Convio has recently published its 2011 Non-Profit Benchmark Index Study and the findings shed considerable light on the state of association and organization email marketing in a difficult economy. 2010 Was a Rebound Year There is little doubt that non-profit associations and organizations are definitely in a rebound stage. In 2010, total fundraising was up by a staggering 40% over the (albeit slow) 2009 year and the median growth rate of online donations was an equally impressive 20 percent, compared to just 14% the previous year. Nearly four out of five, or 79%, of all non-profit associations and organizations raised more money in 2010 than in 2009. The only sectors that saw a relatively meager growth rate in the single digits were Public Broadcasting Stations, Association & Membership and Team Events. “Tiny but Mighty” Fundraisers Prevailed Countering conventional wisdom that non-profit associations and organizations are split up into “a dozen corporate factories and several thousand masochists,” fundraisers with a subscription base of fewer than 10,000 email addresses enjoyed a 26 percent increase in online donations, making these small organizations the fastest growing sector within the non-profit group. This factor seems to be particularly significant given that the median total email subscription list for non-profit fundraising associations and organizations grew by 22% in 2010 to reach an average of 48,700 email addresses. It can confidently be said that the trend in fundraising is definitely turning to favor the “tiny but mighty” sector of non-profits. The median donation size increased by more than 10 percent from $83.44 in 2009 to $91.94 in 2010, and fully 88% of all organizations witnessed an increase in the number of donations that they were able to gather as compared to the previous year. All of these heightened statistics may seem to indicate that email marketing efficiency is at an all-time high among non-profit fundraising associations and organizations, but paradoxically the opposite is found to be true in 2010. Website registration rates and email open rates both plummeted from the previous year! Open Rates Down but Click-Through Rates Up? Website registration rates are an essential conversion metric as it measures the rate at which the non-profit fundraising associations and organizations are able to convert visitors to their website to email newsletter subscribers. This critical statistic was 2.2 percent in 2009 yet dropped to just 2.0 percent in 2010, a drop of approximately 10%. The bad news continued in open rates as fundraising appeal opens were down to 17.6% in 2010 from 18.5% in 2009. Email newsletters fared just as badly, dropping from 20.4% in 2009 to 19.2% in 2010. The primary reason why this drop is so befuddling is that all other fundraising statistics seem to be up! The precise reasons why fewer people are registering for subscriptions and opening them once they receive the content, yet are donating so much more, must be left to the statisticians to ponder! Haiti Was a Primary Driver The primary reason may be that the click-through rates have increased from the previous year so that although fewer emails are being opened, more are being acted upon. Click-through rates increased 2.3% in 2010 and response rates also helped to offset the overall decline in email open rates by jumping up by 6.7%. Some experts attribute these anomalous statistics by pointing to the Haiti earthquake that occurred on January 12, 2010, thus impacting the entire calendar year’s results. Haiti relief was attributed for a significant uptick in overall aggregate fundraising with some statistics showing that it may have been responsible for up to a 63% greater donation level among major natural disaster appeals. It is obvious from this statistical survey data that email marketing is becoming more successful for non-profit fundraising associations and organizations, as once the constituent actually opens the email the response to the call to action is greater than in the previous year. The onus must now shift onto motivating supporters to open and read their emails more often, as this seems to be the key to greater fundraising success for your ongoing campaigns.
Even with gold above $1,500 per ounce, personal information on your supporters is worth more than its weight in that precious metal. Having access to a rich array of data on who your constituents are and what are their preferred ways to interact with your association or organization is not only a keystone to your entire email campaign strategy, but also the most effective way to compare your campaigns, identify trends and analyze what is working… and what is not. Your Constituents Want to Be Recognized as Special Recognizing the relationship that your supporter has been having with your organization in the most minute detail will provide you with an accurate conclusion as to the type of experience that they want with you in the future. Once you have a profound understanding of not only their current behavior but also their hopes and aspirations, you will be able to provide the specific targeted and thoroughly customized email content that will motivate them to the greatest degree. Your constituents have elevated expectations of your organization, thus they will not only expect but demand a personalized communication experience in each of their interactions with you. They don’t want to be just another faceless number to be endlessly milked for donations of time and money; they want to be recognized as special individuals who stand out among the overall group of supporters. Correlation of Demographic, Interest & Attitude Data Is Key This level of empathic information about your supporters does not come from simply collecting their name, birthday and email address, but can only be deduced from detailed information provided by them with regards to their demographics, interests and attitudes. Harnessing this invaluable data and correlating it to the behaviors that they have historically shown when interacting with your organization online will provide you with an advanced level of information that you can use to compose an accurate constituent profile. Once this critical profile is complete, the conclusion of compiling an email strategy that is custom tailored to the individual becomes a reasonably easy task. An Effective Survey Goes Beyond the Pedantic In order to garner this level of personal profile information, associations and organizations around the world utilize a variety of means. One of the most successful and popular ones is the application of an online survey. Within the questions found in your survey lie the possibilities to craft gateways to the most extended levels of individual attitude and interest determinations available to any organization. A truly effective survey goes beyond the unimaginatively pedantic and into the explorations of what your constituents truly feel, desire, expect and hope for through their interaction with your organization. These types of questions will result in the precise kinds of answers that can be translated into clear and applicable solutions to your email campaign segmentation and customization strategies. Trackable Links Allow the Capture of Critical Behavioral Data Once your survey answers have provided a thorough insight into your supporter, you are now ready to layer an additional dimension of understanding through the analysis of the data capturing their behavior as they interact with your website. Trackable links embedded into the website’s content will flag the presence of any of your visitors and allow you to determine their specific interests. If your organization is involved in wildlife issues and a particular constituent who has signed up for your African Savannah appeal is spending an inordinate amount of time on your Humpback Whale pages, it indicates that they are prime candidates to support your Marine Mammal cause. Providing that individual with a way to get involved in another aspect of your organization can expand their commitment to your causes. Applying survey and behavior data to your email strategy will allow your supporters to feel you are “reading their minds” when it comes to the types of interactions they wish to have with your organization. This form of special and fully customized email communication is a method that has proven successful in increasing your email metrics across the board, and is the best way to truly engage your constituents.