Tag Archives: email

Facebook announces revised privacy settings

If you’re one of the 350 million Facebook users, you saw the same thing I did at the top of my page this morning… an open letter from founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Here’s the highlight:  We’re adding something that many of you have asked for — the ability to control who sees each individual piece of content you create or upload. In addition, we’ll also be fulfilling a request made by many of you to make the privacy settings page simpler by combining some settings.

This week, one of my co-workers on a non-profit campaign asked if it’s possible to use Constant Contact to publish to Facebook walls… and, of course, it isn’t.  This particular outreach effort is aimed at a particular subset of youth in our community, and you can’t get to them via email.  Facebook isn’t email, but it did make me wonder if Facebook will continue to evolve into a giant inbox, particularly if we can have granular control over who sees what.  I still like managing my communications through my email client, but FB does have the advantage of less SPAM.

What if Facebook becomes a cross between email and a personalized home page?  What if it takes on some of the features of Google Wave with these new privacy settings?

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Benchmarks to help you assess holiday fundraising progress

A few weeks back, I shared a story about a meeting in which the accountable manager said that he would know if his current campaign was working once the final results were all in.  In other words, when the organization would have no ability to influence the outcome.

My last six posts were inspired by that incident:  first, a post about the importance of early warning indicators (also called leading indicators), and a five part series about easily-implemented tactics because it’s not too late to influence the outcome of a holiday fundraising campaign.  (Here’s a link to the first post, if you’re getting this by email.)

Besides evaluating progress against your own week-by-week 2008 results, here are some benchmarks that may help you to evaluate how well your holiday campaign is going – so you can decide whether or not to turn up the heat.  Remember my focus is always on small, local non-profits.  I’m drawing here on the M+R Strategic Services/NTEN report, “2009 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study” (available free online), and my own anecdotal experience from working with several non-profits as a pro bono consultant here in Sacramento:

  • Email frequency:  According to the M+R report, organizations send 3.5 emails per month on average.  My own experience is that most small, local nonprofits assume they shouldn’t send more than one or two emails per month.  Yes, a few more people unsubscribe over the holidays, but there’s good evidence that non-profits will net more contributions by increasing email frequency some.  For email tips, read that first not-too-late post.
  • Email open rates:  Open rates have been dropping over the past three years, according to M+R.  In 2008, the open rate for local nonprofit’s emails was 20%.  This number includes a wide variety of email content types:  appeals, advocacy and news.  Nationally, open rates are lower for fundraising appeals:  only 14%.   M+R points out that open rates are understated, “…open rates are a notoriously unreliable metric… because the technology that allows us to measure an ‘open’ is affected by factors — spam filters, preview panes, image-blocking — that have little to do with whether someone is actually opening (or reading) an email.”  Here in Sacramento, one organization that has been sending e-newsletters for over a year had an open rate of 23.8% on its last email.  Another, sending its first email, had an open rate of 21.1%.  Neither subject line was as compelling as it could have been, and we are hopeful to increase open rates for the next emailings.  The drop in email open rates over the past three years does not mean this tactic has run its course or is not worth the return; to the contrary, response rates are often higher and more immediate than snail mail appeals, not to mention the lower cost of the tactic.  And P.S., don’t panic.  Email open rates typically decline a little in December.   That may well be because the average number of email messages increased from 3.5 for the year to 5.5 in December, according to M+R’s 2008 data, possibly saturating some constituents.
  • Click throughs: Click through rates have also been dropping, down to 2.4% according to the M+R metric.  Click  throughs to local nonprofits were a little higher, 4.7% in 2008.  But here’s where my experience is far different.  For the two organizations I mentioned above, the click through rates – that is, the percentage of people who followed a link to the home website or another website linked in the email – was a whopping 22.6% in one case and 19.6% in the other.  So there’s another argument for email:  links make it easy for people to investigate something further on the website and increase engagement, immediately.
  • Email fundraising response rates: For local organizations, the national M+R benchmark is 0.09%.  Roughly speaking, if a small non-profit sends a email asking for donations to 1,000 constituents, and 10 people give a gift, it’s hit the national benchmark.  If no one gives, you should do some thinking about why.  But remember, this response rate is for emails with a clear “give money” kind of subject line and content.

The Oxfam case study on page 26 of the free downloadable M+R report is worth the read, and a good not-to-late nudge.

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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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Mirror, mirror: here’s how I use social media

Whats in your mirror?  Courtesy:  Lamerie/Flickr

What's in your mirror? Courtesy: Lamerie/Flickr

(A blog post in which I ask and answer the new-age questions about why I use social media the way I do, and why my teenage son uses it the way he does.)

