Five not-too-late tips for holiday appeals: #1 email more often

Forty-four days until December 31!  If you’re a non-profit, it’s not too late to have an impact on this giving season, without spending a lot of money.  Based on last year’s experience, non-profits should expect average gifts to be smaller, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on mobilizing – and even growing – your base.

So here’s tip number one:

Increase the frequency of your emails or e-newsletters over the next five weeks.  I was impressed with Jeff Patrick’s presentation last April at the Nonprofit Technology Education Network conference, which suggested that non-profits have far greater latitude than they think when it comes to the amount of email they can send to their constituent base.  That doesn’t mean you should bombard your supporters with appeals just because you have their email addresses.  But if you’ve been paying attention to what they open, read and respond to, you can gin up a mix of cultivation and appeal content.  Cultivation-focused content includes information and profiles, but stops short of asking for money.  Appeal content, well, flat out asks for donations (elegantly, perhaps, but still directly).

By the way, Jeff suggested tracking down email addresses for donors who have previously only communicated with you by  snail mail.  FreshAddress, a service he has used that sells email addresses, turned out to be too expensive for one small, local non-profit.  Fortunately, the organization was able to expand its list of good email addresses by working with Blackbaud, their fundraising data management system.  (Blackbaud required them to send a friendly email with an opt-out option before they started emailing on a regular basis.)

If you do decide to up the email ante, make sure you have a foolproof system for managing unsubscribes (Constant Contact is one affordable example), and that you watch the “opt out” data like a hawk.  You’ll do more harm than good if you start sending out a bajillion emails from your Outlook or email client, or if people don’t want to receive email from you and they can’t get off your list.

(If you want to read a cringe-worthy example of how NOT to manage unsubscribe requests, check out this story on the Bad Pitch Blog.)

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