If you haven’t set up some type of welcome series for new donors, you are missing out on a great chance to build a relationship. Katelyn Baughan created an automated welcome series for The Children’s Inn at NIH that nurtured new donors over time instead of throwing them into regular email marketing. Today, Katelyn shares how the new welcome series fit into their revamped email marketing strategy, how it was implemented, and its results. ~ Kristina
Guest Post by Katelyn Baughan
If you want your nonprofit to develop a loyal donor base, expand your reach, and drive donations, email marketing is key. People are receiving hundreds of emails in their inbox everyday, so it’s more important than ever to stand out and reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time.
I worked at The Children’s Inn at NIH as their Digital Media Manager, and for as long as anyone could remember (some staff had worked there for over 20 years!), they had sent out a monthly e-newsletter to their entire list. While this tactic has worked in the past, we started to notice a few problems:
- Open and click through rates were dropping below the nonprofit average (average open rate: 24.11%, average click through rate: 2.57%)
- Issues of deliverability
- Emails were no longer feeling personalized or tailored to the audience
- High unsubscribe rates
These issues prompted a discussion about how we can improve the newsletter and digital communications and deliver targeted, relevant content to our supporters.
Typically, the e-newsletter planning process was a monthly concept meeting with the communications and development team. We would brainstorm ways to push our current events or fundraising efforts. Other departments were asked regularly if they wanted to include anything in the newsletter. We would then put all the requests together to create the monthly newsletter that was sent to our whole list.
What we realized was that a supporter who had just attended an event was getting the same message as a long time donor or corporate volunteer. We recognized that the messages had to be tailored depending on the relationship, and new supporters had to be “courted” before they were added to our newsletter list.
As a communications team, we took a step back, stopped the concept meetings and receiving requests from other departments. We spent a few days brainstorming ways to better communicate with our audience. We thought about our supporters, what interests them, and what types of content would make sense depending on where they were in their journey with The Children’s Inn.
After a few long days of brainstorming we devised an email marketing strategy that included an initial revision to the e-newsletter, an automated welcome series for new donors, a survey to existing supporters, and more targeted/relevant emails moving forward.
The automated email series for new donors was pivotal in our strategy. Before the series was in place, new donors were receiving thank you acknowledgements and then would be put on the list to receive our newsletter and any other fundraising appeals. Putting a welcome series in place is kind of like dating someone before you ask them to marry you. You want to be sure that your donors have a strong connection to your organization before you request another donation.
The New Donor Welcome Series
Email Day 1: Thank you and donation confirmation details
People expect an email instantly after they make the donation. This helps confirm the donation and provides the donor with the donation details for their records and tax purposes.
Email Day 2: Thank you from our CEO
A personalized letter from the CEO welcomes the new donor, thanks them, and tells them about the mission of the organization and the impact of their donation. This email is also a good time to invite supporters to follow/connect with you on social media, and other ways they can get involved.
Email Day 14: Mission driven email #1
We repurposed our most popular blog posts and videos and shared them with the new donor. You want new donors to feel connected and informed about your mission and where their contribution is going.
Email Day 21: Mission driven email #2
Again, you want to continue to educate the new donor about your mission and impact. This was another very popular blog post about an Inn child and his experience.
Email day 35: Soft ask
After the donor has had a chance to learn more about your organization and has a connection to the mission, you can then make an ask for a second donation, or possibly to make their gift monthly.
There were many challenges that came with implementing this new strategy. Aside from not having a large team to help (we were a communications team of two), it took time to get approval and educate leadership, staff, and board members. In addition, since we were no longer looking inward for content, departments had to brainstorm the best way to get their message across to their groups.
Change can be hard, but showing the initial data and final results helped us build a case. We were proud of the results from the welcome series. We had a 40% average open rate, 7.3% average click-through rate, and 14% gave a second time over a six-month period from when we received their first gift. We also saw a 9% decrease in unsubscribes.
Katelyn Baughan is a nonprofit digital marketing consultant who is passionate about helping good causes accelerate their growth and impact through digital marketing. After spending time working in the tech industry, Katelyn decided to use her marketing skills to create change and entered the nonprofit world. She worked at The Children’s Inn for four years where she built their digital marketing strategy from the ground up. Katelyn has a B.A. in Communication from The University of Maryland, a Digital Marketing Certificate from Georgetown University, and is certified in advanced Google Analytics, and inbound marketing from HubSpot Academy. You can learn more about Katelyn at katelynbaughan.com.