Too many fundraising emails? Part I.

Every direct mail fundraising program generates its share of complaints, usually scrawled notes sent in your reply envelopes complaining that “you send too much mail” and either “you’re wasting donor money” or simply “I don’t like it.”

These almost always correlate with the success of the mail.  The more response and revenue, the more complaints.

What to do?   Respect their wishes.  Stop mailing these people if they ask.  Or mail only once a year.  You’ll be fine.  (Oh, and spend the necessary time with your board explaining that these are NOT representative of your donor community.)

Email raises more possibility for engagement, revenue … and trouble.    Not free, but no print or postage.   Why not send more … and more and more?

Some organizations have been testing the limits of email frequency during their electronic end-of-calendar-year fundraising campaigns.

Midnight, December 31 is a real deadline, which is an unusual marketing advantage in our business.   Donors must send by that marker to deduct this donation on their itemized tax returns.

And emailing right into the teeth of that deadline works like crazy.   I’ve seen programs as much as double donations in an end-of-year campaign by sending that one more email on December 31.

So why not make the most of it.  Email two weeks before the deadline, again one week before, a few days before, a day before, then “deadline: midnight tonight”?

Try frequent emails if you dare, and you’ll find out how effective this can be (very!) and how dangerous (mileage may vary).

The groups that have been testing intensive email campaigns have a metric:  “Unsubscribes.”

Unsubscribing to email is identical to that nasty “stop mailing” note in a reply envelope.   Our problem though, is that it’s awfully easy to unsubscribe.  And you must respect unsubscribes under the law!

Nonetheless, some courageous groups have tested, pushing for a fine line:

The additional revenue from frequent emails more than offsets the anticipated revenue loss from unsubscribes.

In a large program, you can project the average lifetime value of a donor.   So you can monetize the loss of “unsubscribes.”

On the other side, you have the immediate increased revenue resulting from the email campaign.  Plus you can extrapolate some increased value of each responding donor, especially if this is their critical second or renewal contribution.

The organizations doing these tests have huge files, large enough that the loss of a few dozen donors to unsubscription does not hurt the bottom line.   Large quantities mean more to gain and less to lose from testing creative strategies like this.

That said, what can smaller organizations learn from this?

Deadline fundraising communications work.  Really.   So …

If you’re not sending”Day of Deadline” emails, you can do so with little to no risk.     (Exceptions:  You might not want to send them to your board or donors you have lunch with — people who you know might be sensitive to marketing techniques.)

BUT … don’t go out with a five-contact array of emails, especially if your audience is not used to getting many emails from you right now.

NOTE:  This is effective any time you have a real deadline:  End of calendar year tax deadline … Matching gift deadline … event marketing … any time there is some real-world negative consequence to not donating by a certain date.

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