The Nonprofit Email Report: Data-Backed Insights for Better Engagement


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Untapped Philanthropy - Abby Jarvis



In this episode of Untapped Philanthropy, Kerrin and Tim sat down with Abby Jarvis, Senior Content Manager at Neon One, to talk about their recent report on Nonprofit communications. Called The Nonprofit Email Report: Data-Backed Insights for Better Engagement, it delves into data from over 37,472 email campaigns from Neon One clients and identifies key email benchmarks from organizations of all sizes.

Abby talks about the report, looking at campaign performance, then going a step further to segment the data from smaller nonprofits and larger nonprofits. The reason behind that is that there are unique distinctions from how large nonprofits approach their email versus smaller nonprofits. One of the big differences is how people engage with small nonprofits versus for-profit organizations or larger nonprofits. As Abby puts it:

“People who are engaging with nonprofit organizations don't do so for the same reasons they engage with for-profits. So it would be kind of futile for a nonprofit to try to reach their audiences in the same way for-profits do… because my emotions are tied to that nonprofit, I am much more willing to engage with them than I am willing to engage with the for-profit. And I think that's true for most donors. So we'll read nonprofit newsletters, we'll read their blog articles, we'll engage with them on social media. I'll give them my phone number, but I won't do any of those things with the for-profit. And nonprofits are kind of universally like that. Their supporters engage with them very differently. So when nonprofits borrow their engagement cues and their best practices from for-profits or even those, those big nonprofits organizations with whom people won't do things like read newsletters or open emails or provide additional information, they're missing out on an opportunity to engage their community.”

Abby goes on to say that these organizations feel a tremendous amount of pressure to perform in a similar manner that other industries consider “best practice”. Those strategies simply do not work with the type of engagement that nonprofits can create. There is a storytelling aspect that needs to be inherent in the message.

One significant finding from the report is that, from a dollar raised per contact basis, smaller nonprofits are outperforming larger nonprofits. While Abby states that large nonprofits raise an average $6500 per campaign, and small nonprofits raise an average of $3500 per campaign. But, as Abby digs in, there’s a bigger picture here:

“And at the surface level, if you look just at those figures, it looks like the larger nonprofits campaigns are more successful, right? They're raising more money per email campaign. But when we took things a step further and calculated the average amount raised per email contact in a campaign, so the average number of people that received a particular email, we found something really wonderful. And we discovered that the average large organization, so remember that's a thousand contacts or more per email, raised around 88 cents per contact. In the small groups with 250 to 999 people raised more than $6 per contact. So at first glance, yes, it looks like larger nonprofits are raising more overall, but small nonprofits are doing a much better job connecting with their audience and inspiring them to give generously.”

Avoiding certain keywords is one of the key takeaways from the report. There are certain words that can tank your engagement. Abby said that the lowest engagement campaigns contained the words, “reminder”, “member”, and “meeting” in the subject. Campaigns with the lowest open rates contained these phrases in the subject line. There was one keyword that performed so well, that they had to take it out of the report because it skewed the data. What was this magical, mystery keyword? Listen to the podcast to find out.

Kerrin, Tim and Abby talked a bit about humanizing data. Abby talked about how easy it is to look at the data, and forget that these data points represent real people, real nonprofits, real impacts. Abby says it’s important to make sure you keep in focus the humanity behind the numbers to help formulate ways to help solve the challenges that come from them. Abby puts it perfect by saying:

“The most recent report shows that the number of individual donors is dropping and it's dropping pretty rapidly and it's really easy to panic. It's easy for us to place blame and point fingers and talk about the huge issues that the nonprofit industry wrestles with every day. But when we look at that data with empathy, we can start having really constructive conversations and we can ask like, alright, individual donors are down, why? Are nonprofits struggling with retaining and acquiring donors because they don't have the tools they need? Why don't they have the tools they need? Are donors burned out after the Covid 19 pandemic and all of today's unrest and economic uncertainty? How do we address that? Are the fundraisers burnt out and overwhelmed by everything they need to do? And if that's true, like how can we help? How can we solve those problems? So I really believe that interacting with data is only helpful if you bring empathy for the people that data represents to the table.”

Listen to the entire discussion in the player above.

To get your copy of “The Nonprofit Email Report: Data-Backed Insights for Better Engagement”, head over to Neon One’s site.

Episodes of Untapped Philanthropy are released monthly and always shared on the Fluxx blog. We encourage you to subscribe to the Fluxx blog to stay up to date on new episode releases and follow us on social media for podcast excerpts and more!

Download the transcript here.

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