How To Successfully Onboard New Subscribers To Your Nonprofit E-Newsletter
Ephraim Gopin will show best practices and tips, and give a better understanding of how to improve your organization’s email onboarding process. The goal? Grow your email list!
Steven: All right. Ephraim, I’m ready to get going. You’re okay? Ready to go?
Ephraim: I’m ready to go, Steven.
Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, welcome everybody. Thanks for joining us. We have a special Tuesday webinar. Normally we do Thursdays, but we’re loading it up this week and we’re going to get things started in a real fun way. We’re going to be talking about how to successfully onboard all those people who interact with you on your email newsletter list. That’s what you want. All those website visitors, social media people, get them on the newsletter list. We’re going to be talking about how to build the newsletter list. I love this topic. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
And just a couple of quick housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording the session and I’ll be sending out that recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon. So if you have to leave early, if you get interrupted or kids bug you, whatever it is, don’t worry, I understand, but we’ll get all that stuff to you. Just look for an email from me later on this afternoon.
But most importantly, we love these sessions to be interactive. So send us your questions. There’s a chat box. There’s a Q&A box. I know a lot of you already even done that. Introduce yourself if you haven’t already. I’m going to be keeping an eye on those throughout the hour. And we’re going to try to answer some questions at the end, so don’t be shy. You can send us a tweet. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Twitter feed as well. So we would love to hear from you.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say an extra special welcome to all you folks. We do these webinars, like I said, a couple of times a week. We love it. But what we’re most known for, if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, besides the webinars, we’re a provider of donor management software. So if you’re interested in that, check us out. No commercial, really just want to let you know what that is for context. Don’t do it right now. At least wait an hour because I’m so excited to welcome, for the first time . . . It’s way overdue. I feel bad that this has taken us this long, but from beautiful Jerusalem, which is also a first time that someone’s joined us from there, Ephraim Gopin. Ephraim, what’s going on? You’re doing okay? It’s kind of late there. Are you doing all right?
Ephraim: I’m great. It’s 8:00 p.m. Let’s get webinaring, baby.
Steven: Okay. That’s not bad. I mean, that’s not bad. You can have a nice dinner afterwards. I’m so excited. I love this guy. You got to follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn. Check him out over 1832 Communications. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s got a great podcast also, a video podcast. It’s actually . . . you can see some faces as long as the voices. He’s got great guests, really lively conversations, really good stuff, really seasoned people he brings on there. Also does a nice roundup of articles on Twitter. So if you follow him on Twitter, you may find some hidden gems in there. Some good advice, some good case studies, all kinds of cool stuff you might want to check out. So you’re going to want to connect with him afterwards.
Ephraim, we’ve been talking about this for awhile. You’re kind of the master of this, so I don’t want to take up any more time away from you. I’m going to stop my slides here, we’ll bring up yours because you got . . . I looked at the slides, folks, last week, and he’s got some cool tidbits for you. So let’s see if this works. It’s always a little fun.
Ephraim: Can I share a screen?
Steven: Yeah. Go for it.
Ephraim: All right.
Steven: Looks like it’s working. Okay. I see something. Okay. I’m going to shut this down. So go for it, my friend. The floor is yours.
Ephraim: Excellent. Good afternoon, everyone. Glad you could join us today. Thank you very much to Steven for the warm introduction and, of course, to Bloomerang for having me today. So we’re going to discuss onboarding new subscribers to your nonprofit e-newsletter. Hold on one second. We’re going to see if I can. Steven, one sec. Close this down. There we go. That’s what I wanted. Okay. Hi, everyone. I’m Ephraim Gopin, as Steven mentioned.
Steven: Hey, Ephraim. We lost your sides, buddy. I don’t know what happened, but we can’t see it.
Ephraim: Are they on there now?
Steven: Nope. Just seeing your face now. I was seeing them.
Ephraim: Nobody wants to see that. Hold on one second. Hold on. Let’s do this. There we go.
Steven: There they go.
Ephraim: There we go. And hold on. There we go.
Steven: Boom. Perfect.
Ephraim: Now, let me just see. Hold on. I’m going to do a quick test. Yes, it’s working. Okay. Great. Excellent. Sorry about that, folks. So I have my own company, 1832 Communications. I partner with nonprofits to boost their fundraising through smart and effective marketing. Object is to grow donor bases, increased donations, and build brand awareness both online and offline for your organization. One of the places you can find me as Steven mentioned is on Twitter. If you’re live-tweeting today, please tag both myself, my name, Ephraim Gopin, and of course, BloomerangTech. And if you’re live-tweeting, please use the hashtag, #MoreSubscribers. I want to be able afterwards to see all the tweets that everybody tweeted out there.
So the goal of today’s webinar is to teach you best practices and give you some tips and expert advice for encouraging people to sign up for your newsletter. The goal is you grow your email list, which gives you more opportunities to eventually convert subscribers into donors. Again, that bottom line. So here’s what we’re going to be covering a little bit today. We’re going to cover some email marketing strategy. We’ll look at where on the website, the form, the sign up form should be located. We’ll discuss the CTA, the asks, asking people to sign up, what fields your form should contain, whether you should have an opt-in on your donation form, the welcome email that people should receive right after subscribing, and we’re going to talk a little bit about data testing. So let’s jump right in. And we’re going to jump into corona world.
I’m sorry, but we’re going to do two minutes on corona. So I know that for probably all of you, because you’re no longer doing face-to-face fundraising or gala events, things have changed and probably email marketing is now taking up a little bit more of your fundraising strategy. If it’s not, you certainly want to be diversifying your fundraising portfolio. So if you have a multichannel fundraising strategy, you want corporate partners, individuals, events, foundations, you want to do legacy giving. If you don’t know too much about legacy giving, Ligia Peña, a global expert on that just gave a webinar here on Bloomerang a couple of weeks ago, so you should certainly sit down and watch it and learn from her. And what I’m going to talk about now is email marketing.
Here are three stats that you should all know and to be able to take advantage of. The first one comes from Statista, which is that almost 4 billion people around the world have email. Now, that’s a majority of the world’s population. People have email. You need to be taking advantage of email. No reason not to.
The second one, which is connected to that is from Blackbaud. And Blackbaud, in 2018, they said that in the U.S. 8.7% of overall giving was done online, which translates into $37 billion came in online. Email marketing drives donations. Once you have moved them from subscriber towards donor, you want to get a piece of that pie. So email marketing should be part of your fundraising portfolio.
The last stat on this one is, with the red arrow is from Qgiv. The retention rate in the sector is only 40% and it’s been that way for about two decades now. It basically means that if in 2019 you had 10 donors, in 2020, only 4 of them are coming back. Six are not. And so, as a nonprofit, you’re constantly chasing your own tail because you’re constantly trying to find new donors, new donors, new donors when if you did a better job of retaining donors, you wouldn’t necessarily need to do that. So that 40% of that retention, we’re going to come back to during the presentation.
As far as strategy, I want to point out four things that you should consider for your email marketing. The first is the rule of seven. That comes from the world of e-commerce. It takes a customer seven touchpoints before they decide to consider buying your product. So, for example, I want to buy a backpack. So I may see the backpack somewhere online. I may click on an ad. I may sign up for your newsletter. I may open an email. I may open another email. Then you send me an email, 25% off. You send me another email, only one hour left. That’s the email I click on and I decide to buy or not. But it takes seven touches before I get to that point. The same works with nonprofits and donations. You’re not going to have people signing up to your newsletter and boom, they’re going to become donors. That’s not the way it’s going to work. Keep in mind the rule of seven because we’re also going to come back to that.
You versus we. I’m sure you all know this from regular fundraising and marketing, but it applies to email marketing as well. More you, less we. As nonprofits, we want to talk about all the work we’re doing, but the fact is it’s the donor who’s doing the work. They are the hero of the story. And they’re the ones who are helping your beneficiaries get the services they need. So in your email marketing, the same as you would do in direct mail, the same as you would do in any other form of collateral marketing and fundraising, you want to talk more about you, you, you, the donor, less we, we, we, the nonprofit.
Two other stats you should know from Campaign Monitor. These are both in the nonprofit world. The average open rate of emails is 20%. So if you have on your list, 100 people, 20% of them are going to open the email. That’s the average, or that’s considered . . . we’ll call it a good number. You want to, obviously, be higher than 20%. The average CTR, the click-through rate is 2.66%. So if 20 people open that email, only two to three of them are actually going to click on a link that you have in that email, which means you have to work very hard to get more and more people to click . . . to open the emails and to click on the links that you’re sending them.
I can tell you that it can be done. Takes time and a lot of testing. Steven mentioned my daily newsletter. I have a daily newsletter. I can tell you that my open rate is more than double that and my clickthrough rate is more than 400% that. If you know your audience and you target them correctly and you have the right content, you can get much higher numbers than this. And at the end of the day, more people opening your emails, more people clicking your links means more chances to convert them from subscribers into donors. Excuse me.
So let’s get into the reason we’re here, email onboarding. And just want to point out that from now until when I finish, I’m going to be showing you screenshots from the 100 largest nonprofits in the United States based on Forbes’ annual lists. I did research into these 100. I wanted to see how they encourage people to sign up for their newsletters, what their forms look like, where it is on their website. And based on that, you’re now going to see screenshots of best practices and not so best practices. I am not coming to criticize the work the nonprofit does. I just need to point that out. They all do fantastic, wonderful work. But I am looking at how they encourage people to sign up for their newsletter so that you can learn from the best and the not so great that’s out there.
So the first thing we’re going to cover is the location. Where on your website should you have your sign up form? So we’ll start with a don’t. This is Feeding America. This is their upper banner. So it’s the first thing you’ll see if you go to any page on their site. And you can see in the upper corner, that Donate button. Now, the Donate button is a different color. It stands out. It’s in a box. The call to action in this banner is Donate, but right to the left of it, they’ve put Sign Up, which means they want you to sign up for their newsletter. What they’ve done is they’ve created friction, and what we’ll call, competing CTAs, competing calls to action, because now do I donate or do I sign up for the newsletter? Which button do I click on? You don’t want to have competing calls to action in the same banner. And so, this is an upper banner. I wouldn’t have the sign up there.
And the second reason, which is the main reason why not at the top is because you have yet to show me value. If this is my first time on the Feeding America website, I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you do. I want to learn more about you. So I want to scroll down. I want to see your mission statement, a little bit about you, maybe some pictures, an inspirational story, who your funding partners are. Give me some data about hunger in America. Once I’ve been given value, then you get to the bottom of the page and you get to this, which is also on the Feeding America website. They have their sign up form, it’s also on the bottom. And this is where it should be on your website.
One caveat, theirs you can see in the green, is above “Our Partners” and “Hunger Blog.” It should really be below that. The sign up form should be right above the site map on your website. But we’ll take this one. It’s a different color. So it stands out from the rest. The red Subscribe button stands out. And the only thing they ask for is email address, which we’re going to get to when we talk about forms. So you want it at the bottom of the page. I’ve scrolled the entire page. I’ve learned more about you. Now that I see there’s value in learning even more, I want to become a subscriber to Feeding America.
This is the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It’s not only in their site map, but it’s actually sort of below the site map. And all it says there is “Subscribe to MSK.” I’ve circled it in red because it’s white on gray. You really wouldn’t see it unless you were really looking for it. By doing it this way, they’re losing a lot of potential subscribers. They’re losing a lot of people who could become subscribers, which as we know, could convert to donors later on. The second issue here is you have to click and go to a new page to fill out the form. That creates friction for users. You want to make the user experience easy, have it at the bottom of the page and top of the site map with the sign up form right there. Don’t make me go somewhere else.
This is from Goodwill. So this is at the bottom of the page. The same issue, you have to go to a new page in order to subscribe. But the bigger problem with this is that it’s the dark blue against the light blue. Very hard to see. And so, at the end of the day, they could potentially, again, be losing subscribers because I don’t see it. I can’t read it. So you want to avoid that. You want it to stand out. You want it to be clear.
So what should it look like? So let’s look at Direct Relief for a second. It’s right on top of the site map. It’s in a different color. The sign up is in orange, which is the colors of their brand. There’s Enter Email. It’s very clear. You can see it. Sign up. Done. This is on the bottom of the page. And what I want to point out is that this should be on the bottom of every single page on your website. It’s not just the homepage. You get traffic to every page of your website. Think about what happens when you send people from a Facebook post, or from Instagram, or from Twitter to your website. You’re not always sending them to the homepage. You might be sending them to About Us, an inspirational story, a blog post, an event. Whatever it is, this sign up form should be at the bottom of every single page on your website. Make sure you always give an opportunity for people to be able to subscribe.
World Wildlife Fund also has it on the bottom. Same thing, the orange Sign Up button stands out. The only problem here is, is that I have to go to a new page to be able to sign up. But it’s right on top of the site map, it’s at the bottom. So that’s the location. So just to recap, location at the top, no. Location at the bottom, right above the site map, yes. And have the form there and make sure it’s on every single page.
So if we looked at location, the next thing I want to look at is the ask, the CTA, the call to action. Why should I sign up and subscribe?
This is from the American Cancer Society. And I want to focus on underneath Connect with Us, sentences one and three. The first one says, “Stay connected to help end cancer.” That sentence already has me and I want to sign up because we all know people who may have cancer, may have survived, or unfortunately, have passed away from cancer. We can help end cancer. If one of the ways to do that is to stay connected with the American Cancer Society, I’m signing up. The third sentence says, “Receive research updates, inspiring stories, healthy living tips, and more.” Well, healthy living tips certainly appeals to me. I don’t want to get cancer. So if you’re going to give me ways to help me avoid cancer as best as possible, I’m going to sign up. Additionally, “Receive research updates.” I definitely want that. I want to know what’s going on in the field, because again, I know people who have cancer, how close are we to finding a cure for cancer? So this is a good ask. Okay? This is the type of ask you should have with your sign up form.
This is UNICEF, and there are a couple of things I want to point out here. One is the picture in the upper-left is a good emotional tug. You don’t have to have a picture, but the usage here is very good. Next to it is “Be an Active Supporter.” You don’t want people being passive. You want them to be active, taking part. And why do they write that? Because of what’s right underneath it. “Be the first to know about UNICEF’s humanitarian relief efforts in times of emergency.” If there’s a natural disaster, you want to be there. What is UNICEF doing? How can I help? You want to be an active supporter. Again, they ask you for their email, they ask you for the ZIP code. We’ll get to that a second. And the sign up button is red and it stands out. So this is also a good ask of people to sign up for their newsletter.
This one is JDRF, which deals with diabetes. This, I took from their donation page. And on the donation page, they’ve already asked me, I’ve had to fill out to give a donation, my phone number, address and my email. Now, on that page, they ask me, are you interested in learning more about how my voice can be heard by Congress. Okay. That’s an interesting one. I might consider it. General news, maybe. And how I can support JDRF through estate plans. Maybe. The problem here is they don’t tell me if I’m getting any of these updates via email, to my house via direct mail, text messaging, phone call. They don’t tell you any of that.
So I wouldn’t sign up because I don’t know. I know potentially what I’m signing up to, but I don’t know how I’m going to be receiving the information. So you’ve created a barrier to users and now you’ve lost, again, potential users. You don’t want to do that. So the goal with the ask I ask is to get a CTA, a call to action that is active, that makes me want to sign up. Keep in mind, people’s inboxes are overflowing. They are inundated with emails every second of the day. So you want to make sure that you cause them to think, “Yes, I want to receive this, put this nonprofit in my inbox and let me see what they’re up to.”
So if we’re done now with the location and we know the ask, the next thing we want to do is form fields. What should your form include?
So the first thing I want to point out, I want to quote from an expert, Tevi Hirschhorn. You can find him on Twitter @tevih, T-E-V-I-H. And the most important sentence here is the opening one, every second of friction that’s thrown at somebody, the less sign ups you’ll get. If your goal is sign ups, then the only field Tevi says you should have is emails, and that’s it. Don’t cause friction. People don’t have time to fill out long forms. They want to get in, fill out the form, and move on. Keep it simple. Eventually, once you connect with them and build your relationship, you’ll be able to get their name and any other information that you need in order to eventually convert them from subscriber to donor.
This is from Planned Parenthood. And I want to point out a couple of things here that they do extremely well. One is on the left side, underneath the sign up. It says, “Join our network and be the first to take action in the fight to protect reproductive rights.” So if you’re a person who wants to protect the reproductive rights, you’re signing up, join in the fight. Be the first to take action. Again, be active. They ask for your email address. It’s white on blue, so it looks good. I know that the Subscribe button is a light-blue against dark blue, but because of the white writing of the word Subscribe, it stands out enough. They also ask for your ZIP code and it’s obligatory that you give it. They don’t tell you why, which is the one thing I’m missing here. The reason they do it is because Planned Parenthood conducts advocacy efforts, not just nationwide across the U.S. but also on state levels.
So if they have your ZIP code, they have segmented their email lists to be able to send you an email as soon as something happens in your region, in your state city, whatever it is. That’s why they ask for the ZIP code. You don’t need it. They do for their advocacy efforts, although they could get it in other ways down the road. But again, if they’re telling you be active, then it’s a good idea to ask for that ZIP code upfront so that they can tell you, “Hey, something just happened in your state. Let’s be active and take action,” whatever that action is going to be.
This is from the Boys and Girls Club of America. Now, their form is in their site map. I mean, it’s okay. It only asks for email address, which is great. The white on gray stands out because it’s clear and the Sign Up button, the blue stands out. And so I went, I signed up. Great. Except that I got this. This is half of the screenshot. The other half on top of it as a collage of pictures. It’s really nice, but I wanted to get to this. They ask you to fill out a second form, asking for more information. They want my first and my last name. They want my ZIP code.
Now, a ZIP code here again could be because they have Boys and Girls Clubs of America across the nation and they want to personalize or regionalize the emails for you. Okay. But last name, not important at all. The fact is my email here, you could look me up online in two seconds on my website, which is right there, 1832comms.com. You can get my last name for your records, for your database, for your CRM. A lot of people that use their first and last name in their email and the email address itself.
There’s information that you can get that you don’t need to ask me. Again, if I go back to what Tevi said, it’s causing friction. We don’t need the friction. Get me in, get me out. The other thing here is under ZIP Code, you can see, “Were you a member of a club as a kid?” That doesn’t need to be here. That could be in a follow-up email to the welcome email where they want . . . Take a survey. Fill it out. One question, were you a member as a kid? It’s just a simple thing. And maybe if they’ve started to establish the relationship with me, I want to fill it out. Ask it later on. Don’t ask it now. It’s creating friction.
This is from the Metropolitan Opera. This has 13 required fields. And if I’m not mistaken, they also needed my personal Zoom ID and blood type. Kidding. But there’s too much information that they need here. The only thing I could think of is that they wanted to have a very exclusive email list. And this was one of the ways to kind of keep people like me out who don’t want to fill out so many fields. If that’s the reason, I still don’t like it. It’s way too much. One field, email address. You want to have first name, that’s fine. So you can personalize it, but that’s it.
Let’s look at a good example, the Task Force for Global Health. So, first of all, they ask for one thing, your email, the Subscribe button stands out. The form field stands out. It’s a different shade of blue than the site map. It’s right above a site map. And there are two things here that are interesting to me that you should notice. One is on the left side, it’s in the small writing. If you’re in the European Union, please sign up here because the European Union has different laws regarding privacy, GDPR among them. So if you’re in the European Union, they have a separate form for you.
The second thing they have here is View Sample Newsletter. Now, there’s two ways to look at that. One, that’s user-friendly. If I’m not 100% sure I want to sign up, I’ll look at a sample newsletter. I’ll go, ” You know what? They’ve got good stuff. I do want to sign up.” Or it’s creating friction. By clicking on that, you’ve taken me away from filling out the form. And now I’m somewhere else. I’m not going to fill in the form. I’m not going to become a subscriber because I get distracted now by something else. So I personally wouldn’t have the sample newsletter there, but I could see why they have it there for certain users who may need to see it before they decide.
Having said that, if we go back to what we discussed about the ask, if they had a better call to action, then sign up for our newsletter to get updates about our work, there may be no reason for the View Sample Newsletter. I know what they do. I want to take action. I want to sign up.
So now we’ve looked at where it should be on your website, the ask, your CTA, and how many form fields, how many fields it should have in your form. The next thing I want to look at is should you have an opt-in on your online donation form. And here I want to bring in the expert opinion of Jereme Bivins on Twitter. He is JCBivins, J-C-B-I-V-I-N-S. Very smart nonprofit marketer and fundraiser. And should there be a check box on the donation form? And here I’m quoting, “Yes, yes, and always yes.” And his reasoning is a donation is never a single transaction. It’s an opportunity that to ensure you’re starting and maintaining a good relationship with a key supporter.
So if you remember at the beginning, when I talked about the 40% retention rate, keeping people . . . getting them to sign up for email is another way of retaining donors year over year and not losing them. So strengthening the relationship with the donor by adding them to the email list as Jereme says, “Yes, yes, and always yes.” So the question is, what does that look like?
So this is from the United Way. They ask for email, it’s obligatory. That’s fine. They do have a field for phone, but it’s not obligatory. But I do want to point out the small little square to the left of, “Join the fight.” You would need to check that, what we call opt in, in order to receive their email updates. You do not want to have that pre-checked. You don’t want people having to opt out. That’s a negative. If I come there and I see it’s pre-checked, and I don’t want to get your newsletter, you’ve created a little bit of friction. And not only that, you’ve almost a little bit ruined the relationship that we have. You’ve hurt that relationship a little bit. I’m a donor and you’re telling me I have to have your newsletter. You want people to, again, to be active and to opt in. So don’t have that box checked.
City of Hope. So they don’t even have a checkbox. What they have in the bottom-right corner under donation page is, send us your, you know, as part of giving your donation, give us your email and mobile number so we can send you a tax receipt and we’re going to share updates with you about lifesaving breakthroughs and the impact of your generous donation. They’re not even giving you the chance to either opt out or opt in. They’re basically telling you, give us your mobile . . . if you put your email address on the donation form, you’re automatically signed up. And worse than that is because it’s in small writing in the bottom there, it gets kind of lost. So you wouldn’t even notice it. So suddenly, I’ve been signed up for something I might not necessarily want. If we’re talking about relationships, that hurts the relationship.
This is from Dana Farber Institute. I apologize that it’s so small. I wanted to screenshot the whole thing. This is from their donation page. The arrow at the top, there’s an opt in box. It’s not checked. That’s good, but it says, “I want to receive emails.” That doesn’t tell me anything, receive emails about what? Now, I understand it’s about Dana Farber, but you need to give me a little bit more.
In order for me to know what they’re talking about, there are two asterisks. Excuse me. Next to the word emails and you would have to actively scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and look and see what it says. And there it says, “Receive our email updates to learn ways to join in the fight against cancer.” They could have just moved that up to the top and save me the trouble. They’re potentially losing many people from subscribing because I have to scroll. You know what? All I want to do is come in, donate. If there’s an opt in, I will opt in, that’s fine, but you’re adding friction, and again, you’re hurting your potential retention because email could help retention and now I’m not going to sign up. So you want to stay away from that.
Now we’ve seen where the forms should be, the CTA, the fields, and yes, yes, yes, you should have it on your donation page, opt in only, let’s look at having a gratitude attitude and saying thank you. The same way that you would say thank you to somebody for a donation should be the same way you say thank you to somebody for subscribing. I want to repeat again. Inboxes are overflowing and I’m sure you all feel it also. The fact that somebody is willing to allow your organization into their inbox, you should be grateful and say thank you right away.
So this is a checklist, and I apologize. I know that slide etiquette says no more than three or four bullet points, but I wanted to get everything on one slide because you’ll be getting the slides later. There are eight things that you should have on a gratitude checklist for that welcome aboard email. The first thing is immediacy. Eighty-two percent of people open a welcome email. As soon as I click the sign up or subscribe, there should be an email in my inbox welcoming me and I will open it. Eight out of 10 people do so.
The second thing is mobile-friendly. Sixty-two percent of people open emails on their mobile phones. So make sure that the design is mobile-friendly. Next, make sure your subject line is going to cause me to open the email. So, for example, the ACLU, their subject line to their welcome email is, “You’re part of a powerful team,” which is a great subject line. The next thing is it should be sent by a person. The email should say, Steven@Bloomerang. It shouldn’t say Info@Bloomerang. It should be sent by a person. You will want to build a relationship with your subscribers. Make it one to one. The same exact thing as we’ve been talking fundraising exists in email marketing as well. The next thing is personalization. So if in your form you asked for their first name, that first email should say, dear, Steven. Hi, Steven. Thank you, Steven. Welcome, Steven. Don’t omit the first name if they actually gave it to you because you required them to do so.
The next thing is easy on the eyes. And I want to introduce a term here called design golf. That’s a term I learned from really good emails, which is a team of people who are experts at email marketing. They have a great website where you can find thousands of samples of any type of email that you need to learn from. They also have a weekly YouTube. I won’t call it a show, but it’s about 10 minutes long where you learn about all the best practices in email marketing. And this is where I learned that from them.
So design golf, golf, the goal in golf is to have a lowest possible score. Design golf is to have the lowest possible score of elements in your email. So, for example, you don’t want to have six different fonts, three different colored, you know, click buttons and four things bolded and some of the writing is center-aligned as opposed to being left-aligned, some of it and it’s just a mishmash. Your design should be as simple and easy on the eye as possible. The least amount of elements, that’s what you’re going for.
The tone of your welcome emails should be warm and friendly the exact same as you would do with a thank you for a donation. And the last thing is you want to set expectations. Don’t tell me we’re going to email you regularly because regularly I send out an email four days a week. That’s my regularly, yours could be yearly, monthly, quarterly, weekly. Tell people we’re going to be coming into your inbox every Tuesday or every second Tuesday of the month. But set expectations right from the start.
So now that we know what you should have, I want to bring in another expert opinion, Julie Cooper, who was an expert fundraising copywriter, she’s GoCooper on Twitter. And here’s what she says, “Asking a new subscriber to donate or do anything significant right away is like asking you to marry them on the first date.” And all I can say is bingo. Do not in your opening email, welcome email, ask for a donation.
And if you remember the rule of seven, okay? It takes seven touch points. It’s not just a welcome email and then a donation. In fact, if you go to Julie’s site, fundraisingcopywriting.com, she has an ebook which you can download about a welcome series and the first five to seven emails you should be sending new subscribers to kind of introduce the nonprofit to them and build that relationship. Maybe an inspirational story, take a quick survey. Here’s something you didn’t know about the work we do. But move them along slowly but surely and then at the end of that welcome series six, seven emails, you can ask for a very small donation. But asking for a donation right out of the gate, absolutely not. You want to avoid that.
So let’s look at two types of gratitude that you should have. One is on your website. I just signed up and I get a popup message. This is from Teach for America. Great image to the left. “Thanks for signing up. You’ll find great content in your inbox soon,” which is great. So they’re letting me know I’m going to get an email very soon. They have a little bit about their mission and then on the bottom, “See how change happens.” And they have a button, Watch Video.
They’re doing two things there. One, it’s another touch point. I came to their website, touchpoint one. I signed up for their newsletter, touchpoint two. Watch video, touchpoint three. Build that relationship. Teach me more about Teach for America. They also keep you on their website, which, of course, is a goal you want. Time on site, you want people to be staying on the site as long as possible. So this is an excellent popup gratitude message from Teach for America.
This is from Ronald McDonald House. It’s a popup message that’s right over the form. And thanks for signing up. And they open with, “We’re thrilled you’ve decided to join our family.” Remember what I said about the warm and friendly tone? Now I’m part of a family. And then they tell you, “You’ve joined a global movement so that families can focus on their sick child while we take care of the rest.” So you’ve made me feel good about signing up. You haven’t asked me for anything, but you’ve already made me feel good. That’s the first step in building that relationship. So those are two popups. And I certainly suggested a popup message that says thank you. And, you know, an email is on its way, something to let people know that the subscription went through. They clicked a button, they should know that they’ve signed up.
Then we’ll go there to the welcome email itself. So I want to take the welcome email from Save the Children and I want to break it down into four pieces, into four parts. So the first part is the subject line. Welcome to Save the Children is a good subject line. I just signed up and, you know, I find out if I come back 10 minutes later, I still remember. Yes. And they’re welcoming me. It comes from a person Carolyn Miles, who I don’t know who that is, but we’ll find out in a minute. The email address that’s to the right of her name that’s very small, and I apologize about that. It’s [email protected]. Not great. It should come from [email protected]. I want to point out that at the top of the email is this great picture and welcome to our Save the Children family. Right out of the gate, I’m part of a family, that warm and friendly tone, unless you don’t like your family. But if you do, welcome to the family.
Part two starts like this. “Dear E . . . ” Just so you know, I did not give them my full name. I only gave them my first initial because I wanted to see what would happen. So they say welcome and “I couldn’t be more grateful.” They’re right away showing gratitude to me in order to build the relationship. Paragraph two, “Thanks to the commitment of compassionate people like you.” So they’re already bringing me in and telling me by signing up, I’m part of this compassionate group of people who’s helping and who am I helping. In the final sentence of paragraph, they give you a little bit of data about the work they do across U.S. and around the world.
The next thing in the email is this great thumbnail, “Watch a video.” As we discussed another touch point. Just let me learn a little bit more about the organization. “Watch this video.” And you can determine the thumbnail of your video. Look at this thumbnail. It’s great. You should be doing that with all your video thumbnails.
The final part, “We’re excited to share our news and stories with you.” So, again, part of the family, the excitement, the tone. It’s signed. So they have an e-signature, which I like. It’s a nice touch by Carolyn Miles, who is the CEO of Save the Children. That’s a big deal. So I’m getting now a personal email as it were from the CEO. So everything in this email so far is pretty perfect outside of that email address at the beginning and then the PS, which is an ask. So that was the one thing I need to point out here that is an absolute 100% no, no. Otherwise, the rest of the email is an excellent welcome email.
We’ll look at another welcome email from the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. And I’ll just point out a couple of quick things here. On the left side . . . I apologize about the screenshot. I broke it into two. On the left side is a great picture. Okay? It invites me in already and tells me a little bit about what they do just from the picture alone. “Welcome to Team JDC.” They’re welcoming me to a team. It’s that warm, friendly tone and I’m part of a larger group.
On the right side, there’s a video again, great thumbnail. And then there’s a paragraph there where they give me just one sentence about some work they do in Romania, some work they do in Ukraine, or that they do in Israel, giving you a sense of the global nature of their work and each one of those is a click. So if I’m interested in a specific country or a story, I click. Another touchpoint.
Down at the bottom there, they have seen more of our work, a button you can click to learn more and stay connected. They’re giving you every which way to stay connected. And the data they’re collecting tells them, did Ephraim, when he signed up, did he click on this? Because if he did, our second email to him is going to be a little bit different than if he didn’t. If he didn’t click on anything, he’ll get email access, his next follow-up email a week later. If he did click on something, let’s figure out what he clicked on and find out what he did because our follow-up email in a week is going look a little bit different.
This is the Catholic Medical Mission. Again, the picture is excellent, the thumbnail of the video. This is the popup icon on screen after I signed up. So they tell me that I’m part of a growing global community. That’s good. It tells me in the small print, “Thank you for supporting our mission.” Now, I haven’t given any money. So if they’re saying that by signing up I’m supporting their mission, that’s fine. However, this popup message is an ask. It’s keep children healthy. We have not established a relationship at all. All I did was sign up. As Julie said, it’s like our first date, you’re not asking for my hand in marriage. Don’t have that on your popup message.
Two other no-no’s that you want to avoid. One from the HealthWell Foundation, which their welcome email to me was a press release. I have no idea what it was about. I don’t know, unfortunately, what LEMS is and it was a very long press release. That was how they welcomed me. That’s not what you want to do.
And there’s the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Now, I know a bit about what they do, but the welcome email should still be welcoming me in. Top right corner, they have a great tagline, “Beating cancer is in our blood.” I love it. But the welcome email was an automatic ask for a triathlon at their triathlon event, a fundraising event. No welcome, no nothing. So that’s what you want to avoid in that welcome email.
So now that we’ve seen all this, one of my favorite things is testing. Always be testing, always be looking at the data. You’ve got plenty of data available to you and whatever CRM you’re using or whatever platform you’re using to send out your email, you’ve got Google Analytics, you’ve got the data. So the question is, what should you be testing in your email marketing? You want to look at the form on your website, the call to action. If you have lots of traffic but very few people signing up, maybe change your call to action. Look at your subject line. Are your open rates low on the welcome email? Maybe change the subject line. How’s your clickthrough rate? If it’s low, maybe change up the links or the content that you have in your welcome email. Those are the types of things that you want to be analyzing constantly and testing so you can get the highest clickthrough rate, highest open rate that you possibly can.
So having done all that, we can summarize with another checklist. Where on your website should you have your form? On the bottom right above the site map, on every page, the ask, give me a reason. Tell me why I should sign up. Make me be active and sign up. Your fields in the form, email and first name if you want. Your donation page, absolutely have it there, but make sure it’s opt in. Gratitude, yes. Have a popup message plus a welcome email and remember to always be testing.
So thank you, everyone, for sitting through this. And I hope you’ve learned a little bit about the onboarding process and how you can grow your email list so that eventually you can convert subscribers into donors. I, as Steven knows, I love to connect with people with nonprofiteers, wherever you are in the world. So you can find me online at my website, 1832communications.com. Find me on LinkedIn and my name, my Twitter handle. If you have a question from today or maybe I don’t get to all the questions, my email is right there at the bottom, [email protected]. Email me, please. And I’m happy to answer questions.
Two other things I’ll point out one, as Steven mentioned is my weekly podcast on my website. It’s 1832communications.com/nonprofit-podcast, where you can learn from the sector experts. And I have a daily newsletter Monday through Thursday where I bring you content that’s relevant for any nonprofit role that you fill. It’s at my website /nonprofit-newsletter.
And just to finish off, July is my birthday month and as part of the festivities every year . . . Thanks, Steven. I turned to very young 48. As part of the festivities, every year in July, I run some kind of promotion or offer. So whether you’re a current subscriber or you go right now and subscribe on my website, I’m offering a discount on what I call my Marketing Kickstart, which is upgrading your social media presence, or your website content, or your email marketing. I’m offering a discount now through July 31st. Get in touch with me on my website. You can look under My Publications menu and you’ll see Marketing Kickstart . . . Sorry, under Nonprofit Services. It says Marketing Kickstart. Click it, get in touch with me, get your discount. Let’s upgrade your online presence.
And with that, I’ll turn it back over to Steven for some Q&A. Thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate it.
Steven: I told y’all it was going to be good. That was jam-packed, Ephraim. I don’t know how you packed so much into 45 minutes. That was awesome.
Ephraim: Thank you.
Steven: Love the examples. We got some questions here. So before I get to them, if you haven’t asked a question, do it now because we’ve probably got about maybe 10 or 12 minutes. Good chunk of time. And you should sign up for that newsletter. That newsletter is really good. There’s good stuff in there. And the podcast is good too. Okay. So we got one here. Our buddy, Jim Martin, big time ’80s music fan, by the way, if you don’t know Jim.
Ephraim: Yes, he is.
Steven: Jim’s asking about those pop-ups, like the light boxes that kind of maybe just scroll a little bit and then it just zaps you with a little form. Any insight on those are good, bad, do those work? What do you think?
Ephraim: Okay. So I asked a lot of experts. I did a lot of research for an ebook. I wrote an ebook on this topic on onboarding subscribers and popup ads as a chapter. And you can sign up. It’s on my website also. You can download it. It’s free. So it’ll give you all this information plus a lot more about strategy and popups. Popups, it was 50-50, do it, don’t do it. From a user experience, they are very, very annoying as all of us can attest to by the fact that many of us have ad blockers, popup blockers, and all that other stuff. However, do they convert? Yes.
So a study by Sumo was over a little bit over 3% conversion rate. So it was about 3.09 conversion rate. Now, that might sound like a little bit to you, but if you have, let’s just say a million people going to your website, that’s 30,000 people signing up via that popup ad. That’s not a small amount of people to eventually convert into donors. However, if you’re going to do popup ads . . . I, by the way, on my website, have a popup ad for my newsletter and it converts and it converts well. So I do use it, but I know plenty of people who don’t, because, again, it is annoying to users. I get it.
So I will say the following, if you’re going to do it, do not use a popup ad that covers the entire screen. That’s mega annoying to everyone. The second thing not to do is to the X button where you can close the popup ad. Don’t make it really light gray so it’s really hard for me to see it. That’s also mega annoying. The third thing is don’t have the popup ad show up like within three seconds. You know, like if you’re going to have it, have it when somebody is halfway down the page. You can time it. Make it to when somebody scrolls down the page. Show me value then give me the popup. Or time it. If you know people stay on a certain page for a certain amount of time, wait 15 seconds then have the popup ad.
So I cannot give a clear answer. I will say, based on my research, only two out of the hundred largest nonprofits in the U.S. use popup ads for their newsletter. One of them is the Susan G. Komen . . . Susan G. Komen uses it. It’s a nice one. It’s pink like their colors. It’s branded well. They use it, but 98 out of 100 do not.
Steven: Interesting. Yeah. We have one on one page of the Bloomerang website and it does okay. It doesn’t do that great. But it’s timed, like you said, based on the user experience. So that seems like a testing thing you’d want to try to.
Ephraim: That’s a big time testing. And I would also suggest if you’re considering it, do it on one or two of your most heavily trafficked pages at the outset. See how it goes and then you can go to other pages. But that’s one of those things where Google Analytics is extremely helpful because you’ve got the data right there. Use the data to your advantage and decide, popup, yes. Popup, no.
Steven: Got it. Okay. So a lot of people, Ephraim, are asking kind of variations of the same question, so I’m going to kind of Voltron them real quick. So I got the sense that listening to you, your philosophy is kind of like get the email address, don’t muck up the form with a lot of other things. A lot of people are asking, how do you get that information after the fact? Is it in those welcomes? Is it maybe surveys? What do you think about maybe serving donors and some of those next emails in the sequence? What do you think there?
Ephraim: Okay. So the first thing I wanted to point out is what I said about having too many fields in your form also applies to donation pages, right? We talk about this all the time. KISS, keep it simple. And I don’t want to say the other S is smart, but whatever. Keep people have what I call form fatigue. If it’s too much, it’s too long, if you create that friction, you ruin the relationship, you lose the chance to get that person in the door. Okay. Let’s say I’ve got their first name. Keep in mind, people use their business addresses. It takes two seconds for you on LinkedIn and go to that business and search LinkedIn for that business. You’ll find their last name. That’s one. Two, people use their full names in the actual email address itself, right? So you might be [email protected]. Okay. If you have an AOL address, Steven really need to talk, but whatever, we’ll do that after the webinar.
Steven: I’m an older millennial. So I get one.
Ephraim: Okay. Fine. But the point is that there are other ways to find it then as you mentioned. In your welcome series, in your follow-up emails, you can ask small little questions. Survey and ask them to fill in their last name because we want to send you something. You know, give us your last name. I can tell you, I don’t know if it was Feeding America or Midwest Food Bank, but they did an excellent quiz in one of their welcome emails. Said, “Do you know about hunger in America?” And they ask, “Click here” and you go to their site and they have four questions related to hunger, which is their mission. So it’s not about them, specifically the questions, it’s about hunger overall. And then if you get it right, they give you a popup box with a little bit more information and if you get the answer wrong, they give you the right answer and how their mission is fulfilling, you know, it’s meeting the local need or the national need. It was four questions, very low friction, right? And takes me two seconds to . . . You take that survey, you’ve built that relationship a little bit more. So the goal eventually is to get that relationship going.
Now, think about it. Let’s just say all I have is the first name and an email address. Down the road when I asked for a donation, they got to fill in the form online anyway. So I’ve got your first name, I’ve got your last name. You don’t necessarily need the last name for emails. I mean, I get Dear, Ephraim. They’re not saying Dear, Ephraim Gopin. If they are, they’re asking if there’s a bank account somewhere that I need to get millions of dollars out of and that actually means they’ve got my full name. So no. No. You can get it. There are other ways to get it or you don’t need it until they give that donation down the line.
Steven: Okay. Makes sense. So that leads me to kind of the next thing people are asking about is, okay, let’s say you got the email address, there’s a nice welcome message on the website, they get a nice welcome email. What should come next? Is it something that is segmented only for those people? Should they get thrown into the whole big list? A lot of people are asking about kind of what’s next segment? You know, what do you think they should be getting afterwards? Maybe things like surveys, quizzes?
Ephraim: Okay. So just so everybody knows, I started this research two days before Christmas. So if I tell you that I signed up, the first thing I should have said is that there are . . . I looked at a hundred nonprofits, only 74 of them have a newsletter. There’s a quarter of them that don’t even have a newsletter. I was shocked. I figured they all would. Twenty-five percent don’t even have it. There’s no sign up form. There’s no nothing. And I checked their websites. I looked.
Okay. The second thing is it was two days before Christmas, a week before the end of new years. What do you think my inbox look like because none of them segmented their lists? I’ve never given you a cent. Suddenly, every 10 minutes, I’m getting an email from you, end of year, or matching donors. Your $10 is worth 30. My inbox was crazy. Segment your list. Just because they sign up right before Christmas is not a reason to throw emails at them asking for money.
Have a welcome series that comes once a week, once every two weeks, whatever it is, and that list is segmented until you can join them up. Voltron them, in Steven’s words, with your main list, but they should be segmented out. Use whatever platform, CRM, database, whatever you’re using. Segment, segment, segment. If I just signed up, I don’t want to get an email like I did from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society about a triathlon fundraiser. They’re doing great work. I know that, but I want to be welcomed first as part of the team, as part of the family. Build that relationship. I’ll say it again. What Julie, if you go to Julie’s website, fundraisingcopywriting.com, she’s got an ebook about welcome series. Download it, use it. It’s great.
Steven: Yeah. Julie’s awesome. Definitely check that out. Okay. A lot of people asking about unsubscribes. So what’s your philosophy there? I know a lot of people kind of get bent out of shape. You know, they feel like they’ve done something wrong. We had another guest on. And I can’t remember who it was, but they sort of viewed unsubscribes as kind of a positive thing. You know, the lists getting better, it’s getting clean. How can people deal with that, avoid unsubscribes? Are there a couple of things they should do there?
Ephraim: Okay. So there’s a couple things here. Number one, as somebody who has a newsletter myself, I always look at the yes, I do see who unsubscribed. It’s fine. I’ve gotten over that. Oh, my God, they unsubscribed.
Steven: They hate me.
Ephraim: Listen. Why they unsubscribe? Is it because you weren’t providing value to them, which is what you should be doing. When you’re building the relationship and strengthening trust, you have to provide that content, that value that makes them want to stay. You get it. If I’m not providing that value, I need to check myself. So you want to look at the data, your unsubscribe rates. If you’ve got a really high unsubscribe rate, you need to change your strategy when it comes to email marketing. Second of all, let people unsubscribe. Make it easy for them to unsubscribe. Because I can tell you, when you don’t make it easy, they go on Twitter and they will tag your organization, “In order for me to unsubscribe, I had to find the button in the first place, then I had to go fill out a form in order to unsubscribe and, and, and . . . ” People hate it.
Again, think about your user experience. If you yourself weren’t in an organization but you were signing up for a newsletter. I don’t care, nonprofit business, news. It doesn’t matter. How upset would you be if it took you 10 minutes to do what should take you literally half a second, click unsubscribe. Done. There are those who have an exit message. I don’t, but I certainly have unsubscribed and gotten that exit message and they asked that one question survey. Could you tell us why you unsubscribed? Please don’t. If you’re going to do that, do not make that survey obligatory in order for me to unsubscribe. Just let me unsubscribe and go on my way.
If I want to tell you why I unsubscribe, I will tell you. If I don’t, I don’t. Again, that’s valuable data for you to be looking at, your unsubscribes. What percentage are unsubscribes and why, if people give you that. And then again, go back to what you’re doing. Look at your strategy, look at your content, your subject lines, your links, everything that you’re doing and check it again and see what you can make better, because always be testing. There should not be a day you’re not tinkering with it. Just thinking about it until you find that perfect email that gets a 100% open rate and a 100% click-through rate. If there’s anybody on this call who gets to that point, please contact me immediately and tell me how you did that. I’d really like to know.
Steven: Yeah. I’ll have you as a guest on too. Speaking of testing, here’s one from our buddy, Laura. Is there a minimum list size that you would want to maybe wait until you get to, to start testing? Because you know, if you’ve got 10 subscribers, what do you think? Is there kind of a minimum there?
Ephraim: Nope. Right from the get-go. Absolutely from the get-go. And, you know, that leads me back to your earlier to the last question. I apologize. I didn’t fully answer it. You had asked about thinning out the herd as it were. Okay? You should clean your list, data hygiene, you and I, T. Clay Buck on Twitter all day, all night, data hygiene. Okay? The same data hygiene you would have with your fundraising data is the same thing you should have with your email marketing data. So you should be testing from that first email to that first subscriber. If you’re subscriber number one, great. As soon as you get subscriber, number two, that’s when you start testing. Did this work? I don’t necessarily buy that. I need to have 1,000 subscribers before.
And just to add to that, on the clean data side, I do cull my list. And I’ve spoken about this with many, many people who have business newsletters and personal newsletters. They clean out their lists and, you know, they make their own decisions. If somebody hasn’t opened anything in three months, we move into an archive or you could email them and try and reengage them. You know, you haven’t opened your email in three months. Is it something I did? I’ve seen some very cute, funny emails about that. But you should always be cleaning that list. Again, your open numbers, your click-through rate, you want it as high as possible. Don’t bother people who don’t want to be bothered.
Steven: That may be a good way to end it. This is awesome. We got a couple minutes left. Any final words, Ephraim? How can people find you? You got your stuff on screen, but what . . .
Ephraim: I got my stuff on screen. I would love, as I said, I’m happy to connect with everybody on Twitter and on LinkedIn. Please find me. Say hi. Steven will tell you, I’m on Twitter 24/6. So I’m always happy to talk to nonprofiteers over there. Sign up for my newsletter because, a), you’ll get plenty of great content where you can grow, learn, and implement at your organization and then on the business side of things, you get that discount till the end of July, if you want to talk email marketing strategy, social media, web content, all the things that I do in my non-webinaring hours. And again, if you have a question that unfortunately we couldn’t get to because of time, please, please email me. It’s my first name, ephraim@1832comms, C-O-M-M-S.com. Email me and I’ll be more than happy to answer your question.
Steven: Generous offer. Take advantage of it because there some really good questions in here we didn’t get to. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t trying to play favorites too much, although I saw some buddies of mine here that I wanted to get to. But do you reach out to him and sign up for that stuff. There’s really good stuff there. This was awesome. Thanks for being here. I’m so glad we made this happen finally. And you should go eat dinner now because now it’s what? Like 9:00, right?
Ephraim: Now it’s 9:00, so it’s about dinnertime. Yeah.
Steven: Okay. Well, I won’t keep you much longer. I just want to tell everyone about the next webinar we’ve got coming up, which is actually tomorrow. And we’ve got one on Thursday. I love it. I’m just going hog wild here with these webinars. Tomorrow. Board governance under the lens of DEI. That’s going to be a good one. That is definitely a hot topic right now. A lot of people asking for this. So we added it to the schedule. And then Thursday, virtual events. That probably applies to most of you. I’m wondering about Kristin Steele. She’s awesome. So we got some good topics coming up and we got, I think three webinars next week. So just check out our webinar page. Always free, just as good as this one, always entertaining. And, Ephraim, we’re going to talk Red Sox in the next hour, right? You’re going to speak that, right?
Steven: So people want to listen about the Red Sox. I’m just kidding. We’re not going to do that. But tweet us. You may see that on Twitter. So we’ll call it a day there. Look for an email for me with the slides, the recording. I’ll get that out today. I promise and hopefully see tomorrow if you’re free. But if not, hopefully we’ll see you again on another webinar sometime. So have a good rest of your Tuesday. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay warm, or stay cool depending on where you are. And we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.
Ephraim: Thanks, Steven
Steven: See you.