Start with a good database, add proactive maintenance, and automate the process
Efficient fundraising campaigns require mailing lists that are free from any communications that won’t generate donations. The goal of effective email activism is to keep your content short and sweet—don’t waste your audience’s time. Poor campaigns can have unintended consequences, and the last thing you want your email to do is harm a relationship with a supporter who might be primed but not yet ready to make a contribution.
Your nonprofit organization already has a lot of things to do. Keep your main donation sources productive by cleaning up your mailing list:
1. Do it now
It’s a never-ending list of priorities; there’s always something that needs to be done. Tidying your email outreach lists tends to fall to the wayside in terms of priorities, but it’s actually a very important task that’s crucial to your success. Set aside time that’s “un-bumpable.”
Chores are always more difficult when you don’t have the appropriate tools. If scouring your mailing list for duplicates and dead leads is a manual task, the process is going to be lengthy and redundant. Budget for productivity tools that will speed up your task. Fundraising software can automate the process. Many fundraising software programs can even transform mailing list maintenance into an ongoing and automatic procedure.
2. Start with a strong base
The base we’re talking about is your mailing list database. Ideally, this should also be your donor database as well to save you time, and ensure accuracy. If you don’t have one, get one. It’s an investment that will provide a sound return. If it’s clunky and doesn’t work well for you, find a replacement.
The database is at the heart of all fundraising software suites. It powers nearly all of the productivity gains you’ll achieve. You’ll quickly discover that a database with the ability to capture and parse the information it contains will make many other operational areas of your nonprofit run much smoother, too.
3. Do some time traveling
It’s not yet time to say goodbye to lapsed donors. Maybe all they need is a gentle reminder of your NPO. Get in touch with them one more time before removing them from your mailing list.
Personalized messages work best for this group. Few things are more frustrating than getting an obvious form letter email asking you if you still have any interest. Why should they renew their support for you if you aren’t demonstrating any specific interest in them?
The reason for their lapse could be that they simply didn’t have time to donate during your last campaign. A personal message shows them that you want to are interested in renewing the relationship.
Here’s where a better and more efficient database can prove its worth. Use it to track lack of continued participation. The database will help you uncover patterns. Maybe it’s your messaging. Perhaps it’s timing. Or, it could be a lack of payment options. You won’t know unless you ask. You can’t improve your fundraising efforts until you uncover the obstacles in the way of your mailing list.
4. Audit the active supporters
Donors tend to be a polite bunch, so they may not bring mistakes to your attention. Kathy Johnson has been making donations to your nonprofit organization for the past five years. She’s received donation requests and thank-you emails addressing her as Mr. Johnson.
Talk about conflicting messages. It could be getting more difficult for her to believe your sincerity when it appears you haven’t bothered to correct a mistake such as this. It’s an embarrassing example, but it’s illustrative of an important point. Even the good names on your mailing lists can be problematic. The core of your mission stems from care. Shouldn’t that extend to your supporters, too?
5. Turn the maintenance into a 2-way street
Let your supporters know they can help you by providing more than just donations. Include a message in your next mailing that tells recipients they can help you improve communications by providing you with changes or updates. Tell them where they can go to share this information with you.
That location is a self-service area on your nonprofit website. It feeds directly to your database. And you thought the only self-cleaning thing around here was your oven.
Lists that aren’t regularly maintained can get ugly fast. It’s a messy job (virtually speaking) but somebody’s got to do it. And much of that proactive work can be automated with the simple, all-in-one fundraising software.
This article also appeared on Guidestar's Blog. Read it here: https://trust.guidestar.org/five-tips-for-cleaning-up-your-email-marketing-lists