News Flash to Nonprofits: Quit Messing With Pinterest and Get an Email System

by Carol Buckheit on April 3, 2012

Coupled with maintaining  a first-rate website, sending informative, quality emails to supporters is the bedrock of nonprofit communications. Email is still king of the communications empire–whether one is cultivating donors, recruiting volunteers, or promoting a new program. Why? It still tends to yield consistently better results than any other online tool.Email road

So why, why, why are some organizations neglecting an email strategy in favor of the latest and greatest social media tools? (I mean you, Pinterest)

Every organization that communicates with supporters — no matter how small– needs to invest in a broadcast email system such as iContact, Mail Chimp, Vertical Response, or Emma. Personally, I’m a die-hard Mail Chimp fan for its ease of use, support, integrations, and visually appealing templates.  Hotmail, Gmail, and Outlook, by the way, are not broadcast email systems.

Last week, Groundwire released their very comprehensive 2012 report comparing email providers. This fabulous review can guide you through the many choices and features of each system. Many are extremely inexpensive and offer nonprofit discounts. I  have set up Mail Chimp accounts for my clients– complete with customized templates– in less than an hour. The training takes a bit more time.

Once you have your email system:

  1. Growing your list of email supporters must be an organizational priority. There are many, many strategies for growing a responsive, quality e-mail list. I’d start with Karen Zapp’s suggestions.
  2. Incorporate some basic design elements to increase the likelihood that recipients will open your emails
  3. You must follow CAN-SPAM laws
  4. Create a schedule of emails so you are using email to consistently communicate with your supporters. (Suggestion: One monthly e-newsletter “digest” plus 2 other email messages during the month with dedicated themes, such as for an event, conference, performance, breaking news item).
  5. Segment your emails so the right audience receives the right message
  6. Place clear calls to action in your emails
  7. Analyze the results of your emails through the reports generated from your email system.  What was your open rate? Click-through rate? Unsubscribers?
  8. Cross-promote your email list with your social media channels.
After all that, you can go play on Pinterest.
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Photo: “autoroute a emails…” by Biscarotte, 11/7/05, Flikr Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0 Generic License
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