Association With Reputable Brands Aids Nonprofit Emails

Targeted email is one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools nonprofit marketers can use to grow donor lists and expand awareness of program services, but the technology remains underutilized due to misconceptions about its efficacy and fears of running afoul of consumer privacy laws.

Nonprofit marketers can overcome these concerns while increasing reach beyond existing donor relationships by hitching their wagon to reputable brands from which loyal customers have previously agreed to receiving third-party solicitations.

The findings were an analysis by researchers at Data Axle, a national data services and marketing consultancy, compiled from its August 2022 survey of 244 enterprise marketers tasked with acquisition and retention. The results were summarized in a 22-page white paper the company recently published.

“As marketers prepare for a future where third-party cookies will no longer contribute to their lead generation efforts, acquisition email is well poised to play a larger role than ever,” the white paper authors wrote.

Despite its potential, targeted email — essentially a form of permission-based email — remains a missed opportunity for many nonprofit marketers. Only 59% of survey respondents said they were familiar with its use to acquire contacts not currently opted onto their email lists, the authors found.

Additional statistics from the survey data include: 77% of marketers surveyed believe that an acquisition campaign delivers higher return on investment (ROI) when it includes acquisition email; 28% don’t use acquisition email because they are unsure if it’s compliant with consumer privacy laws and guidelines; and, 58% of marketers would use acquisition email if their vendor could prove the emails are privacy-compliant.

Meanwhile, 94% of marketers responded that they’re using email marketing to engage with existing customers, with 28% saying it’s not working well. By comparison, 86% of marketers are using email tactics to acquire new customers — with nearly one-third (32%) of marketers saying it’s not working well for them.

Yet, with direct mail costs increasing for paper and postage and other acquisition channels such as social media already at saturation, targeted email represents a viable way of cutting through the digital clutter and tailoring a message to prospects based on information they’ve already shared about their loyalties, hobbies and interests.

Since its results can be easily measured via matchback analysis, targeted email can also be effectively integrated with nonprofits’ other outreach channels. “Nonprofit marketers will find plenty of nuggets of wisdom here that they can leverage to improve their donor acquisition programs,” said Lori Colantuono, vice president for strategy at Data Axle.

“We know from experience that email, especially in conjunction with an omnichannel strategy, has been effective for nonprofit marketers for both mission awareness and fundraising campaigns,” said Colantuono. “It stands to reason that adding acquisition email into the mix will help nonprofit marketers reach potential donors earlier in the acquisition process and increase engagement as they surround that donor on other channels.”

Since every generation from Baby Boomers to Gen Z is accustomed to communicating by email with the brands they trust, targeted email can also be applied with equal effectiveness across multiple population segments. Targeting the right list to a passionate segment offers another way “to reach out to someone you haven’t met yet, but who would like to meet you,” the authors wrote.

“We believe the learnings in this report can be applied across all industries. The report is a study in consumer behavior – and all consumers should be viewed as potential donors,” said Colantuono.

The authors suggested the steps for an email acquisition plan:

  1. Ensure your message is specifically tailored to what you know about your custom audience segment.
  2. Plan to send at least three messages to these audiences and ensure these messages build on one another in a smart way. Consider keeping the first message broad, using the second to deliver a sneak peek usually only reserved for customers and leveraging the third email to offer a discount for first-time buyers.
  3. To get the best results, ensure the content and design of your acquisition emails are of the same quality as your traditional email marketing. A copy of the white paper is available at https://bit.ly/3TunoVt