With the close of 2020 fast approaching, end-of-year appeal planning is in full swing. This is a critical fundraising period for many organizations as donors contribute 34% of all giving at the end of the year. One of the most readily available appeal tools is also one of the most cost-effective, email marketing. Sending email appeals at the end of the year is a great way to reach your donors but, as we all know, companies cram inboxes with a LOT of email offers, sales, greetings, etc. around the holiday season. So how do you make sure your email doesn’t get lost among the thousands of other emails vying for your donor’s attention? Segment your email lists. Segmentation is key to a successful email campaign and provides the best chances of boosting your year-end appeal results.
While email appeals offer a great return on investment ($40 received for every $1 spent) the fact remains that emails have a low conversion rate. On a daily basis, people receive an average of 121 emails, and email servers mark 45% of them as spam. That doesn’t mean email campaigns aren’t worth your time though. Studies have proven that segmentation helps these numbers significantly. A recent study conducted by MailChimp monitored 11,000 segmented email campaigns. Segmentation increased click-through rates by 65% and open rates by 14%! This technique also decreased unsubscribe rates by 9%. So let’s look at some options for segmentation and then focus on what aspects of the email you can tailor for each group.
Better Lists = Better Results
- Segment by Recency, Frequency, and Gift Amount
- Single Out Your Monthly Donors
- Speak to Your Volunteer and Interest Groups
- Customize Your Email Appeals
- Email Senders Make a Difference
- Subject Lines Sway Donors
- Call Your Donor to Action
- Schedule Your Email at the Right Time
Step 1: Segment by Recency, Frequency, and Gift Amount
One reliable and often used method for dividing your donors is grouping them by three data points: Recency (How recent was their last gift), Frequency (How often do they make a donation) and Monetary Value (How large of a gift have they given to your organization). These three data points are a great place to start, and each metric can have multiple groupings of people you want to email to. For example, if you want to segment your donors based on monetary value each group you email to can have different suggested gift amounts. You can send larger suggested gift amounts to those donors that have already made large contributions. These gift suggestions may be too substantial for donors who typically make smaller donations, so they can receive a separate email with lower suggested donation amounts. Alternatively, you can consider sending them a request to become a monthly donor.
Step 2: Single Out Your Monthly Donors
Monthly donors are unique members of your organization and should be targeted as such. These are loyal donors who provide sustaining revenue to your mission. It’s important that you carefully cultivate your relationship with them. While these donors give every month of the year, that doesn’t mean you need to leave them out of your year-end appeal. This segment of supporters cares deeply about your cause, and they want to help. When writing your email message to this group, specifics are very important. Answer these two questions for your donor:
- What is this appeal helping to fund?
- Why do you need the funds now?
Step 3: Speak to Your Volunteer and Interest Groups
All of your donors want to see your mission succeed but each person may be interested in specific aspects of your work. They may have demonstrated interest through projects they have volunteered for, past solicitations they have given to, or maybe through survey responses. Segmenting by interest groups can help you write compelling subject lines that speak directly to your targeted audience. Use your subject line to highlight aspects of your mission that these donors find to be the most valuable. For more tips on converting volunteers to donors, check out Four Ways to Encourage Volunteers to Donate.
Step 4: Customize Your Email Appeals
After you decide how you want to segment your donor base you need to tailor your approach for each group. You don’t have to rewrite the entire appeal for each segment you are soliciting. Instead, consider tweaking four important email components that have the highest impact on open and click-through rates.
- Email Sender
- Subject Line
- Call to Action
- Delivery Time
Of course, you can customize more than just these four aspects, but if you’re short on time, these are the most important features to pay attention to.
Step 5: Email Senders Make a Difference
68% of individuals decide if they are going to open an email based solely on the email sender. This is one of the most prominently displayed features of the email in your donor’s inbox so, make it count. Think carefully about who the sender of the email should be. If you’re sending an email to long-time or major donor, perhaps it should come from the executive director. If you’re sending to a group of volunteers who have been heavily involved in a project, consider sending the email from the director of that department or project. Each segment of your email campaign may have a particular sender that they are most familiar with or will be most heavily influenced by. You can also send the email from your nonprofit itself, instead of from an individual who works with your organization.
Step 6: Subject Lines Sway Donors
Your appeal to your donors starts with the subject line. This gives you one sentence or less to persuade your donors to open and respond to your email. Use some of these best practices when crafting your subject line or use a subject line tool to get some recommendations for improvements.
Subject Line Tips:
- Use your donor’s first and last name in the subject line.
- Keep the length to 50 characters or less. (Keep it short enough that the full subject line can be read on a mobile device.)
- Give your subject line a sense of urgency. (Use words like Today, Before Midnight, etc)
- If you’re segmenting by location, refer to regions.
- Avoid words that trigger spam filters. (Free, Cash, Investment, Profits)
Step 7: Call Your Donor to Action
Calls to Action are an essential part of your email appeal. If your donor is seeing your call to action, you’ve made it past the first hurdle of just opening your email; don’t lose them now. Research conducted by HubSpot has found that personalized Calls to Action perform 202% better than a generalized call to action. That doesn’t mean you need to include your donor’s name in the call to action, but it does mean that it should be tailored to a target audience and speak directly to them. When you are writing your call to action make sure you have a specific segment in mind. Maybe you have a different action that you want them to take, or it may be the same action that you word differently. For example, if you’re sending an appeal asking donors to sign up for your monthly giving program, make sure you do not include your existing monthly donors in this call to action.
Step 8: Schedule Your Email at the Right Time
The timing of your email may not change for every segment that you send to, but it is something to keep in mind. You don’t want your email to be at the bottom of your donor’s inbox when they’re busy and finally get around to checking it. So keep your audience in mind when you’re scheduling your segmented email campaigns. If most of your monthly donors are business men and women who work during the day and most of your loyal volunteers are retirees, send emails to these different groups at varying times. One study has shown that for those who work, the best time to send emails is on a Tuesday at 10 AM after they have arrived at the office or at 1 PM during lunch hour.
Segmentation definitely takes more time than sending a blanket solicitation to all of your donor base, but the effort will make a big difference in your results. Remember, emails already yield a high return on investment, but targeting your donors will continue to cultivate a meaningful relationship with them and provide them with that extra motivation to support your cause.
If you’ve measured your progress towards your year-end goals and you’re coming up shy, check out 4 Ways to Overcome a Fundraising Shortfall. Please share all of your best end-of-year campaign ideas with us in the comments below, including any segmentation tips you have.