Most of you are probably hoping this presentation will give you really specific tips – like “every email should be 500 words long and have pictures of kittens.* Always.”But each of you has different projects, serves different people, has different donors. I'm not going to give you a template for writing emails.INSTEAD, I'm going to talk about a strategy for finding out what works best for you. Rather than waiting to until the end of this presentation to give you our secret, I’m going to just start out with the punchline. It goes a little something like this:
Listen Act Learn Repeat. It’s one of our core values. And it’s how we seek success in our e-communications. - Testing and experimenting are at the core of our strategy for creating compelling content. I’ll share with you about our process for learning, and share some of our findings, and hope that your biggest takeaway will be understanding the strategy (of testing) --not just copying tactics that work for us (using particular words, images, etc.)
Behavioral economics challenges the idea that people will choose the best action or the most logically presented choice. Instead, itexplores the bounds of rationality — identifying the social, cognitive and emotional factors that influence people’s decisions.The big takeaway? People don’t arrive at most decisions through a process of weighing costs against benefits. We are irrational. So people don't necessarily act rationally, BUT,they do often act predictably.How do we predict people’s behavior? Not by guessing what makes sense. But instead, by running tests, and looking at patterns.
The most important first step in running any experiment is "listening.” Listening teaches you how to act, so you can then learn from how well you perform!We’re going to give you some examples of how our unmarketing team “listens” to donors, and how we apply that information to ultimately improve our communication. Keep in mind, these first few examples are of how we have used experiments to improve our own work on the “Product Team” at GlobalGiving. The Product Team is responsible for developing the website and the communications to donors. I know that you don’t all run websites at your organizations. The takeaways for you here will not be about how you change your website, but instead, how to think about listening to your donors. We’ll talk about 4 ways to listen to your donors:Listen by asking for feedback. Listen by hearing unsolicited feedback.Listen to data. Listen to peers and experts.
One way we listen is by asking questions. We specifically ask for feedback about our website at the end of the check-out process. We ask two questions: On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend GlobalGiving to a friend, family member or colleague? (Quantitative)How was your GlobalGiving experience? (Qualitative) You are probably thinking, “I don’t run a website, and I don’t have access to the final page on GlobalGiving to ask survey questions. So how can I ask for feedback from my donors?” For you, this could mean:Conducting written surveys of your donors, if you have an event Asking specific questions at the end of your thank-you emails or your project updates, and asking people to comment on your project wall, if you only communicate with your donors via GlobalGiving.Adding a link to a SurveyMonkey survey at the end of your project report, thank you notes, or your emails to donors. Having informal conversations with donors whom you know personally. The key is hearing that feedback, recording it somewhere, and making changes based on the feedback – and then asking for more feedback to make sure that the rest of your audience agreeswith the improvement!
When you start to be open to feedback, you’ll start to hear it everywhere. The key is to hear criticism, consider it, and record it, not just defend yourself and move on. For example: we are active on social media, and we regularly pull searches of anytime anyone mentions GlobalGiving on twitter. Last month we sent an email with the following subject line for Earth Day: And we saw the following feedback on twitter (it wasn’t sent to us, it was part of a conversation)We learned to changing language in emails to be more inclusive.
When you start to be open to feedback, you’ll start to hear it everywhere. The key is to hear criticism, consider it, and record it, not just defend yourself and move on.
Started to apply that to other donor-centric communications.
Data we pay attention to in our emails:Email open ratesEmail click rates Email conversion (donation) rates Email donation amountsWe use MailChimp. It gives us access to this info, I’ll get into it more later.
Old newsletter - newsWhat we learned: nobody reads. Nobody was clicking or donating. Very few people want ‘updates’ that are hard to read and require time. So what did we do?
We changed the format. And stopped talking about ourselves. Started adding better images, making them YOU focused.We found that people click on images! So we…
… started adding a big header image drew people in. And we continued to shorten the content. Even more people kept clicking on images, so we started posting better images…
… we learned that the images that perform best are ones where one person is featured, making eye-contact. What else did we try that works?
Adding in humor and clever language, things that weren’t always expected. People liked humor (and they liked animals!) So we often feature more photos, more puns, and more animals!
… especially since we learned from Google Analytics that many of our donors were coming to us from their phones. So we increased the font size of our emails, and started to use even more clickable images.
We also realized that the bigger we made the call to action, the more people clicked on it. Enter the embarrassingly large “give” or “donate now” or “give a gift card” buttons. And finally…
The most recent thing we’ve learned is to personalize our emails. In Christmas of 2011 we sent personalized emails to our donors, listing all of their favorite projects, or ones like projects they’d given to. People were used to seeing those projects, and they clicked on them and donated!So we tried it again in a different format in September, and again this year in March!
What you’re probably thinking is, if I don’t use MailChimp, how can I have access to any of this information to know how well my emails do? There are definitely ways you can still access data about the performance of your emails – depending on whether you’re using a 3rd party provider (like MailChimp), or even your own contact list through gmail, yahoo, or outlook. If you’re only sending project updates and thank-you notes through GlobalGiving, you could still make your own spreadsheet to keep track of some of these email success metrics!Here again is the list of email metrics that we look at, but now I’ve added the tools. I’ll show you examples of what all the tools look like in practice…
We’ll start with the information you can get from the donation manager.
You might figure out how to track the metrics, but how do you run an actual experiment to ‘listen’ to your donors?People who work on websites use a concept called A/B testing.
