How to keep email a relevant fundraising channel

Nonprofits want to make it easy for donors to find information and take part in a cause. This means using every available communication channel is not only a best practice, but essential to an organization's success. Even when traditional platforms seem outpaced by modern innovations, proven channels still have a lot to offer.

Case in point: The Nonprofit Quarterly shared the results of an M+R consulting survey that discovered email fundraising increased 25 percent between 2014 and 2015, even though message opens and click through rates seemed to decline. This example shows the old metrics for channel success may not fully capture the performance of a fundraising resource, but that doesn't mean organizations should abandon a potential source of donations.

Email can still be effective, but the channel needs to adapt to new communication tools and audience expectations. Here are some things to keep in mind when launching an email fundraising campaign:

Email can't be your only channel
The Nonprofit Quarterly said the results form the M+H survey are less shocking when you look at the individual numbers. While many organizations see donors skimming emails, the messages are more effective when part of a multichannel campaign. Organizations that put resources into paid advertisements and other marketing endeavors see better results from all of their fundraising activities.

Instead of serving as an introduction, a convincing argument and the final ask, an email message could act as one step in an ongoing relationship with a donor. The Nonprofit Marketing Guide suggested social media as a channel nonprofits should utilize in the future, but not at the expense of email. While supporters want social media communication and donation options, email still reaches more donors. 

Fundraising messages have to work
People won't read email messages if the text is too small. Other problems like dead links and improper displays will also cause donors to close emails in frustration. When marketing tracking finds audiences ignore channels, it could mean the platform doesn't function with the speed and convenience modern supporters expect.

This is especially true across multiple devices. The Emailmonday consulting group collected reports from a number of marketing professionals that found 67 percent of consumers read emails on mobile devices, with 25 percent of them opening messages on their phones first. This means if email materials and online donation forms don't work on small touch screens, they will be avoided.

An option for ongoing donor loyalty
Any communication channel is a chance to reach out to donors and show they matter. Fired Up Fundraising said donor loyalty would be a major trend for successful nonprofit organizations in 2016. It's not enough to educate and inform donors about a cause; nonprofits must also listen and provide contributors with the service they've come to expect in the consumer market.

Organizations can create personalized email messages by segmenting audiences. Tracking what each donor wants from communications helps nonprofits to group different supporters together and send communications in the manner they prefer. This could mean consistent updates or news of major events. The goal is to send the content that matters most to each reader to show the nonprofit values their needs.

Don't forget storytelling
Sharing the narrative of a nonprofit's mission with donors and volunteers motivates action. Showing how important a cause is, what's been successful in the past and what's necessary in the future helps supporters identify where they fit into the ongoing story.

Storytelling must be consistent across all channels. From the email title to the call to action, donors should see each piece of content as an extension of a cause they want to support.

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