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Posts Tagged ‘ASPCA’

Please Listen To All of the Following Options…

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

While technology has made many aspects of our lives easier, one only need hear a voice mail menu to know it isn’t always beneficial.  Forcing someone to listen to endless recorded options truly renders customer service a contradiction in terms.

Many email marketing strategies are set up in a similar fashion as well:  Rather than considering what is best and most efficient for the customer, the company constructs all parameters from its perspective, putting much more work on the shoulders of the customer.  (“…if you want to speak to someone directly, wait on the line…”)

To begin with, care must be taken not only with the subject line, but also with the sender name.  Some nonprofits still opt for using strictly an organizational name, while others choose to add a more personal touch and include an individual’s name along with the organization.  Being generic is less advisable if you want to get your email opened.

Upon further investigation, however, we see that the “name” attached to an email may not reflect the true identity found in the actual email address.  If someone reading the message chose to hit the [Reply] button, often times, they find themselves relegated to a generic mailing list or information box.  Too often these days, one is even incapable of replying to the communication sent, since embedded in the address itself is some form of the text, “do-not-reply.”

In today’s world of social media where two-way communication is the expected norm, addressing an email from a “do not reply” sender is tantamount to saying, “If you have something to tell me, I really don’t care . . . It’s my way or the highway.”

Adding photos to your email is a nice touch, but consider how your message will be viewed by screens that can’t see pictures, or otherwise block images.  Also keep in mind that various screens are looking at your email.  How does it look in a preview pane?  On a pad?  On a handheld?  Be sure you test several versions, and have text embedded behind your photos.

In addition to making emails more inviting to open and reply to, other mechanics that many nonprofits often fail to consider is updating a subscription.  It’s shortsighted to offer only the option of unsubscribing to the organization’s email.

Tiffany* had been subscribing to various trade publications at her office, but they got to be too many and interfered with her ability to see her work emails in a timely fashion.  She decided to create a separate email account, designated just for these subscriptions and move them over to that.

What she discovered was that it was very difficult, in most cases, to change her email subscriptions.  In most cases, they didn’t offer an update option – only unsubscribe.  If she wanted to receive all of the same publications in her new email account, she’d have to unsubscribe from each of them, then open a web browser, find the company, and subscribe all over again with the new email account . . . very often entering her name, company, etc. information as well!

This affected how many subscriptions Tiffany actually retained, and she dropped nearly half of them, keeping only the ones that she deemed were worth enduring the laborious process of resubscribing.  Had they simply given her a shorter process, incorporated within the current system, she most likely would have kept them all.

For your year-end email campaigns, when you take time to craft your message, consider the other components of the email as well.  The mechanics of how it is viewed – from beginning to end – help determine how well received it is, in addition to its content.

Everyone has a full email inbox these days, so the nonprofit that takes extra steps to tighten these loose ends will stand out in the crowd.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

Similar posts

What’s The Bottom Line?

Make Donating To Your Cause Easy and Meaningful

Why Recurring Giving Is So Important

Are You Making the Most of Email?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

There are now many more tools in the toolbox when it comes to contacting constituents, but email is still a valuable one – and definitely one of the most profitable in terms of ROI when soliciting, as well as newsletters, updates, etc.

Some nonprofits have better luck than others raising funds or engaging their followers online, however.  Further scrutiny into their methodologies, combined with available research on the topic, often yields insight which demonstrates that various changes in campaign strategies can bolster – sometimes significantly – online income.

First, remember that email is a more personal and less formal way of communicating than direct mail.  While your language may not be exactly slang, it shouldn’t read like an engraved invitation that comes in the mail, either.  Although your type of communication always depends upon your organization and audience, most people feel comfortable being addressed by their first name in an email.  Other nonprofits leave off the “Dear Curtis” and any signature at all and simply write the message, recognizing the need and expectation that this is a casual mode of communication.

A disturbing trend these days is the automation of so many email systems to the point that the [From] name is listed as [NoReply@nonprofit.org].  (click to enlarge) Nothing screams “form letter” louder than this!  Not only has this sender name guaranteed a lower open and readership rate, but regardless of how much effort you have put into carefully crafting your personal message, many recipients will have concluded that your organization doesn’t really care, since it couldn’t bother to have an actual person send it . . . or receive a reply.  Nearly the same conclusion is reached for the similar email sent by one person, who opens with “From the desk of [important person].”  This translates as, “You weren’t significant enough for me to take the time to write to you myself, but won’t you send us money?”

