Email marketing is a perfect weapon for non-profits when used wisely.
While for-profit companies benefit from direct product sales and bottom line results, non-profits can get a huge lift from their ability to send just-in-time and targeted news and appeals.
Before we dive in further, though, let’s identify the differences between a for-profit and a non-profit.
The obvious main goal of a for-profit is increasing the bottom line by increasing revenue and increasing margins. Yet, non-profits rarely sell things. Instead their revenues come from donations for which there’s no “brown box” coming in the mail.
Unlike a traditional business, there is not a tangible benefit to the consumers (without considering tax planning for now), and so non-profits have to rely much more on the emotional connection that their target audience shares with their cause.
An article in DMNews points out that one of the advantages is the speed of email. The non-profit world still relies on direct mail for the largest share of their fund-raising and donations, though web donations are growing fast.
And while it seems to work well for them, there is a dramatically longer time lag between when an event of importance happens, like a hurricane or wild-fire, and when the direct mail collateral can be designed, printed, mailed and delivered.
On the other hand, a single efficient email marketer can have an entire donation campaign ready to send within one hour, or even less of a disaster, and in a subscribers inbox within minutes of that.
The emotional impact of messaging with that kind of immediacy cannot be over-stated, and can drive donations and re-engage donors who haven’t given in a long period. The example from DMNews, DonorsChoose, saw a 40% open rate, a 10% conversion rate, and a significantly higher donation amount than their usual numbers.
Speed and immediacy has such a significant impact for non-profits, because of it’s overwhelming “relevancy” in the moment of a disaster.
When you drop any campaign that is targeted and timely, open rates, click throughs, and conversion rates climb.
Even politicians in Washington are doing it. Take a look at the political process today. No sooner does a debate end, than emails go out from the organizations of candidates attacking their opponents on a specific statement they literally just made, or lauding the candidate themselves for an exchange that they performed well in. These statements have the greatest impact, since the audience that was watching still remembers the media they just consumed. In other words, it’s relevant at that point and time, and that relevancy decays rapidly with each passing hour and day.
So while we may yet be a way from non-profits switching the majority of their direct marketing efforts to email, success stories like that of DonorsChoose and their response to the tornadoes of Joplin, MO are helping push them in the right direction. Non-profits generally follow behind traditional businesses in adopting new technology, but with the clear cost-effectiveness of email marketing, it isn’t a surprise that email marketers are increasing in the ranks of the non-profit sector.
Exploring and testing timing and relevancy in your marketing calendar can be beneficial, whether it’s for a non-profit or for-profit business. Get creative and don’t make every email an advanced process. Structure your email marketing to take advantage of “organized spontaneity” –and reap the rewards.