Email or social media? Nonprofit organizations can weigh their options

Recent research supports organizations using email for fundraising and marketing.
Date Published
02/03/2014

There has likely been a lot of speculation in the nonprofit community about the future of social media versus email when reaching out to donors. Both channels have benefits and drawbacks depending on what an organization is looking to achieve. A recent study conducted by research firm McKinsey & Company seems to support the claim that nonprofits should keep email campaigns as part of their outreach efforts.

Reach out to a larger pool of donors
According to the study, email is a truly effective way to reach individuals and persuade them to interact with an organization. Underlying this claim is the plain fact that 91 percent of all consumers in the U.S. are active, daily email users. Entrepreneur magazine drew attention to the somewhat conflicting relationship between social media and email, citing an article recently published by Hospitality Net, but ultimately suggested the hype surrounding social media pales in comparison to the effectiveness of email.

The rise of social media
Previous data recorded and reported by McKinsey also supported the idea that email marketing and outreach efforts were on the decline. Between 2008 and 2012, the research firm found a 20 percent reduction in email use, as this channel faced competition with novel communication tools on social networking sites and instant messaging. However, new technology eventually becomes a part of daily experiences and the buzz around it tends to fade.

Purpose-driven communications
At the same time, email is far from a nascent fad among donors and organizations alike. Accordingly, the approach nonprofits take needs to be reflective of the behaviors and needs that people who have participated in fundraising events or subscribed to e-newsletters. Using feedback and preferences that can be gleaned from donor management software, nonprofits can create targeted and customized emails for specific individuals or groups. The McKinsey report highlighted the fact that an email directing to a landing page specific to the information or project outlined in the body of the message can improve conversion rates by more than 25 percent.

While social media presents a number of options for nonprofits to connect with donors and volunteers, email continues to be an effective medium for the majority organizations. The key points to remember are donors are still using email on a daily basis and will respond more positively to messaging that is purposeful, directing them to relevant information or call-to-action.

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