How nonprofits should manage email subscriptions

Locating and managing email subscribers is a crucial part of donor management.
Date Published

In support of nonprofit fundraising efforts, many organizations depend on email to reach out to prospective donors and those who have consistently contributed in the past. There is a variety of approaches nonprofit groups can adopt to make sure their email marketing strategy is on solid ground.

Getting new subscribers to an email list and managing contacts can be a challenge. Circumstances can arise in which subscribers delete their email account and forget to inform the organizations they’re involved with. On the other hand, the way a website is structured can make it difficult for individuals to become subscribers in the first place. It’s important to first see what the most efficient way to attract new subscribers is.

How to use the Web to find subscribers
A recent report by ExactTarget looked at the way nearly 400 digital marketers approach the effectiveness of their strategies for acquiring email subscribers. For online interactions, nonprofit organizations need to ensure their websites are set up with users in mind. In fact, 45 percent of marketers found sign-up requests correlated to specific sections of a website were effective, while roughly half – 52 percent – used this strategy.

For nonprofit organizations in particular, this is an essential resource. Most pages on a group’s website are tied directly with a specific project or campaign. If donors want more information, they should be able to easily sign up using their email address so they can receive more content related to the program that interests them. In addition to expanding an email contact list, these individuals are likely to be more engaged with the organization because they’re directly seeking out the nonprofit, instead of the other way around.

Another tool that charitable groups can use to get more email subscribers is social media. According to the ExactTarget study, 45 percent of marketers use Facebook to earn new email contacts, and 31 percent rate this tactic as effective. While this doesn’t hit the mark as well as specific website sign-up forms, nonprofit groups would be doing themselves a disservice by ignoring this resource for finding new contacts. A Facebook page works in tandem with an official website, but it functions better as a source for delivering content and information about particular fundraising drives.

Knowing when to hold on and let go
Once an organization has identified new subscribers, it has to think carefully about the way in which it engages donors to subscribe. Eddie Howard, senior product manager for the marketing software firm Vocus, explained on Direct Marketing News that enterprises should make it easier for users to unsubscribe to email lists. This manner of donor management can seem a bit counterintuitive, but there is logic behind the recommendation. Howard made the case that many organizations waste money and time on sending out emails to individuals who are uninterested. It’s not likely this person will respond or participate, no matter how many email appeals the organization sends.

As a result, organizations that make more prominent unsubscribe links in their messages will likely cut down on a lot of time and effort trying to convince someone who probably won’t become a donor. What’s more, it allows organizations to avoid having their communications marked as spam and be ignored forever. At the same time, nonprofit groups that identify which individuals are more engaged through email subscriptions can more effectively target them for future fundraising campaigns.

Organizations aren’t doing themselves any favors by hanging onto email subscribers who don’t want to be contacted. However, email remains one of the most effective means for contacting individuals and creating a community of donors. As a result, nonprofit groups should develop a strategy to manage the way they attract donors online, as well as monitor who is still reading.

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