“Just in time” communication management

Recently in a LinkedIn group, the following question was posed:

“We offer a one-click unsubscribe, but I’d like to give people another way to stay on our list by letting them tell us which types of emails they’d like to receive. Should “fundraising support” be on the list? What is on your opt-out list?
– Agency updates
– event invitations
– community updates
– fundraising appeals”

I’m a firm believer that it’s in every non-profit’s best interest to let their supporters be in charge of the entire communication process, of which email is just one important part. Here’s one way to do that:

Let’s offer a 3D level of choices that lets supporters (donors, not-yet donors, volunteers, event attenders, etc.) select the level of detail, the frequency, and the channel for each area of interest? For example, someone can select for “cancer research updates” that they want headline and summary only, monthly, by email; for “heart disease prevention” they may want headline and summary immediately by SMS, and full detail weekly by email; and they may want a monthly print newsletter with a full story on everything. (Might as well add phone into the mix too. Most won’t select it, but ah, those that do are inviting you in a very special way.)

Complicated? Not really. It’s a distribution table that can match your subscriber preferences with your content. Just code your content according to the same interest areas. Upload fresh content and — BAM! — it’s queued for distribution.

“Fundraising appeals” shouldn’t be a choice, unless you randomly send fundraising appeals that don’t apply to any of your interest areas. If someone signs up for “cancer research updates” then the messages they get about that should include appeals to support those efforts. Obviously, if they express a disinterest about any subject area, one can conclude fundraising appeals based on those areas would fall on deaf ears.

Too difficult to implement? Actually, this is really just a slight expansion of a process that a US Government agency has been doing for at least 8 years. The US Geological Survey offers earthquake updates via Twitter, email, RSS, and other methods. A user can select the minimum magnitude of an earthquake for notification within the continental US (CONUS) or for the entire world. I chose text messages for earthquakes greater than 4.5 (on the Richter scale) in the CONUS or greater than 6.5 elsewhere in the world.

If a US Government agency can offer this level of user choice, why can’t you?

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