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Fundraisers: Should You Send an Email or a Direct Mail Piece?

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How to Use Social Media to Improve Donor Loyalty

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On May 30th, Jay Love and Sandy Rees spent an hour answering questions live about donor communications and donor engagement. The webinar participants asked some intriguing questions, and we’d like to share some of Jay and Sandy’s answers with you.

One participant asked about the frequency of email communication versus direct mail:

Question: I recently sent out a direct mail piece and have gone ahead and added those folks to my email list. Should I start emailing these folks?

MailboxSandy: That’s exactly what I will go back to and it’s funny I’ve been asked this question a lot too and it comes usually in this form, ” we’re going to stop doing our print newsletter and take it online what you think ?” The whole reason that organizations wants to do that is to save money on printing.

What I say that them is, “It doesn’t matter what you want to do, it matters what your donors want.” If you have a group of donors that would prefer a print newsletter, don’t you dare stop doing a print newsletter and go to email. If they are okay getting email, then do that. Then you’ve got a start to pay attention and take their temperature to figure out how often you can send email.

Some organizations, I think, are successful in emailing once a week with a short update. Others can’t manage that, they simply can’t manage the production of that content internally and they maybe send out something once a month. That may not be good enough, that may not be enough to stay on the donor’s radar, I don’t think there’s a one size fits all answer here. I think it really does depend on what the donors want.

Jay: I so agree. If I could tie this one back to donor retention, I’ve been sharing this story we’ve been converting databases over to using our Bloomerang product. And one of the things we love to do, is as soon as we got the data converted we bring out the dashboard and see what the retention rate is. We had not been seeing that many strong retention rates. In fact up until just a couple weeks ago we had never seen one above 40% yet, but all of a sudden we converted one Sandy that was a group and it was in the upper 70’s for the donor retention rate.

Sandy: Awesome!

Jay: I reached out and I said what is it that they are doing that’s a little bit different I don’t know why. This is the key part of success, I’m sure it’s multifaceted. But, they have a weekly action alert email, they’ve got a monthly email, they’ve got a quarterly email newsletter, they’ve got an annual report and they know exactly for their entire database which people want which ones of those. Some people take all of them, some people take one, some people take two and they are tenacious on making sure that they adhere to exactly that what people want and they keep them constantly informed.

I don’t know, but to me something’s really working and if they have a 75%, 76%, 77% retention rate of donors one year to the next. I mean that’s almost twice the national average.

Sandy: I would bet money that that’s exactly what’s going on. I mean think about what they’re doing there. They’re not just providing sounds like good information, but they’re letting the donors choose how often they’re receiving. In my experience, anytime you can let the donor pick what they want, it’s going to increase response rates and retention rates.

You can listen to a replay of the entire Q&A session here.

Be sure to sign up for our next webinar with Linda Lysakowski here! Linda and Jay will be discussing capital campaigns.

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