive failure with status quo that gets overlooked.