You can see one features a story, with a photo of a particular girl.The other has just a graphical heading and features a link to a video in the email. What we’d learned so far was that emails with photos of people and stories about one person work really well.We wanted to see how well it would perform against a graphically designed image, and no story in the text, just a link to a video that tells a story. SO – we split the list in half, sent the story to half, and the video to half, Here’s what happened:
We thought the data showed us that good videos performed better in email than good stories. But one of the most important things to understand when your experimenting is: you can’t always trust your own conclusions. You have to test them!So: we ran one more experiment…
So we sent another email with just a video and less text. The video was great, it was our Video Contest winner.
And the results?The second video did have a high click rate – so that’s great! But it didn’t lead nearly as many donations as the first videoIt didn’t do as well. So we learned that the content itself (the Girl Effect video and the Girl Effect brand) were the most compelling, it wasn’t just the fact that we had a video.
Advice for a/b testing: -stick to one variable at a time (in this case we tested many more than one variables – we had different images, different subject lines, different tests, so it wasn’t as scientific as possible.) More importantly….-once you think you've come to a conclusion, test that conclusion-keep testing! iterate and improve!That’s the last on the section about listening through data. It’s probably the most new to you, and the most technical, that’s why we covered it so thoroughly.But there’s still one other important way to listen…
Behavioral Economics Research - giving research:The Science of Giving http://www.amazon.com/Science-Giving-Experimental-Approaches-Judgment/dp/1848728859Money for Good 1 and Money for Good 2 studies: The first: http://hopeconsulting.us/pdf/Money%20for%20Good_Final.pdfThe second: http://www.guidestar.org/ViewCmsFile.aspx?ContentID=4038
Some of the best practices:increase peoples' emotional proximity to any cause through one person/animal/object.People find it harder to connect to groups, easier to connect to one person or thing. Tell a compelling story about that one person or thing. Tell us how they’ve overcome an obstacle, or how they have the potential to overcome with a little support from your organization.Social networks are important - people give if they feel like it will bring them closer to their social network. (Helps improve a relationship with the fundraiser, or the gift is a reminder of their shared values.) Remind people! People may intend to give, but you don't always catch them at a convenient time. Not all donors are the same - individual, small-time donors are more driven by emotions, companies and family foundations do more research. - information about legitimacy, security, efficiency is important to individual donors... but... (The background of the GlobalGiving page might be enough to prove the legitimacy, security, efficiency for an individual donor - so you can get right to the work of telling your story! But you may need more impact research/efficiency information for larger donors. ) But don’t just take their words for it! Test each of these assumptions on your own audiences!And furthermore, don’t just act on the best practices without asking whether they are in-line with your values. (A data point from one of the studies is that sad pictures do better. But we’ve found that that’s inconsistent with our values.)
I hope you’ve heard some practical tips about what worked with us, but that more importantly, you’ve understood that the core of success involves listening.
How to Write Earth-Changing EmailsAlison CarlmanGlobalGiving Unmarketing ManagerGlobalGiving Fundraising AcademySession 6
What this presentation is not:Dear Donor,This email has 500 words. This email has 500words. This email has 500 words. This email has500 words. This email has 500 words. This emailhas 500 words. This email has 500 words. Thisemail has 500 words. This email has 500 words.This email has 500 words.This email has 500 words. This email has 500words. This email has 500 words. This email has500 words. This email has 500 words. This emailhas 500 words. This email has 500 words. Thisemail has 500 words. This email has 500 words.This email has 500 words.This email has 500 words. This email has 500words. This email has 500 words. This email has500 words. This email has 500 words. This emailhas 500 words. This email has 500 words. Thisemail has 500 words. This email has 500 words.
Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat.Testing and experimentingare at the core of our strategy for creatingcompelling content.
Listening through data: theevolution of our e-newsletter
How do we know what “works”?We look at these metrics:QUESTION METRIC TOOLHow good is the subject line? Open rates MailChimpDoes the email content makepeople want to do more?Click rates MailChimpDoes the email (and projectpage) make people want togive?Conversion(donation) ratesMailChimpHow compelling is the call-to-action?DonationamountsMailChimp
How did we know what “worked”?We looked at these metrics:QUESTION METRIC TOOLHow good is the subject line? Open rates MailChimpDoes the email content makepeople want to do more?Click rates Bit.lyDoes the email (and projectpage) make people want togive?Conversion(donation) ratesGG DonationManager &SpreadsheetHow compelling is the call-to-action?DonationamountsGG DonationManager &Spreadsheet
Tool:GlobalGiving Donation Manager(Donation Rates and Amounts)
…and some of our assumptionswere wrong.Girl EffectStoryGirl EffectVideoVideoContestOpen Rate 17.5% 17.9% 17.9%Click Rate 1.34% 2.58% 2.8%ConversionRate.06% .11% .04%Donation Value $3,284 $9,478 $3,254
…and our assumptions werewrong.Moral of the story: when running experiments….• Stick to one variable at a time• Once you think you have come to aconclusion, test that conclusion!• Keep testing! Keep improving!
Listening to peers and experts:best practice according toresearch• Increase a donor’s emotional proximity; connectthem to ONE person (animal or object).• Tell a compelling story about that ONE person• Donors will give if they feel it will bring themclose to their social network.• Not all donors are the same.… but don’t just take their word for it. Test foryourself.
Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat.• Listen by asking for feedback.• Listen by hearing unsolicitedfeedback.• Listen to data.• Listen to peers and experts.(Then act… learn… and repeat!)