Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing channels that nonprofits have at their disposal.
According to research, the amount of revenue generated by nonprofits through email marketing continues to grow. In 2017, email donations increased by a strong 23%!
At the same time, our supporters are more bombarded with email than ever before.
As a result email open rates and click through rates (CTR), have dropped dramatically over the last 5 years. According to the MailChimp benchmark report, the average email open rate for nonprofit is only 24.11%.
The same report shows that the average email click through rate is just 2.57%.
This blows my mind!
To put it another way, 97.43% of people on your list will not take action when you send them an email. Ouch!
The good news is there are specific strategies to overcome these problems.
What is a Click Through Rate (CTR)?
Measuring your marketing efforts is the most important thing you can do in order to get better and more efficient.
Click through rate, is one of the most important things to be measuring.
Put simply, if you send an email to 100 people, and 10 people click on a link in that email, you will have a Click Through Rate, or CTR, of 10%.
Why is Click Through Rate so important?
To understand the importance of CTR, let’s look a fictious example.
Let’s say our nonprofit is looking to raise a $10,000 online.
If you send an email to 2,000 supporters and you get a CTR of 5%, 100 people will donate as a result of that email. Let’s assume that everyone that clicks also donates (this is not usually the case and an effective donation page has a huge influence on this, but for the sake of example, we’ll keep it simple...).
For this example, each user donates $50.
This campaign would gross $5,000.
Now, let’s say that same email campaign, was able to achieve a CTR of 10% instead of 5%. This time 200 people donate. Again, or average donation is $50.
This time we met our goals of $10,000.
We doubled our revenue by simply increasing our CTR.
So, you can now see why as marketers and fundraisers we should be so focused on our CTR.
Use Email List Segmentation to Increase CTR
So, you've built a email marketing list for your nonprofit. But, how do you get people to take action?
The most powerful lever that you have as a marketer to drive action is your understanding of your audience.
Most nonprofits have several distinct personas that they are speaking to. Each persona, or audience has a motivation, or topic of interest that originally brought them to your organization.
You need to know what that motivation is, and leverage it in your email marketing.
How do you do this?
There are several ways.
First, it’s important to capture their motivation when they initially sign-up for your email list. You can use email marketing automation to capture this information, or use checkboxes on your sign-up form to capture this.
Second, you could use stakeholder interviews or surveys to help generate supporter profiles.
Once you capture this information, use it to segment your email lists based on those motivations or interests.
Most Email Service Providers (ESP's) or CRM’s will allow you to tag your constituents with this information.
Once segmented, use this knowledge to your advantage.
If you know a donor is motivated by your work saving the polar bears, frame your email to them using that motivation.
If you can identify several different areas to segment your donors, then use those segments to develop your email campaigns, your CTR will increase dramatically.
The Secret Sauce to Crafting Better Email Subject Lines
Your first battle in email marketing is to get the user to open the email. If they open your email, then they're one step closer to clicking on your email content.
It sounds simple, but it’s not as simple as you think.
As we said at the beginning, nonprofit industry average for email open rates is just 24.11%.
Here are a few tips to constructing a better subject line to beat that average.
Mystery – Don’t give it all away up front. Leave the user wanting to know more. For example:
“A Special Offer Awaits You!”
“Your Next Opportunity is Here!”
Utility – Email can be an escape or quick win for people as much as it is a necessity. Make the email something that can help the user with their day. For example:
“A Quick Win for You Today!”
“We Can Help You Do More”
Use “You” – Make it personal. Especially in today’s world, making your message personal gets a much better response. As often as possible use “You” in the subject line. For example:
“An Idea for You”
“A Gift For You”
Time – Research has shown that anything that uses time reference is going to inherently increase open rates. It doesn’t necessarily have to be “today” or “tomorrow.” You can also use days of the week. For example:
“This Sunday Things Will Change for You”
“What’s Special About Today?”
Avoid Opportunistic Tone – People don’t like to feel hustled. You may need to test the boundaries on this as it is a fine line, but you want to sound authentic and natural. So, for instance:
“Time is Running Out” (NO)
“It’s Important That We Remember…” (YES!)
There is a fine line here, but it’s important to get this right. You can put supporters off quickly if you sound pushy or like we’re hustling them.
Tips to Write Compelling Email Content to Improve CTR
Once you've got your audience to open the email, how do we improve the clicks? Here are a few tactics.
Leave a Little Mystery - Don't tell the user the entire story. Leave something that they need to click through to find out more.
If you're showcasing how one of your programs changed a client's life, setup the problem they face, but don't reveal the struggle to victory. Use the copy, or better yet video, on your website to tell the rest of the story.
Users are more likely to click through if they don't have all of the information yet. Make them want to click through!
Keep Your Copy Focused - Don't write a novel. People today are distracted (squirrel!), and they don't have a lot of time. Keep the email copy to no more than 3 paragraphs. And, a paragraph should be 2-3 short sentences max.
Focus on Audience Motivations - We mentioned that segmentation is a powerful tool. Make sure you're using your understanding of users to craft copy that specific to them. Don't send the same email to your entire list. Segment your list by motivation, and craft your copy based around this.
For instance, if you have a program that saves the polar bears, and you have a donor segment that love polar bears, send them an email with copy specific to your polar bear program, not your marsh restoration program.
Makes sense, right?
Use Buttons for Call To Actions - Most ESP's provide an option in their editing interface to add call to action buttons in your copy. There's a reason for this. They're WAY more effective in driving action.
According to a test that CampaignMonitor performed, they increased their email click-through-rate by 127% by including a button at the bottom of one of their emails. Wow!
A/B Testing Emails
Build. Test. Measure. Repeat.
If you’re not testing your marketing content, you’ll never get better.
Most Email Service Providers (ESP’s) have the capability to A/B test your email content. This could be the subject line, content, or “from” field.
If you’re not using this, you need to be.
No one knows your audiences better than you. So, being able to test subject lines and email content will continue to improve your open rates and CTR over time.
Once you’re committed to testing you’ll be amazed what you can learn.
During each campaign, take time to think about what strategy you’re going to leverage in your email – think about what we talked about in the subject line section.
Be intentional about your subject line and content.
Make sure that you record the subject lines and content that you’ve used on emails over time. Then record your open rates, and CTR’s for each campaign.
After 8-10 campaigns you’re going to start seeing trends based on what type of content performs better.
Use that information to continue to improve your content.
Over time, you’ll be amazed to see how your online fundraising and email campaign improve.
Now Take Your Email Marketing to the next level…
Want to continue to get better with email marketing. Here are a few additional resources: