You may have started to notice one big event is on everyone’s mind as of late. It’s in your commercials, news, and favorite websites. As the 2012 presidential election draws nearer, and becomes more prevalent in the public sphere, let’s examine what lessons we can learn from national campaigns to aid the nonprofit community.
President Obama assembled a previously unseen grassroots network online in the 2008 campaign. 3 million donors made a total of 6.5 million donations online adding up to more than $500 million. The average online donation was $80 and the average Obama donor gave more than once. Would that we all were able to assemble such a dedicated online community to support our organizations!
Here are a few tips nonprofit organizations can make their own from the Obama campaign’s fundraising success:
- The three M’s of fundraising emails are messaging, mobilization, and money.
- Emails should perpetuate the core messages of your organization. Remind people what you stand for!
- Emails must do no harm. Be careful not to alienate supporters. Targeted email lists can be a big help in this area.
- Email activism is really relationship-management, since people’s propensity to volunteer and donate is largely based on the feelings they have towards your organization.
- For the most part, the more personal, informal and direct a message is, the better.
- Targeting helps get the most out of a list – in Obama’s case, supporters might receive messages with different content based on their state or congressional district, their interests, their demographics or their past patterns of actions on behalf of the campaign.
- The campaign tried to develop relationships between the people “sending” the email and the people opening the email. A given message could have many apparent senders, with list members receiving emails “from” a campaign staff member they might actually have a chance to meet, for instance a regional volunteer coordinator. Some smaller organizations may already be doing this by virtue of size alone!
- The email initiation sequence was critical to starting the process, with new list members receiving a pre-set series of messages after they signed up. The sequence steadily “scaled the ask”, encouraging newbies to step deeper and deeper into the Obama waters – first they might show up to the phone-bank, and a few weeks later they found themselves devoting 30 hours per week to managing a volunteer team.
- Obama fundraisers also “tailored the ask,” for instance soliciting different amounts based on a person’s donation history. A $10 donor might be asked to donate $20 the next time around, but someone who’d donated $150 was safe to hit up for $200.
- When possible, staffed mapped out email narrative arcs in advance. For best effect, each message had to stand alone but also be part of a system.
- Despite the best targeting, different emails activate different people at different times. No one message has to connect with every supporter. If you miss ‘em this week, you might get ‘em next week!
What are you tips and tricks for email fundraising? Let us know in the comments below!