Social media strategists (ok, not all) love to discount email in favor of, you guessed it - social media. They have deemed email a dying communications channel, which is absurd. Email lists and email marketing continue to grow, especially for the nonprofit sector where list size grew at least 14% in 2013, according to the 2014 eNonprofit Benchmark study.
Here’s just a few reasons why email still rules:
- People who take action on advocacy campaigns via email are 7x more likely to donate money to your organization.
- You have the most control of how you engage your audience. For example, who sees and responds to your message is not based on some proprietary social network's secret algorithms and you are not forced to pay a premium to target segments.
- There are good analytics for action, open, and click rates for email, so you can segment your list and move people up the ladder of engagement based on their level of commitment. With a good CRM you can capture a robust snapshot of your consituents - what are people taking action on, are these the same people signing up for lobby days or donating money? What specific issues are they interested in?
- You can leverage your email list to drive further action on other platforms. For example, on Facebook, you can use Facebook Custom Audiences to target your email list members and further engage them on your advocacy campaigns. You can test targeting a range of advocates – the most engaged people or try to re-engage those who stopped taking action via email. But you need a strong email list to support that kind of targeted social engagement.
- Email raises money. Outside of direct mail, email raises a lot more money than social media. Online giving increased 14% in 2013, mainly due to email communications. Monthly giving revenue grew 25% in 2013.
- The majority of nonprofits aren’t raising a dime on social media. And the amount of nonprofits that have raised $100K or more on social media is only about .07%.
While email still rules, there are some issues that I’m concerned about, but I think we can tackle them with thoughtful strategy. Battle of the inboxes and social media noise is competing for our constituents' attention. This has had an impact on email response rates, which declined about 25% in the nonprofit sector in 2013. I think that another contributing factor to the decline of email response rates is that people are getting bored with our messaging and they are not seeing enough impact. This means nonprofits need to spend more time and resources changing things up. Focus on developing messaging that really resonates with your supporters and their values.
What’s the best way to do this? Start by finding out the pain points that people have around the issues you are working on. What are the pain points people have with your organization? You will see common trends that you can address. Then begin testing different content to find out what connects with people more. Measure the response rates to see what worked and what clearly flopped. Many organizations are working on campaigns that will take years to win, so it’s critical to find creative and meaningful ways to keep constituents engaged and show them how their actions and support are generating impact even if it's incrementally.