This is the Most Rewarding Nonprofit Fundraising Idea

By Terri Harel
Reading Time: 5 minutes

You might expect your campaign theme to be the driving force behind your campaign’s success. And while a creative campaign is important, the actual execution of a campaign is what matters most. Even the most innovative and unique fundraising idea you can dream up will fail if it isn’t smartly executed.

To execute smart, you need to carefully consider who in your audience will care most about this campaign and how you’ll appeal to them.

In this post, we’ll be talking about one of the most important and rewarding email marketing practices – list segmentation. List segmentation is all about increasing relevance for your recipients and reducing annoyance. When you create hyper-targeted messages for specific lists of people, you’re improving your chance of engagement, from open rates to social sharing to clicking through and making that donation.

1. Even if You Regularly Segment, Start Over

Killer fundraising campaigns allow you to run your vital programs year-round, so don’t cut corners in the planning process just to save time or hassle. You’ll pay for it come campaign time. Go through your contacts and determine special segments specifically for the campaign in question. Don’t try to reuse segments from previous campaigns, because past campaigns may have had very different goals and messaging.

Don’t risk ending up in the trashcan or, worse, unsubscribed!

2. Guaranteed, You Haven’t Segmented Enough

Segmenting can really take a lot of thought and work. Like planning any other part of your campaign, your lists will probably have to go through several revisions and be the subject of a couple team meetings.

Try working backwards. Oftentimes we think about lists as organizing people by how relevant we think information will be to them. However, it might be both easier and more productive to think about what absolutely won’t interest them.

Think about that question people would ask you right out of college: “So, what do you want to do with your life?” Mostly, we go through life without much certainty about what we want to do. Wants tend to vary more erratically and we can often find them in flux. It is much easier to identify what you don’t want to do.

The same goes for emails. Based on a segment’s rules, you’ll have an easier time understanding what they’re not interesting in doing. (For example, $5 donors probably aren’t interested in an appeal to donate $200. Or blog subscribers probably aren’t ready to be part of your membership club if they’ve never even donated before.)

Some list segmentation ideas:

• Blog or newsletter subscribers who have never donated before

• Campaign they’ve given to – this allows you to speak directly to the impact they’ve had on your organization in the past

• Donation amount

• Frequency of donations – don’t be shy. Include your monthly recurring donors or “club” members in your campaign

• Social media actors – someone in your list who is a social media power user who interacts with you often can be a huge asset in spreading the word about your campaign and your organization as a whole. Be sure to thank them for spreading the word and include prominent social share buttons on this email or on their specific donation page.

• Family and friends – send a special family and friends email

• Corporate sponsors – “A special thank you note for our friends at Company X!” Who doesn’t love a special callout?

• Volunteers

A couple tidbits of helpful trend reporting from Guidestar:

Rise of Boomers as Donors (And Rise of Millennials as Donors)

Remember that different demographics communicate differently from one another. The easiest identifier in this regard is probably age. Read emails from your parents versus emails from your children (or friends, siblings or coworkers). Try to tailor the tone of your message and asks along these lines.

If your organization employees staff members of various age groups, try getting several of them to write up your emails’ first drafts. You can have a copyeditor or writer go back and cleanup for grammar and diction.

Major Donors Who Volunteer Give Much, Much More

Major donors who also volunteer lots of time to your organization they must sit in a separate category. Let’s take a look at this excerpt from a 2010 article on the wealthy and charitable giving. According to an academic study by Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy:

“Wealthy people who volunteered also gave significantly more than those who did not in 2009. Those who did not volunteer gave an average of $46,414; those who volunteered more than 200 hours gave $75,662.”

Wow. That’s a huge disparity. While you’re likely reach out to these donors in person and not just by email, it’s worth segmenting them so you provide content that speaks to both their contributions of time and money.

3. It’s Email Subject Line Time

To be honest, I’m petrified of email subject lines. You spend all this time writing an amazing email, with a perfect blog post and you can ruin it all in 6 poorly chosen words. The truth is that it takes a ton of practice.

Copyblogger writer Brian Clark recounts advertiser David Ogilvy’s commitment to headlines. He wrote product catch phrases over and over again, obsessively, until he found the right one. While staff at LiNK, a nonprofit organization highlighting the struggle of the North Korean people, may not write as many subject lines as Rolls Royce’s creative director, they’ve also told us subject line splurging is a secret to their email marketing success.

Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. If no one opens your email, then no one will read your beautiful copy, click your perfect CTA, read your inspiring constituent story or, tragically, reach your compelling donation page and make that donation. Write 20 subject lines out per list and then decide which one feels right. (Or, if you want to get really technical about it, you can test them out! More on this below).

Copyblogger suggests following these tips for effective subject lines:

  • Useful (provide value – content like videos, infographics about your cause sector, interactive stories are great)
  • Ultra-specific (perfect for your ultra-segmented lists!)
  • Unique (the donor’s specific, unique impact on your campaign’s goal)
  • Urgent (perfect for a time-based campaign like the holidays!)

    4. Don’t Copy/Paste: Unique Messages Only

    Make sure your message:

    1. Contains the content your subject line promised
    2. Is specific to the list’s interest
    3. Has a unique call to action that will motivate a person on this list to act now

    Overall, donors are beginning to trust nonprofits and other perceived financial institutions again, a fortunate turn of events attributed to a slow, but steady, economic turnaround. Keep up the faith by demonstrating how donations are really an investment in social good. In other words, your organization’s programs are impactful enough to warrant support in the past, today and in the future.

    TIP: No need to make it the main attraction in your email, but provide a link to your yearly impact report or financials report so supporters can get a deeper understanding of where their money goes and your mission’s progress thanks to those donations.

    TIP: Keep it positive. Who doesn’t love to dream big? People want to be optimistic, imaginative and engaged with the future especially when it comes to making a difference. Capture the big picture of your campaign and what the success of it will achieve for your constituents and programs.

    5. Test It Out

    Before you send out emails to the entirety of each segment, choose small test groups and see what their response rates are. While, yes, the group may seem too small to seem statistically significant, you can at least get an idea of its effectiveness. If you’re not getting a single open or clickthrough, you might want to revisit your messaging – especially if this is the case from a segment you expect is pretty dedicated to your cause, like monthly recurring donors or volunteers.

    The Power of Segmentation

    Segmenting allows your organization to be personal without typing every single supporter an email. The power of segmentation lies in enabling communication that feels significantly personalized. You can tell a group of supporters exactly what impact they’ve made on your cause and recognize how important they are to the progress of your mission. If you’re not segmenting your email lists, you’re likely missing out the kind of connection that keeps donors more engaged with your organization, for the long-haul.

    Give Donors the Welcome They Deserve

    nonprofit welcome emails

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