We show how using data to tailor your fundraising and marketing emails can yield spectacular results
Data is a kind of magic dust that can transform the effectiveness of your charity fundraising and marketing emails, turning trickles of donations into floods.
According to research carried out by management consultants McKinsey, organisations that use data in their email campaigns outperform those that don’t by a staggering 85%.
It’s easy to talk about “using data”, but this begs an important question: what data are we talking about? The good news is that, in most cases, it’s data that your charity will already have, or data that it can easily get hold of.
Firstly, there’s what we might call behavioural data, which is data on how people who receive your marketing emails behave. This includes how many people open them, how many people click on any links in them (such as a link to a donation page on your website), which links they click on (for example, do they tend to click on links at the end of an email more than those at the start), or what proportion of recipients immediately unsubscribe to your emails.
If you use an email marketing system, then you can easily get this type of data from your system dashboard.
Another important source of data is your constituent management system (CRM). This can provide you with information about how often a contact has been emailed in the past, what their donation history (if any) might be, or whether they have volunteered for your charity in the past.
All of this data can be very useful for helping create email marketing campaigns, but there’s another, equally important type of data that your charity needs to access as well: outcome data. This is data that is generated at the end of a campaign, and its exact nature will depend on what your campaign is striving to do.
For example, if your email campaign is a fundraising campaign, the relevant outcome data might include the proportion of email recipients who make a donation, what the average amount donated is, what proportion of donors are new donors, and what proportion are repeat donors.
This type of outcome data can also be very helpful for refining your campaigns to make them more effective, and it can also be valuable when talking to charity leaders about the need for resources to fund email campaigns.
The next question is how charities can use this data to make their email marketing more effective. There are many ways to do this, but lets concentrate on one of the most effective ways: segmentation.
The idea behind segmentation is that you shouldn’t treat everyone on your email contact list in the same way because everyone is different, and different people respond to different marketing or fundraising messages in different ways.
Now it simply isn’t possible, or practical, to get to know every person on your email list and work out what the best way to appeal to them for a donation might be. But what you can do is split your email list into groups, or segments, containing similar types of people, and then tailor your emails to each of these segments.
There are many different ways to segment an email list, and how you do so should be informed by data. For example, you could examine your outcome data from a previous campaign, and from that you could draw conclusions about the giving habits of people in particular age ranges, or people from different geographical areas, or even from something as seemingly irrelevant such as email addresses. (For example, you may find that people with gmail addresses are twice as likely to make a donation as people with email addresses from other providers.)
Once you have segmented your email list, you can then send each segment specifically targeted emails.
Let’s take a very broad look at how this might work. Let’s imagine that your analysis of data shows you that people over 60 years of age who make a donation do so after receiving a single email, while those under 60 who make a donation only do so after receiving two or more emails.
Using this information you might segment your email list into under-60s and over-60s. You could then send the over-60s segment an email with a direct appeal for a donation, with a link to a donation page. At the same time, you might send the under-60s segment an email with links to some stories about your charity’s activities, followed up with another one a week later with a direct appeal for a donation.
A different approach might be to create a segment containing people who have never donated to your charity. The targeted emails that you send this segment may contain news about your charity activities and opportunities to volunteer. Only after you have raised their engagement with your charity in this way would you send an email asking for a donation.
The effects of segmentation can be spectacular: segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue, according to the Direct Marketing Association.
Now lets take a look at some other ways that your charity can use its data for its email campaigns. One key tool you can use is something called A/B testing. This involves sending out different emails to people in the same segment.
For example, half the people in your over-60s segment might receive email A, and the other half receive email B. The two emails may have different content, or they may simply be delivered at different times.
A/B testing is hugely powerful, and here’s why. Let’s imagine that your marketing email dashboard shows you that only 50% of the people in your over-60s segment ever opened your emails in past campaigns. You could then use A/B testing to explore whether it is possible to increase this figure, perhaps by choosing a better time of day or day of the week to send the emails.
As an example, you could send out your type A emails on a Sunday evening, and your (identical) type B emails on a Monday morning, and examine the results. If you find that people are more likely to open emails from your charity on a leisurely Sunday evening than a hectic Monday morning then clearly you can use that knowledge to inform future campaigns.
Similarly, you could compare the results of sending out an email appealing for donations with a single link at the end of the email with one containing multiple links spread through the email. If multiple links proves to be more effective, then combined with sending out the emails on a Sunday evening, you should find that your fundraising campaigns are more effective.
But the only way to know for sure is by confirming this hypothesis with another A/B test.
There are many more ways that you can use data to increase the effectiveness of your email campaigns, using techniques such as using personalisation or carrying out surveys, and this article has only scratched the surface.
But just by using some of the basic techniques discussed above you should be able to make significant improvements to the results of your fundraising and other email marketing activities.