Brevity is essential.  Indeed, tweets and texting make emails look too lengthy these days, so get to the point as quickly as possible.  Embedded links are ideal for providing additional documentation, videos, registration forms, etc., but yammering on is the quickest way to drive a recipient to the [delete] button.

For an enewsletter, not only are more of your articles likely to get read if each of them has a short summary, followed by a link to read it in full, but your analytics will then show which of the articles was more often read in full.  If each article is completely written out, the amount of scrolling required to get the final few will result in them being read less often, due to positioning rather than content, leaving you with tainted data.

When embedding hyperlinks in various email communications, take care to link significant text, rather than something obvious yet meaningless, such as “click here.”  Soon, your entire email can become riddled with them, rendering it more confusing than helpful.

Using photos in emails can help to sell your point even further, but don’t assume that everyone can view the pictures you’ve inserted.  To make sure that both sets of recipients receive your overall message, be certain that photos are only part of the message rather than the entire email.  Also, since many people view emails in a preview pane, test yours prior to sending:  Can you see any text in the preview pane, without opening it entirely?  Another important precaution when using pictures is to place text behind the picture, so that it will appear when the photo doesn’t.

Many organizations are tracking how many visitors come to their site via mobile and creating a different layout that adjusts for that viewing.  How does your email look when viewed on a handheld device?  Is it any better when in a landscape position?  Do you test sending and receiving emails to different email clients and devices prior to sending?

Would you change your text, links or [Donate] button if you viewed your email on a handheld?

Another way to help ensure deliverability is to check your spam score.  Certain words – and even punctuation – used in the body of the email, or subject line, will increase your score and get your message deleted from various filters.  Test your message first for any red flags and boost your number of emails received.

Finally, keep your subscription list as accurate as possible (and in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act) by adding a footer to each and every email that asks the recipient about the validity of their subscription.  Go a step further than providing an [unsubscribe] link, however, and you’ll retain more people than you otherwise would.

Too many nonprofits only offer [unsubscribe] as an option and don’t consider the portion of their constituency that are changing jobs, or simply wish to receive messages at a different email address.  The better option to offer is [update my subscription].

When the constituent selects this option, s/he can choose [unsubscribe], but if they simply wish to change to a different email, this can still be done in one step.  If your form collects additional information, such as title, phone, etc., this can also be done in the same place.  Later, if your organization sends multiple newsletters or communications, the subscription form can be segmented:  Perhaps I wish to subscribe to the food pantry enewsletter, but not the “Meals on Wheels” enewsletter, and I also want to mark myself “Do Not Solicit by phone.”

If I can do this and update my email in one step, I’m more likely to provide my preferences and stay connected.  On the other hand, if I only have the option of [unsubscribe] with this email, then I have to go the home page and sign up all over again with a new email and enter my various preferences . . . I’m more likely to remove myself altogether and be done with it.

When viewing details such as these, it becomes clearer how paying more attention – or not – to individuals’ needs and preferences can make a significant difference with email marketing.  Some studies have said that email doesn’t yet have the return that direct mail does, but I would counter that most nonprofits spend much more time and effort, catering to the specific demands of the donor when soliciting by mail.

I daresay that when the same painstaking detail is invested into email campaigns, as well as follow through, we will see the industry as a whole yield a significant rise in email income and overall engagement.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

Similar Posts:

What’s The Bottom Line?

Make Donating To Your Cause Easy and Meaningful

Why Recurring Giving Is So Important

Stone Soup – What’s YOUR Recipe?

Monday, October 11th, 2010

There are many versions of the story of Stone Soup, but most people have heard one or another. The point, of course, is that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. I tend to view all of the soup ingredients as the various aspects needed for a good “Annual Giving recipe” these days.

While one could certainly make a meal out of a basic chicken broth and noodles (e.g., a couple of direct mail pieces and an occasional phone call), that really isn’t a very fancy “soup,” when you consider the plethora of ingredients available on the market these days: email, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, video, text messaging, and so on.

