Email strategy

Four Tools to Hone Customized Content

When we think about making a connection with our audience – inspiring them to take action, donate, or convert into lifelong sustainers – our goal is to offer compelling messaging that sheds light on our mission and resonates with them. With customized content, which utilizes saved donor and prospect information in order to address smaller audiences directly, we can create that sense of connection. Our digital experts and the nonprofits we partner with approach customizing content in a variety of ways, because a successful approach will vary from one organization to the next. To help home in on which strategies can serve your cause best, we’ve highlighted four tools you can lean on to most effectively communicate directly with your supporters:

Supporter Donation Records

    help messaging get specific.

Here is a trend we highlighted at end-of-year that continues to help organizations boost response. Our partners at one nonprofit organization utilized supporter records to increase open rates by including the date of a supporter’s last donation in the subject line of their emails. Not only was the tactic successful, they found it yielded particularly high response and engagement from their lapsed audiences.

And for our partners at USO, email appeals that included a customized member card offered a personalized experience for the audience that succeeded in driving up engagement.

The specifics of a donor’s giving history can help your organization deliver emails that meet supporters where they are in their donor journey with your program – but providing this variable content doesn’t have to mean an entirely new email for every segment on your list. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing the language of one sentence to invite lapsed donors to “renew your membership” or active donors to “upgrade your commitment” to match your call to action to the supporter you’re engaging with.

Customized graphics and GIFs

    add an eye-catching pop to personalization.

When a donor senses one-to-one interaction within a graphic, the sense of connectedness can go even further. A call-to-action graphic that utilizes merge fields to include a supporter’s name in the visual or includes the date of their last donation adds an extra layer of personalization that stands out in crowded inboxes.

Our partners at one nonprofit organization, inspired by the direct-to-camera GIF approach pioneered by the Val Demings for Senate campaign, utilized the same direct appeal with segmented messaging, captioned, “Now is the right time to make your first gift” for prospective donors, and offering more general deadline messaging for active or recurring donors. Even without a direct one-to-one personalization, this specific content, varied by audience engagement in a high-lift piece of media, can offer a sense of eye-catching connection to supporters.

Polls and surveys

    help you get to know your audience.

For organizations aiming to create a personalized experience through segmentation and customization, polling can be a useful tool for getting to know your audience.

It is a tempting idea to take the knowledge gained from polls and surveys as far as possible in order to deepen the sense of close, one-to-one communication, yet our fundraising experts advise that too itemized an approach can lead to a big lift with an uncertain impact. An important question to keep in mind: Which distinctions between general and specific language will make an impact on your fundraising campaign? Survey responses sometimes only represent a small percentage of your mailing list, so the distinct preferences of those responders may represent even smaller audiences. Before segmenting too finely to cater to audience interest, consider when direct communication with each subset of your audience might become more work than it’s worth.

Audience Region

    can be a tool for specific appeals.

Depending on an organization’s mission, the state, region, or zip code of supporters can prove to be a critical tool for personalized communication. Our partners at Emerge have found that the urgency of asking, for example, for “32 more people from the 20001 area” to sign a petition or take an action heightens response with its specified call for local support.

When advocacy is the call to action, another organization we partner with has found success utilizing state-specific digital advertisements on news and media homepages to offer their audiences access to details about how they can send a letter to their state representatives.

In moments of emergency, our strategy experts also advise attention to location: When sending out appeals to support a crisis in a certain area, suppressing that state or region can offer the kind of sensitive forethought that will strengthen a supporter’s long-term relationship with your organization’s mission.

For more from our experts on email strategy, check out our recent blog focused on optimizing automated streams, Is Your Welcome Stream Effective? If you’re interested in learning about the tactics our partners at Save the Children used to convert their rapid-response audience into lifelong supporters, take a look at our Q&A with their team: From Emergency Donor to Sustainer.