What Can Email Do For You?
Strengthening communication with your
By: Nick Allen
Nick Allen is Co-Editor of Fundraising on the Internet (Strathmoor
Press, 1996) and Director of the Internet Solutions Group at Mal
Warwick & Associates, Inc., Berkeley CA.
Most donors like to stay in touch with the organizations they
support. The more theyíre in touch, the more likely they are to make
more frequent and larger gifts. Email offers a cheap, fast, and
friendly way to communicate with your organizationís donors,
prospects and others. Many find it less wasteful and intrusive than
direct mail or dinnertime telephone calls.
There are several advantages to using email to communicate with your
donors instead of relying on your organization's website. More than
60 million Americans now use email every day; more than the number
on the Web. Many people have email at work, but not Web access. Some
nonprofits find that more than a quarter of their donors use email
every day, and over-60s are the fastest growing segment of email
users. Besides, people have to go to your site to see it, but you
can send email right to their mailboxes.
How You Can Use Email
Look at all the ways email can strengthen relationships with your
- Email Newsletters:
Send electronic newsletters, using listservs, to update donors and
potential donors on your organizationís activities. Offer
different content for different purposes or audiences. Electronic
newsletters save on design, printing and postage, and the cost is
the same whether you are sending them to 10,000 people or 150.
Internet service provider should be able to set up listservs
quickly and inexpensively.
- Action Alerts:
Working on an advocacy issue? Build an email list of activists and
alert them quickly and cheaply. You can even set it up so that
they can send messages, by email or fax, to elected officials or
other key policy makers with a single click.
Want to find out what your organizationís members are thinking or
what they want the organization to do about an issue? Send an
electronic survey. Youíll get a great response rate, itís fast,
and itís cheap.
- Event Invitations:
Complement your other forms of invitations -- paper mail,
newsletters -- with an email reminder. Don't forget to ask for a
Members can be asked to send in changes of address, requests for
materials, or other correspondence, via email.
Mailing out the same information over and over? Having trouble
keeping up? Try an autoreply or infobot. Set up your
organizationís email system to respond automatically when someone
mails to an address such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Have different
autoreplies for different purposes. Autoreply functions are built
into most office email systems. If not, your Internet service
provider should be able to set them up.
- Building Web Site Traffic:
Want to get people to revisit your organizationís Web site?
Provide a way for visitors to the site to register if they want to
receive email updates when thereís something new of interest to
them posted on the site.
So far, few organizations are asking for funds via email, although
at least one public radio station has used email successfully to
solicit pledges. At this point, email is probably best used as
cultivation, or to let donors know that you will soon be
contacting them by mail or telephone, for financial support.
How To Start
Survey your organizationís constituents to find out how many use
email and would like to communicate that way.
Keep messages short -- no more than two screens full -- and in every
message, offer the option to unsubscribe. Figure out what you want
to communicate to these plugged-in donors, and start slowly. Itís so
easy to reply to email that you should get plenty of useful
July 31, 2000