Although not every non profit is equipped to do as much as the next, this year-end giving season is the perfect time to seize the opportunity to learn and do more with your Annual Giving plan. Particularly with projections looking less favorable for donors to increase their giving, non profits will need to find new and creative ways to compensate.

Several organizations have already seen their increased social media efforts pay off – many of them in substantial ways, either with publicity efforts, volunteer support, or outright fund raising.

Recent studies released show results not only how much the four most frequently used social media sites are being used by various age groups, but also additional details on their frequency of using social media, texting and much more. It’s clear that, while the Millennials are the technology leaders, they are by no means the only demographic consuming social media, videos or using their cell phones for internet or texting.

It’s important to take notes from other successful sites and see what you can do at this time.  One such organization is the ASPCA.  While your site may not be as sophisticated as theirs, it’s worth viewing the wide variety of social media interfaces on their Get Involved page and general Online Activism center.   For example, perhaps you could provide instructional videos or PSAs about your mission or services – or, conversely, you might invite your constituents to submit their own videos about how they are involved in lobbying, serving, or otherwise supporting your cause.

Whichever segment(s) you choose to add or modify to your campaign, though, it’s important to track and/or segment what you do. Keeping up with industry research is vital to planning, but tracking the reality of how your organization’s data actually performs is crucial to your follow up. In many cases, it will follow industry standards, but not always. It pays to prepare your data ahead of time.

It will depend on the parameters of your data, but several segments that many organizations typically segment and measure may include current donors, LYBUNTs, SYBUNTs, lapsed, lower-level, mid-level, upper-level (however this is defined at your organization), and also perhaps certain membership levels (duration, geography, age range, etc.).

Additional tests are useful, such as days of the week for electronic communications, as well as various wording of subject lines or calls to action. For direct mail, testing results take longer to receive, but are worth doing to continuously improve results. These include letter length, enclosures, envelope design, size, etc.

If you believe that campaigning in social media is going to be too difficult to accomplish in your organization because of persuading those in charge, one way to broach the subject may be to suggest testing. Try Group A with what you have typically done with your campaign, but supplement Group B with a social media conversation about what you are doing, and why donations are so meaningful, what will be accomplished (that is meaningful to them), etc.

Just as Boomers have come to the social media party late – but they have finally arrivedso, too, it would seem have many executives. A great deal more are beginning to realize the value of social media. They have even become participants in larger numbers recently. Some still have their concerns, of course, so tracking and proof can help to alleviate such anxieties.

Just as in the story of Stone Soup, the more buy-in you can get for adding additional ingredients, the better the final product will be.
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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

Dealing with the Facebook-phobic boss

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

This is a good article on how to help guide the “technologically-impaired” into today’s social networking world.

I would add to #5 & #6, though, that it needs to be emphasized that this is similar to an acquisition project:  it has to be treated as an investment.  That is, it will pay off over time.  Otherwise, when immediate returns aren’t realized, it’s too easily deemed a “failure.”  This also sets it up as something worth investing in, rather than having it dumped on an intern as a “spare time” project.  Garbage in, garbage out.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of an organization that will engage a constituent – regardless of her social network of choice – is the ASPCA .  Whatever you’re into, they will engage you!  This obviously took time, effort and follow-through on their part to accomplish this…not “spare time.”  Clearly, they’ve had a tremendous response to their efforts.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

Why social media is important for nonprofits

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Often, the most difficult part of starting something new is convincing the powers that be that it’s necessary to take that step at the organization.  This article by Amy Sutherland, Why every nonprofit needs a social media strategy, might be helpful as a backup document, demonstrating that

1.      Social media is here to stay.
2.      It’s too important to have it managed by “an intern” or “volunteer on the side” and needs to have real resources devoted to it, as an integrated part of the overall strategy of the organization.
3.      While the payoff won’t yield a zillion dollars in the first six months, it WILL pay off over time, in many ways, including a deeper level of “followers” who know – or want to know – about your organization and what it does/is doing, not to mention become an “evangelist” on your behalf.  This has to be viewed much the same way as investing in acquisition.

Social networking can be a very effective tool for more than the Obama campaign, and there are examples below of some non profits that are using it very well.  Another one that comes to mind is the ASPCA .

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