If I had one of those now unemployed Ernst & Young business process consultants sitting next to me, watching how I use social media, here’s what they’d observe:

  • I receive frequent Facebook status updates by email, which are cryptic enough to make me go on the page and try to figure out what they were in reference to, e.g. “I know what you mean!  LOL!”  I noticed about two weeks ago that I STOPPED getting updates from my son.  Yup, he de-friended me.  Fortunately, one of his friends invited me to be her friend, so maybe I can vicariously keep a finger on the pulse that way.  (My son writes a lot of songs that he posts on Facebook, which I really miss seeing.  But he took the advice of a friend that maybe it isn’t such a hot idea to give your mother complete visibility on your life during your senior year in high school.)
  • LinkedIn status updates, which come every few days, are generally boring.  I really don’t care who people are connecting to.  I swear, there’s one former colleague who connects to four or five people a day.  In my head, I hear his voice in an echo chamber, exclaiming like Jafar in Disney’s Aladdin, “I’m the most powerful genie in the WORLD!”  I like to use LinkedIn for purely professional contacts, and I like having access to info about what my professional friends are doing these days.
  • Because I have been crazy busy the past few weeks, I turned off my mobile tweets that used to come through every few SECONDS (dial 40404 and then type ‘off’).  I plunge in every few days, always find good stuff right away, do a few tweets and jump back out of the Twitter ocean.  I also get the occasional DM (direct message), like one from @sacramentopress asking me if I could take some pics of the wild chickens in my neighborhood.  One of my son’s friends follows me on Twitter, although to be honest, I’m not sure she knows it’s me since I tweet as @philanthrophile.
  • I haven’t logged back in to my Google Reader yet, which makes me re-log in every two weeks.  I know if I start reading posts, I’ll want to blog and I haven’t had time this week.
  • And, obviously, I haven’t blogged for about two weeks.  I don’t let myself blog until after I’ve done the important project stuff.  It’s my treat to myself.  Really.  Silent running, of course, has had a predictably negative effect on traffic.  My blog traffic climbed to 1,640 views per month in July.  Strangely, traffic was up early this week but it’s in the dumper again after being silent for so long.
  • My number one tool for communication?  Email.  I am a monster on email.  For me, it is social.  I’m not a big fan of talking on the phone although I text a lot.

The same E&Y process consultant would observe the following re: my son:

  • His phone is an appendage, but not so much for talking.  It buzzes with new texts almost constantly.  During dinner last night, one friend – the same friend – texted him in three minute intervals.  “Okay,” I said finally, “you can respond to Glenn!”  When he answers a ring (the ring tone changes every few days – last night it was Rocky Horror picture show), the greeting is always the same, “Hey, what’s up?”  The conversation is always less than two minutes.  It is usually followed by a succession of other short calls or text messages to coordinate whatever’s happening.  He has moved past the grunting stage of teen communication but doesn’t really enjoy the phone.  Especially Skype calls.  Just ask his sister.
  • His next best electronic friend is Facebook.  It beats out his ipod and gaming.  If he goes to a concert, he posts photos within an hour.  He literally cannot go to bed without doing this.  He is almost immediately embraced by friends who ‘like’ his photo or make comments.  He uses Facebook to coordinate group activities.  Tuesday has become drive-in movie night this summer, so he uses his status update to find out who’s in.
  • He thinks it’s a little strange that I have adopted Twitter, when he hasn’t.  (We parents are not supposed to lead when it comes to electronic adoption.)  But then, only one of his friends is on Twitter, and I’m not sure he even knows that.
  • He checks email only under duress.  Seriously, he hates it.  He has a teacher that communicates that way and he knows colleges use it, but it’s like taking out the garbage – you have to be reminded.

This week, Mashable (the central repository for all things social media) has been talking about why teenagers don’t tweet, in response to Neilson data that teens represent only about a quarter of Twitter traffic (although it doesn’t count those doing it on mobile, so it under-represents them).  So I’ve been turning an anthropologist’s mirror on my own social media usage and that of my 17-year-old son’s, thinking about why we have the patterns that we do.  I don’t think it’s that complicated:

Facebook is really, really satisfying.  He was pulled into Facebook by his college-aged sister, but quickly preferred the cleaner interface and smaller amount of junk.  He doesn’t have to think about a 140 character limit.  The status bar is long enough to accomodate whatever he usually wants to say.

His Facebook traffic is limited to his friends (which do not include me as of two weeks ago).  You can be followed by anyone on Twitter.  Sure, you can actively block people – I block the X-rated types that regularly offer me naughty videos – but that takes effort.  He would rather more actively friend people or accept a friend invitation (or not).

Additional groups – via fan pages – are easy to engage with.  Friends send you a status report that they’re a member of, say, their high school’s fan group.  All you have to do is press connect and it’s linked to your Facebook page.  Your causes and fan pages become a part of your identity on Facebook.  That’s less true with Twitter twibes and LinkedIn groups, plus there are an irritating number of people in those groups who are essentially advertising themselves or their services.

Facebook handles media uploads really easily.  My son recorded a song in memory of our dog’s unexpected death via Facebook.  He didn’t even Flip video record it or record it on Garage Band, his built-in Mac Book tool.

Facebook turns him on to stuff on the Internet, like youtube videos.  He doesn’t spend much time surfing on the Internet.  I don’t know of any sites he checks regularly, other than, perhaps, Fandango.  But friends find stuff and post links as part of a status update.  Voila!  Internet finds thanks to Facebook.

Facebook is so much a part of his life he can’t imagine going on vacation without it.  I know how Michelle Obama feels.

Bottomline:  Facebook is a great product for his needs.  Until something better comes along, AND his friends migrate, he’s not going anywhere.

Unlike my son, I do not like to be electronically tethered when I’m on vaca  (see?  it feels like a tether to me and a lifeline to him… hmm…) … so don’t expect to see a post until on or about August 20th!  Off to meet my daughter in Europe!

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