Year-end digital roundup

As I reported New Year’s week, only about half of healthcare organizations to whom I’ve donated online have sent me even one email during the most important fund-raising week of the year. The final tally from the 30 cancer institutes to whom online donations were made in the last few years? 17 different institutions sent a total of 37 emails between December 26 and 31.

Of the seven children’s hospitals to whom I’ve donated in the past few months, only two sent an email. However, two others, to whom I did not donate but whose email newsletters I received each sent three messages during that time.

I was impressed by Partners in Health, an $88 Million Boston-area international health organization, that sent four email messages to me during this week, three of which came on New Year’s Eve! I can imagine many organizations cringing at that level of contact, so I reached out to Charles Howes, PIH’s Manager of Annual Giving and Digital Engagement for some feedback.

While they exceeded their goal for the campaign, they carefully monitored reaction from supporters — email open rate, action rate, and unsubscribe rate — and they saw no discouraging data from their campaign. So, it raised more money, but it didn’t turn off more supporters.

One thing to carefully monitor in an intense email campaign is the unsubscribe rate. It often hovers around 0.5% but can spike if people feel they are getting too many, or irrelevant, messages.

We have never approached anything near a one percent unsubscribe,” says Charles. “The sky is not the limit in regard to number of emails, but we have found we can sparingly send more than one email per day during key moments of a campaign.”

One tip from Charles: If someone gives to the first email in a campaign, they do not receive follow-up emails for that campaign. While this might leave some money on the table, it also likely prevents donor feeling they’re getting hammered.

I also asked Charles about the role of social media during an email campaign. “While social media plays a complementary role from a messaging perspective, it is not a large revenue driver,” says Charles, who reports that $14 in revenue comes from email for every dollar resulting from social media. “Increasingly, we find it important to analyze a single channel in the context of all channels (web, direct mail, email, search, etc.).”

How was your year-end? What did you learn?

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