Using Email Segmentation to Drive Your Fundraising Campaign

By Sean Chisholm
Reading Time: 6 minutes

The days when mass emails could be relied upon to effectively engage a diverse audience of readers are long gone. The fact is that people get more emails now than they ever have before. And they want messages that are relevant to them, not generic communications. As a result of this trend, marketers have been increasingly looking for ways to deliver more personalized emails. And the most common device that they have fixed upon to accomplish this goal is email segmentation.

Email segmentation really isn’t anything that complex. It just means breaking up a bigger list of emails into smaller sub-lists so you can deliver more targeted messages. Marketers use all sorts of different criteria to break up their contact lists—everything from geography, to job role, to amount donated, and on and on. Regardless of how you divvy up your list though, the main objective is always the same– delivering more engaging emails.

Hubspot has previously reported on some of the findings from the Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, which highlights the powerful benefits that email segmentation can deliver. In particular, they noted that “39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue.” For nonprofits that use email in their fundraising, these are statistics that should not be ignored.

And many nonprofit professionals are already taking heed of this trend. But even though email segmentation has gained wider traction among nonprofits, there is still one area where the practice is consistently underutilized. All too often, nonprofits send the same email communications to all of the fundraisers that they recruit through their online campaigns. If they would just spend a little time doing some basic email segmenting instead, they’d set themselves up to raise a lot more money.

Below are three simple ways you can segment your fundraisers to help you deliver more targeted messages and increase the returns from your next online fundraising campaign:

1. Getting Inactive Fundraisers Off the Sidelines

You should start by segmenting out your inactive fundraisers from your main list. These are fundraisers that create a personal fundraising page, but fail to raise at least one dollar. In a way, these folks represent your greatest chance to increase the revenue generated from your campaign. You know that they had enough interest to create a fundraising page in the first place, but for one reason or another they haven’t followed through. You’ve gotten through the hardest part (getting them to create the page); now you just have to get them going. By separating them out, you can send them email messages that are targeted towards getting them to start fundraising.

email segmentation for fundraising campaigns timeline
In general, any fundraising campaign will go through three main phases. The first week or two will be spent recruiting fundraisers, the large middle portion of the campaign will be spent engaging the fundraisers you’ve recruited, and the last couple weeks will be spent pushing for a big finish. To make sure you activate as many fundraisers as possible, you will want to start sending targeted emails to your inactive fundraisers right around the end of your recruitment period. If you wait too long to reach out, the original momentum that caused these people to create pages will fade and your reengagement emails will fall flat.

Types of Emails to Send to Inactive Fundraisers

  • The Preemptive Thank You. Consider sending an email to your inactive fundraisers thanking them for their commitment to raising money for your organization and highlighting an individual story of the impact their fundraising will make. Basically the idea is to create a dialogue that assumes that they will start fundraising and thanks them ahead of time. This creates a bit of moral pressure that can help spur inactive fundraisers to take action.
  • Personal Words of Encouragement. Another email you might consider sending is a simple personal message from a staff member encouraging your inactive fundraisers to get started. Let them know that you have people there to help if they need it. You can even send them helpful fundraising tips that will empower them to move forward.

2. Keeping The Ball Rolling With Active Fundraisers

Next you’ll want to segment out your active fundraisers. Active fundraisers are supporters that have created a fundraising page and raised at least one dollar. Since you know that members of this group have enough motivation to at least get started, your messaging should be tailored towards keeping them engaged. You need to send them emails that will maximize the chances that they will continue to follow through over the course of the fundraising campaign.

To do this, you will want to send out emails that are designed to keep inspiration and motivation high throughout the engagement portion of the campaign. Generally speaking, we suggest sending at least one email per week to active fundraisers throughout the course of your campaign. The key is sending different types of emails, so you avoid being redundant and you make sure you are sending messages that people will actually want to open and read.

Types of Emails to Send Active Fundraisers

  • The Campaign Update. Consider sending out a few emails that are pure updates on how the campaign is going. What percentage of your goal has been reached? How much has the average fundraiser raised? These types of emails keep participants plugged into the progress you are making and they create feedback loops for fundraisers that have fallen behind the average performance (creating subtle peer-pressure to do better moving forward).
  • The Inspirational Anecdote. To keep your fundraisers inspired throughout the campaign, send out emails that highlight the personal impact of your programs. Showcase individual stories of lives that have been changed by your organization’s work. Then connect this impact to the fundraising that your campaign participants are engaged in. By letting your fundraisers know how their efforts make a difference, you will help everyone stay in touch with the true importance of the campaign.
  • The Incentive Announcement. Often times fundraising campaigns have different incentives for fundraisers that reach certain levels, or that raise the most in a given week, etc. You should keep at least a few of your incentives hidden until mid-campaign. That way you give yourself one or two opportunities throughout the engagement period or the final push to announce special new incentives that will keep up engagement among your active fundraisers.

Helping Your Power-Fundraisers Reach New Heights

Finally, you will want to separate out your power fundraisers. Power fundraisers, as the name implies, are individual fundraisers that go above and beyond to raise money for your organization. We’ve seen individuals raise anywhere from $5,000 to $60,000 for causes they support. These are exceptions to the norm, but every campaign will have at least a handful of high performers.

The specific dollar amount you use to separate out your power fundraisers from the rest of your active fundraisers will depend upon the unique circumstances of your  campaign. If you have a small group of people fundraising and the initial personal fundraising goal is low, you might choose a pretty modest amount (say a few hundred dollars). If you have lots of people fundraising for a higher goal, you might start with a thousand dollar or more. In any event, the important part is not the actual dollar value you use to distinguish your power fundraisers from the rest of the crowd; the most important point is that you separate out your highest performing fundraisers so you can communicate with them in a more individualized manner.

Types of Emails to Send Power Fundraisers

  • Fundraising Acknowledgements. You will definitely want to send out personal messages to each power fundraiser that comes in through your campaign. This type of message should be focused solely on saying thank you (not on asking for any additional help). If someone raises a ton of money for your cause, you want to cement a positive relationship with that person. Sending a  sincere note of thanks goes a long way toward making that happen (and ensuring your power fundraisers will come back for your next campaign).
  • Welcome to the Inner Circle. On top of pure thank you messages you should also consider challenging some of your power fundraisers. When someone goes way above and beyond to raise money for you, you can be pretty sure of two things. First, they are passionate about the cause. Second, they are motivated to help. They are leaders. Inviting some of them into the fold of the campaign to help recruit other fundraisers, spread your message online, etc. can help you extend the overall reach of your campaign.

With the right fundraising software, you should be able to easily divide your general list of fundraisers into these three subcategories. And by doing even this basic email segmentation, you will be able to deliver more targeted messages, which will ultimately help you maximize the value of your next fundraising campaign!

Photo Credit: Flickr User chesterfan1230

A Guide to Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Emails

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