General Net • Communication • Promotion • Organization • Technology: How • Planning • Attendees • Footnotes

What Can Email Do For You?
Strengthening communication with your constituents

By: Nick Allen

Source: Tech News

Editor's Note:

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.

Telephone: (510)843-8888


Web site: Fundraising Online

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 organizationís constituents:
  • 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. Your 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.
  • Surveys:
    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 pledge.
  • Housekeeping:
    Members can be asked to send in changes of address, requests for materials, or other correspondence, via email.
  • Autoreplies:
    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 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.
  • Fundraising:
    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 feedback.

July 31, 2000