Wed, May 20 2015

Half of Your Email Subscribers Are Ignoring You

Liz Ragland's avatar

Senior Content and Marketing Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   How to improve emails and newsletters •

New research from the 2015 M+R Benchmarks Study tells us that, on average, almost half (45%) of small nonprofits’ email subscribers are inactive. Yikes!

Inactive could mean different things to different organizations. Many organizations define inactive subscribers as those who’ve gone one year with no activity. (These don’t necessarily include lapsed or inactive donors. We’re simply talking about people in your database who haven’t opened an email in a really long time—donors and nondonors.) However you define your inactive subscriber base, I think we can all agree that you need a plan of action to reengage with people who were, at one point, interested in your organization.

Why do anything with inactive email addresses?

You’re probably thinking, “My list is really small as it is! Why would I want to make it even smaller by choice?” I hear you! I’ve worked with organizations that have email lists of around 1,000 names, and they are hesitant to do any deleting or suppressions. However, this dead weight is hurting your open rates, and if you continue to send emails to people who aren’t engaging with you, it will affect your deliverability rate.

Trimming and suppressing parts of your email list will boost your confidence the next time you’re testing subject lines. And it will more accurately reflect—and improve!—your open and click rate.

What should I do to reengage with inactive email addresses?

First, segment your list. I recommend pulling a list of people who haven’t opened any email in the past 12 months. Send them an email to let them know you miss them. Make the subject line snappy. Be sure to have a clear call to action in the email that asks people to confirm that they still want to hear from you.

You can even go a few steps further and send a drip campaign with the goal of getting this group to reengage. Karla Capers wrote a guest post on the blog Getting Attention! about how she reactivated $13,000 worth of inactive names with a simple three-email drip approach. I love the subject lines she chose and the careful approach she took to reengage with these subscribers.

Why are email addresses inactive in the first place?

Only your email subscribers can tell you for sure why they don’t open your emails, but here are a few common responses:

  1. You send too many emails. It’s easier to delete them all.
  2. Your sender’s name/subject line doesn’t make it clear the message is from you.
  3. It lands in my junk box, and I can’t figure out how to make you a safe sender.
  4. Your emails always come at bad times.
  5. I want you to send emails to a different email address (work/personal).

If inactive subscribers are a big problem for your organization, it might be worthwhile to survey those who haven’t shown interest in your emails and find out why they aren’t opening them. This can be challenging in itself: How can you get someone to open an email and take a survey about why they aren’t opening your emails? If you have the resources, it might be worth taking the conversation offline.

What do I do with people who didn’t reengage?

After your reengagement campaign has run its course, you need to honor your subscribers’ preferences. You will not hear back from every inactive subscriber. Some won’t make it clear if they want to hear from you again. Leave these people in your inactive list and suppress them from your mailings as you see fit, but make it easy for them to reengage if they want to. I wouldn’t recommend adding them to your unsubscribe list, because they didn’t explicitly tell you they wanted to unsubscribe. If they notice they’re no longer getting emails from you, let them subscribe again without making it too difficult to return them to your active list.

Want to get fancy?

If you’re open to testing with Facebook ads, you might try using a custom audience ad as part of your reactivation campaign. Although I would caution against spending too much on folks who aren’t engaging with your emails, Facebook ads can be very affordable. Facebook makes it really easy to import a list of email subscribers you want to reach. If the email address is associated with a Facebook account, Facebook will deliver an ad to their feed. If you want to just check if your donors use Facebook, John Haydon has simple instructions on how to upload your list without paying for an ad.

What if I don’t have time for all of this?

If you’re in a crunch and can’t manage a reactivation campaign right now, try simply suppressing inactive email addresses from your email sends for a few months and watch your open rate go up. I know you might be nervous about voluntarily sending an email to fewer people, but it’s just a test! It’s time to face the reality: These people haven’t opened an email from you in the past 12 months. Suppressing them from a few email sends as part of a test won’t do any damage.

For more stats and best practices on digital fundraising, download The 2015 Online Fundraising Report.

2015 Online Fundraising Report
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Tue, May 19 2015

Philanthropy Outlook Rosy, Reports IU Lilly School of Philanthropy

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Big Thoughts on Giving •

U.S. charitable giving predicted to rise 4.8 percent in 2015.

The tide may be turning!

Giving momentum is strong and getting stronger, according to research findings recently released by the IU Lilly School of Philanthropy and Martz & Lundy.

Here’s more of the good news reported in The Philanthropy Outlook 2015 & 2016:

Philanthropy Outlook
  • Contributions from all giving sources are expected to grow 4.8 percent in 2015 and 4.9 percent in 2016.

