2020 Nonprofit Communications

Email engagement practices are lagging behind says 2020 Nonprofit Communications Trends report

Good News: Nonprofits are shifting their communications teams to more effective structures like Integrated and Centralized Teams and away from less effective models like Internal Agencies and CEO-led Teams.

In 2019, 73% of the most effective nonprofit communications teams were organized as either Centralized or Integrated Teams. Centralized and Integrated Teams combined made up 62% of all nonprofit communications teams in 2019. This is up significantly from 51% in 2018 and 38% in 2016.

Bad News: Nonprofits are not adopting best practices for email engagement, which could soon result in major failures in their ability to use email successfully. 74% of nonprofits said they send an email newsletter or update at least monthly. That’s the good news, and it stops there.

When asked nonprofits whether they implement several email engagement best practices, and less than a third of nonprofits said they did.

  • Only 28% send an email welcome series of two or more messages to new subscribers.
  • Only 32% have edited their email unsubscribe pages to allow people to customize the kinds of email they get.
  • Only 13% of nonprofits have edited their email unsubscribe pages to allow people to customize the frequency of the emails they get.

The above findings are part of the 2020 Nonprofit Communications Trends report, shared by the good folks at Nonprofit Marketing Guide. You receive this as a free gift when you subscribe to their blog. Isn’t that cool for a guy who loves to understand data and tries to find simple business insights.

The full survey was completed online by 625 participants. All 625 participants said they spend at least 50% of their time on communications or marketing work at their nonprofit organizations. 85% of participants are in the United States, 10% are in Canada, and the remainder is from other nations around the world.

So these are my learning’s along with my insights from the report:

Email engagement practices are lagging behind

“Email deliverability and engagement are like the climate change of nonprofit communications: Half of the people are unaware or in denial about it and the other half aren’t sure what to do or if their actions will make a difference,” says the report.

One of the primary findings from the report was the ignoring of email list best practices. While there isn’t a hard and fast rule at this time, most email service providers consider a subscriber engaged if they have opened at least one email in the last 3-6 months.

“When a subscriber has stopped opening emails after a designated amount of time, you should send them a re-engagement series of emails to try to get them to open an email again. If they still don’t open an email, you should stop emailing them (or at a minimum, limit the number of emails you send in the future.)”

“A little over half of the nonprofits are implementing email re-engagement campaigns, although they are often waiting too long to do them. Only 4% of nonprofits cut back sending after three months of no engagement, with another 5% cutting back at six months of no engagement. Another 13% cut back at somewhere between one to three years.”

The above screengrab shows an interesting data point that is very simple to implement but still, we tend to forget. 65% don’t send a welcome series to new subscribers. This is where your Trigger Emails or Automated Emails can make a huge difference.

The next step obviously is building the one on one relationship with the donor via Direct Emails. According to the Digital Giving 2019 study: Out of the 34 organizations that sent direct emails - only 12 organizations mailed a receipt and the fastest response came after 3 days post-donation.

“Even if you cannot send receipts or thank you direct mail quickly, you should at the very least be taking the opportunity to mail the donor. The sooner you can do it, the more likely it is that the donor will respond positively to be contacted via a different channel.”

Recently I became a subscriber to Food For The Hungry. On subscription, I got a simple free ebook as a gift. The ebook talks about the people behind the work that I will witness in the coming months. Within a day, I received another email(Welcome Email) from the NonProfit with a focus on how I as an individual can make a difference. A simple play of words but does the job.

Social media is having the least confidence

According to the report: “Nonprofits fully understand the potential benefits of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms. But the advice on how to achieve those benefits is very general, like “post engaging content.” Many nonprofits feel like they are at the mercy of good timing, sheer luck, or the mysterious and constantly changing algorithms to achieve results.”

Facebook’s constant change of algorithm has been a concern for Nonprofits. The same was highlighted by the State of Online Giving 2019. “60 percent of these nonprofits post less than once per day and 11 percent less than once per week.”

When we ran a correlation, we found that the more email an organization sends, the more likely they are to post frequently to Facebook, and the more they post to Facebook, the more engagement they receive.

Are nonprofits using these most engaging social media tactics consistently? The answer is, “Not really.”

The above screengrab shows pretty relevant data. If you are investing in Instagram then make sure you use Insta Stories, the platform wants you to use for a wider reach. With extended lockdowns, Instagram Live has become a great tool not only for engagement but also for fundraising. Similarly, if you are focussing on Peer to Peer fundraising which you should then you can’t avoid Facebook Fundraising.

According to the study, about half of nonprofit communications teams prioritize fundraising results. The other half of teams focus more on participation levels and change in knowledge or understanding of the issues.

How are you meeting these objectives?

  • The most popular strategies are:
  • Permission-based marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Event and experience marketing (this goes digital for now)
  • Relationship marketing

According to the report, the most popular tactics are websites, email, social media, media relations/PR, in-person events, and direct mail.

When it comes to online fundraising:

  • Invest in your time and money on owned media (Website, blog, email and donation page)
  • Empower them with your Social Media and Digital Advertising

P.S. Did the article give value to your time? If yes then can you do a one-time donation to my ongoing fundraising campaign for COVID-19. Donation Link. If no, then I will keep trying. I don’t give up easily. Thank You!