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E-Mail Overload?

March 20, 2013

emailWith the support of nearly 287 nonprofits in Southwest Florida, e-mail inboxes from here to Alaska and back were burning hot with urgent messages encouraging donations, clicks and sharing during the 36-Hour Giving Challenge.

E-mail marketing in general is one of the most cost-effective communication tools for nonprofits.  For a digital campaign like the 36-Hour Giving Challenge, it can be super important.

What happens when one donor who supports many causes receives multiple messages from multiple institutions in the span of a few weeks or days?

I’ll tell you one story about a Community Foundation donor. She enjoyed getting the various messages from the organizations she supported, and forwarded each of them to me just in case I wasn’t on the list. It helped to build excitement and momentum for the unfolding Challenge, and I enjoyed watching her taking it all in from my vantage point behind a different monitor.

Every nonprofit supporter may not have felt the same way.

It’s possible for too much volume in a short time period to kill the message and messenger.

So in a situation like this, what is a nonprofit to do? Certainly we see value in short, compelling storytelling and careful planning to use your digital equity wisely.  Multiple “blast” e-mails to your entire list may not be the answer for your organization. (Hint: this is nothing unique to the 36-Hour Giving Challenge!)

Now is the time to start thinking creatively about future possibilities.

If we host another Challenge, the e-mail machine is inevitable. We know it today. How will your nonprofit address it? We hope it’s not by choosing to limit your outreach.

You have time to start shaping your list segmentation, building your social media power, and dreaming up adjusted approaches to reach your current supporters and new ones.

Considering all of the options at your disposal is about far more than success in the Giving Challenge. It’s a good exercise in building your flexibility, understanding your audiences, developing truly good content, and integrating your approaches. (And why not add your thinking to the communications plan in your Giving Partner profile?)

If your organization believes that too much e-mail was a problem, start using the cumulative brilliance of your team to consider new strategies for next year’s toolbox to refine your approach. (We’re guessing that you don’t want the foundations to impose guidelines on how nonprofits should use e-mail.) We will love to see what the talented thinkers in our community come up with.

And don’t forget, there are many who really enjoyed receiving your e-mail updates and encouragement.  I heard it constantly from donors and community leaders who were amazed at what Southwest Florida accomplished together.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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