  • The bigger picture! Each year’s growth will exceed the average annual growth in total giving in the years following the Great Recession (3.1 percent) and the long-term average for the 40-year trend in total giving for 1973–2013 (3.8 percent).

  • Individual and household giving will see the slowest overall growth in 2015 and 2016, compared with other sources of giving.

  • Foundation and corporate giving is expected to be strong in both 2015 and 2016.

No surprises here, but a hugely important reminder: Broader economic forces will weigh heavily on individuals’ willingness to give and will significantly affect corporations and foundations.

Dig in for yourself: The Philanthropy Outlook 2015 & 2016.

P.S. I find this report more reliable than most because it’s based on rock-solid economic research methods. The researchers applied well-tested financial prediction models to philanthropic giving.

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Tue, May 12 2015

Our Top 4 Takeaways from the Millennial Alumni Study Research Update

Helene Kahn's avatar

Communications and Marketing, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Thanks to our friends at Achieve, we have valuable new insights into how Millennial alumni think, act, and support their alma maters and favorite organizations. Here are our key takeaways:

  1. Millennials need to feel truly connected to the cause. What does that mean? Millennials need to understand why their money or time is needed and what effect their involvement will have on something or someone. The best way to illustrate this: through vibrant, engaging, meaningful stories of impact from your organization. The millennial connection is established when they feel tapped into the impact of your organization. This could happen by getting to know a scholarship recipient, going on a tour of a new center or exhibit, or meeting the individuals who seek shelter at your organization’s establishment.
  2. Communicate effectively and efficiently. Millennials far and wide prefer to be contacted via email than any other form of communication. However, this preference means constant email overload. The Millennial Alumni report found that 73% of respondents said that they want to receive email from their alma mater at least monthly. Brief highlights and digests of news and happenings on campus or at your organization are what this group is asking for!
  3. The online giving process must be easy and meaningful, not just a transaction. As part of this new release, the study looked at 35 alumni who were first-time donors. Of those, every donor under the age of 35 gave their gift online. Not surprising. What is very surprising is that 89% of these donors received a canned thank you/tax receipt email within 24 hours, but only one donor received a thank you phone call within nearly a month of his donation. The first-time donor’s experience is crucial. Receiving an automated email with a “dear friend” salutation just does not cut it with this group.
  4. Engagement leads to donations. This study update reinforced the continued importance of involving millennials as volunteers first to truly connect them with your cause. For some organizations, organizing volunteers and finding meaningful work can be difficult, but there are many ways to get millennials involved without creating more work for your organization. Have some key messages you want shared through social media? Pre-write some posts and share them with your volunteers so they can be your social ambassadors!

Want to learn more about the findings from the Millennial Alumni Study and the Millennial Impact Report? Tune in tomorrow for our free Nonprofit911 webinar, Millennial Alumni Study: Key Takeaways for the Nonprofit Sector. Register here!

Millennial Alumni Study image
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Tue, May 12 2015

How to Turn Donors into Fundraisers

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Want to add new donors and more donations to your fundraising results this year?

One of the best ways to expand your reach and attract new supporters is by tapping into the networks of your existing supporters with a social fundraising campaign. Here’s why: people are more likely to give when asked by a friend or family member, and thanks to the multiplier effect, these supporter-fundraisers will increase their lifetime value to your organization by giving and bringing new donations to your cause.

So, how do you do it? How do you inspire donors to create personalized fundraising campaigns and raise money on your behalf?  Here are 11 tips for turning donors into fundraisers.

Make it easy.

First and foremost, you must make setting up a fundraising page and asking friends to donate dead simple to do. The same rules apply for getting donors to give as they do for getting supporters to ask their networks to give to your cause. The easier it is to do, the more likely they will be to do it. Focus on removing any roadblocks for your supporters-turned-fundraisers.

Offer portable outreach. Arm your supporters with pre-written emails and social media posts. Provide grab-and-go templates so your advocates can focus on reaching out to their friends.

Be clear. Make sure you are clear on what you’re asking your supporters to do when you recruit them to be fundraisers. Make your instructions short and simple. If there are too many steps or complex requests, they’ll get confused and give up. Simplify their part of the process as much as possible, and if you can do some of the steps for them, even better.

Be realistic. You want your goals to be exciting and motivating, but requests don’t feel do-able will just turn potential fundraisers off. Make your ask feel possible so your supporters can see they can succeed and make an impact for your work. If possible, share other fundraisers’ good results to illustrate that a successful campaign is achievable.

Have the right tools. Having the right software in place makes these types of social fundraising campaigns a lot easier for you, and your fundraisers. Focus on tools that empower supporters, offer built-in sharing options, and make your fundraisers look good. Don’t miss our free demo this Thursday to get a first look at Network for Good’s newest fundraising tool and learn how you can easily create campaigns that will extend your reach and attract new donors.

