Why Email Marketing Software is Holding Nonprofits Back from Great ROI

Tammy Sproule is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub. As Salsa‘s content marketing manager, she is responsible for getting the word out (often in 140 characters or less!) about the company. She has held a variety of communications and public relations positions in the public and private sectors and began her career as a graphic designer.

Earlier this month, The Nonprofit Times (NPT) published the results of its online engagement survey. More than 500 organizations took part in the survey which was designed to measure the usefulness and benefits of constituent relationship management (CRM) systems, online engagement systems (OES) and email marketing practices to nonprofits.

Sponsored by Salsa, with research conducted and compiled by Campbell Rinker, the survey uncovered some surprising results—results which we believe are to the detriment of your online engagement efforts:

  • Six in 10 nonprofits (61 percent) use two or more software systems to engage supporters online.
  • Approximately 30 percent use only one software program for online engagement.

And, the most eye-opening finding:

  • 43 percent of respondents think that online engagement is nothing more than a donation form and mass emails.

Why Email Marketing Software Doesn’t Cut It

So why are these findings troubling? Despite the benefits of an OES like Salsa, most nonprofits (56 percent of those surveyed) rely solely on traditional email blast systems (Constant Contact, MailChimp, etc.) for their online engagement efforts.

But email systems aren’t designed for wholesale engagement, and nonprofits trying to use them for that purpose are limiting themselves considerably.

Sure, email software tools are great for one-way communications like scheduling your annual year-end fundraising blasts. But they fall short when it comes to consolidating supporter data and offer very restricted segmentation capabilities.

Think of it this way—imagine if you could send different messages out to different supporters based on their donation history and levels of engagement, i.e., when they last donated, what the amount was and more? With OES tools you can.

You can craft personalized and targeted emails that speak to your supporters engagement/donation history, boosting email open rates and donations dramatically. In fact, research by Janrain suggests that individualizing emails in this way can increase open rates by 244% and improve click-throughs by 161 percent. The result? A 330 percent revenue increase per mailing.

So when you launch your year-end fundraising campaigns instead of sending out one or two messages to your entire list, you could use data from your OES about your supporters to segment your lists as follows:

  • Supporters who have donated within the last three months
  • Supporters who donated this time last year
  • Put your top 20 percent and middle 40 percent in different lists
  • Those who have had no activity for greater than six months
  • Specific program givers

With OES systems you can even find out who your biggest supporters are on social media and use that data to target social messages based on supporters’ interests and influencer-status.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Don’t just take our word for it. NPT reported that nonprofits who use online engagement systems are seeing some startling benefits. Take fundraising for example. Even with a small sample size, this group reported a 41:1 return on investment (ROI) when asking for donations through email using a dedicated online engagement system. Compare that to the 5:1 ROI estimated by users of just a donor management and email systems. And these same OES users report 36:1 ROI from publishing web donation pages, while donor management users report 7:1 and email users report 6:1 returns.

NPT study

So, what are you using for online engagement?

This article was originally posted on Salsa. Check out the original article here.


Tammy Sproule

August 26, 2015

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