Too many fundraising emails? Part III.

As noted in the last post, some organizations have been increasing frequency of emails around deadline until the number of “unsubscribes” was so high it offset projected revenue increase.

In a related learning from mail:   The more powerful your appeal, the greater the negative reaction.

The Obama campaign included a nugget on this topic on one of their extremely helpful reports, this one called “Surprises fro Obama’s New Media Staff”:

“Best performing appeals often had the highest unsubscribe rates. Turns out, evoking passion in supporters worked both ways, but ultimately the campaign decided the positive fundraising results were worth the increased unsubscribes. Even when considering retention, the conversion stats outweighed the downside of losing people.”

This is further proof that learnings from mail fundraising are valid in the electronic arena.

Time and again I’ve seen the most over-the-top successful mail appeals generate a spike in white mail complaining about the letter, or the topic, or just complaining generally.     When donations really spike, so does negative reaction.

A classic example, the National Rifle Association’s famous “Jack-booted thugs” appeal sent in 1995.   The letter was pure LaPierre, claiming that the AFT and other government agencies were ready and able to invade your home.   Former President George HW Bush resigned his membership.   I heard list-rental rumors that almost a million mainstream NRAers also dropped membership.   Whatever the number, they took a big hit.

But for all the negative furor, this was reputedly their most successful appeal in years, maybe ever.

Did it raise enough to offset the “mail unsubscribe” revenue loss?   Maybe not.  But it galvanized the resolve and spurred the giving of the hard-core gun rights folks — those who buy LaPierre’s rhetoric — and the organization has more than bounced back in subsequent years.

This is a high-profile example.  I’ve seen many, many others in a variety of organizations.  Evoking passion in supporters worked both ways.   You lose some, yet you may well gain a lot more in donor dedication and generosity.

The real danger?   When your organization (really, your board) has a dramatic reaction to the negatives, without adequately appreciating the related benefit of increased revenue.    If someone forces you to weaken your message, you cut down on complaints.  And income.

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