Make it relevant.

Giving back is often very personal, for both donors and fundraisers alike. Reinforce this important tie to your work by making the idea of fundraising for your organization tailored to your supporters.

Think about their connection with your cause. Some donors have an affinity for certain projects or programs, or they have a story that shares a unique perspective. When asking supporters to join as fundraisers, make sure you connect these preferences to the campaign you’d like them to help spread. If a donor has always supported your senior meal delivery program, tap them to start a fundraiser to help fund a new van to distribute even more meals.

Personalize your request. Use the details you have in your donor database to personalize your invitation to participate. Yes, start with getting their name correct on the emails, but also include relevant details about their history with your organization and how this makes them the perfect fit for your fundraising team. A request that seems generic or worse, disconnected, won’t inspire donors to get involved.

Make it about the impact.

Everyone wants to know they’re making a difference, and your fundraisers are no exception. Get your advocates on board by illustrating the impact that their efforts will have.

Show the big picture. Give prospective fundraisers a clear view of how their efforts will add to your bigger goal. What is the vision that your campaign will make a reality? Paint a picture of how your supporter-fundraisers will make a difference and include this in your recruitment communications.

But also get specific. Now that you’ve set the vision, break down what each campaign, donor, and donation can do. This will help fundraisers and donors alike understand how they can achieve the goals you’ve set, one step at a time. Will $20 help feed a family for a day? Does a $2,000 fundraiser goal equal a new refrigerator for your food pantry? Let supporters know exactly how their gifts will be used so they can visualize their specific impact.

Make it fun.

Social fundraising campaigns can create a deeper connection with your supporters ... and they’re fun! Don’t forget to use this fact when you recruit and motivate fundraisers for your projects.

Leave room for personalization and creativity. Give your fundraisers ownership over their campaigns and allow them to customize their communications and fundraising pages with their photos, stories, and video. Not only does this make their efforts feel more personal, these individual touches will make donors more likely to give as it evokes their recognition and relationship with the fundraiser.

Offer motivation.  Keep your supporters going with updates on how the campaign is going and how their contributions are adding up. Check in with encouraging words and tips for making their outreach more effective. Don’t forget: a little competition among your fundraisers is healthy and can drive extra participation. Consider offering an incentive for the best campaigns or when fundraisers meet certain milestones.

Create goals and deadlines. While you want your goals to be realistic (see above), you do want to set some targets and track milestones to help motivate your fundraisers and drive a sense of urgency. This helps your supporters stay engaged and can spur them on to encourage more donations.


This week we have a special introduction to our new social fundraising software that will help you do all of these things and more.  You can create beautiful campaigns that inspire donors to fundraise on your behalf and motivate their networks to give to your organization. Join our free demo this Thursday to get a first look at our newest fundraising tool and learn how you can easily create campaigns that will extend your reach and attract new donors.  Save your seat by registering today.

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Fri, May 08 2015

Nonprofit Link Round Up

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fun stuff •

It’s the weekend, y’all! Here’s a sampling of the links and resources that caught our eye this week at the NFG corral. Roundup

Do you have an over-active editing committee when it comes to your donor outreach? Mary Cahalane offers her advice on how to respond when they challenge your fundraising appeal.

Nice to see our friend and NTEN CEO Amy Sample Ward featured in this NPR piece: Crowdfunded Campaigns For Nepal Are Huge. Is That A Good Way To Give?

At Network for Good, we’ve enabled nearly $1M in giving for Nepal Earthquake relief efforts. Jeff Brooks shares how you can nudge disaster responders become committed donors.

The 2nd Give Local America! day is in the books and nonprofits across the country raised over $68 million dollars on May 5! Wow! What do you do now? Here are 5 things to do after your big giving day.

Donor Relations Guru Lynne Wester takes a closer look at the latest research from Ablia and gives a good overview of how nonprofits can align their strategy with donor preferences.

What does it really mean to be an engaged donor? Derrick Feldmann shares his take on the PND Blog.

Are you including the beneficiaries of your work in your donor thank you plan? University of Minnesota’s student athletes participated in a thank-a-thon to underscore the human impact of the university’s supporters. Talk about a rewarding event for all involved!

What’s the State of the Nonprofit Sector? Nell Edgington offers a great summary of Nonprofit Finance Fund’s recently released 7th annual State of the Sector survey. Key takeaway: sustainable funding continues to be a huge challenge for many organizations.

Finally, Claire Axelrad gave nonprofits a huge gift this week with her post, 6 Secrets to Getting Your Donor Thank You Out in 48 Hours.

That’s it for this week. Have a post or favorite resource you love? Share it with us in the comments below!

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