How to use email to improve your stewardship

Email Stewardship

What do you think would happen if you signed-up to 100 charity emails?

Glyn Thomas’ email experiment revealed that 17 never sent any emails at all, ever. 48 only sent one welcome email; 29 never sent another email after that. Over a third of the emails we received were donation asks… and six charities only sent donation asks, and nothing else. Fewer than 10 took the opportunity to deliver quizzes, surveys, videos and other engagement pieces before making an ask.

What a missed opportunity!

Email marketing is a brilliant way to fortify relationships between your charity and its supporters. You can excite long-term donors and increase participation, as well as generate new support, all through personalised and engaging content. The better your relationship with donors, the more donations you can raise and the more your charity will be able to achieve!

In this post we’re going to share some of the key ways you can build stronger relationships with your supporters through email.

(And if you already know that you want to make some improvements to your email stewardship, skip to the end of this post to find out about our email marketing webinar).

Welcome new donors to your organisation

Someone has just made their first donation to your charity. If there’s going to be a second donation, Welcome Emails are a must!

That first donation is a crucial juncture in your relationship: your first communication can push them away or draw them in. Welcoming donors here not only helps recoup the initial investment made to capture them in the first place, but according to a recent Experian survey, welcome emails result in eight times the transaction rate compared to other types of promotional emails.

A warm and inviting welcome also reaffirms the donor’s choice to support your charity over the many, many others out there. You’ll build a degree of trust and loyalty, straight out the gate – but that’s not all.

Welcome emails also flow naturally into your broader pipeline of communications: you can start introducing your impressed-new-supporter to your work, how donor funds have been used, and what achievements the charity is making!

Segment your donor list (and update as it grows)

Segmentation basically means splitting your supporters into groups based on shared characteristics and then sending separate emails to those groups. There are loads of useful ways to segment donors:

  • Location – If your supporters are spread out over the UK, then segmenting by post code allows you to provide hyper-localised content they can relate to. For example, work your charity has done in the town or city nearest each supporter.
  • Donor status – Separate prospective and past donors and use their different situations to encourage further (or first!) donations.
  • Marital status – Could your charity achieve more by tailoring content towards parents differently than towards single individuals? If so, create your groups and start personalising the content!

There are limitless ways to segment supporter data, and not all of them useful. Spend a little time examining your supporters and see if you can find clusters of shared interests or characteristics, and then try to leverage those clusters to deliver more impactful content.

They’ll love it.

Experiment with personalisation

This goes hand-in-hand with segmentation: you need to personalise!

Have you ever not deleted an email that started “Hello Sir / Madam” ? Including the recipient’s name is the most basic kind of personalisation. It’s crucial, but only a small part of what’s possible. It’s well within your power to deliver curated content to those with whom it will have the biggest impact.

Within reasonable limits, personalised messaging for particular segments of supporters is significantly more effective than the more generic scattergun approach. By integrating with a CRM, you’ll easily be able to insert names, job titles, locations, past causes supported, donation amounts – any information you have on supporters, you can leverage it here.

Just make sure you’re still compliant with GDPR!

Create emails which catch attention – and keep it

Generic emails are the enemy of conversion. The amount of genuine personality in today’s communications, from companies and nonprofits alike, would astound a marketer from 25 years ago. In the world of email marketing, you need to stand out.

The best email campaigns are targeted (as we’ve discussed), creative, and thoughtful (as we will discuss). So you need to get creative, too:

  • Embed photos, videos, GIFs, or any multimedia which catches the eye.
  • Tell genuine stories about what your charity is accomplishing because of the reader’s generous donations.
  • Experiment with bold colours, emotive statements, minimal text. Get funky with your design!
  • Invent subject lines which will make people pause, or think, or get just curious enough to open your email ahead of the rest of their inbox.
  • Be bold: if you’re looking for donations, don’t beat about the bush. Find engaging and impactful ways to ask for support.
  • The only really wrong answer in email marketing is to do exactly what everyone else is doing. That, and not being donor-centric…

Be donor-centric

Donors don’t care about you: they care about how their money will contribute to your cause and impact the world.

If you’re an animal charity, supporters want to see, hear, and feel how their donations have affected the lives or wellbeing of animals. They want the pride and joy of knowing that they are making a difference.

So when you find yourself talking about your growth or success in the past year, get out your red pen and start talking about the donor’s success. Here’s a quick “donor-centric” checklist:

  • Read the email: how often are the words “We, Our, & Us” used versus “You and Your” used?
  • Is the email personalised?
  • Does the opening paragraph immediately resonate with the reader?
  • Do you mention the significance of previous donations in your email?

According to a 2016 AFP study, only 46% of donors have given to the same organisation two years in a row. Make sure you’re in the 54%.

Incentivise further engagement

Your emails are never standalone pieces of content. You’re always linking to that volunteering page, or this fundraising event, or that donation button. At least, you should be!

It’s important to use your emails to nudge readers down further paths. When you’ve got things going on, show them off!

This continuous engagement reminds supporters why they got involved with your cause in the first place. It brings supporters in and gets them involved – even passively – in your charity, and makes them more likely to donate to and support your cause going forward.

A monthly newsletter with content people really care about is a great way to build an emotional connection to your brand.

Don’t spam your supporters

This last part is crucial: be very particular about how often you email your supporters. There are two universal reactions to emails which pepper our inboxes too often: delete and unsubscribe.

A survey by Bloomerang suggested that as many as 53% of donors cited “bad communications” as the main reason they stopped supporting charities. Only send mails when you have something valuable to share, and use your segmentation to avoid hammering everyone’s inbox with the same content.

On a related note, it could be worth doing some A/B testing to try and figure out: 1) The best day/time to message your supporters, and 2) The most effective subject lines for certain types of email. Giving them opportunities to choose what they want to receive and when (for example, through a preference center) is another possibility.

If you can make recipients think “Ooooh” – rather than “Eurghhh” – when your email pops into their inbox, you’re giving yourself a great chance of growing that relationship into something stronger!

Ready for more email marketing tips?

Platypus Digital and JustGiving have partnered to show you what the foundations of a great email strategy are – register to watch our on-demand webinar.

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Matt Collins is managing director at digital marketing agency, Platypus Digital, and tweets @charitychap