Nathaniel Ward

In fundraising, ‘what works is, quite simply, what works’

Email fundraising appeals may come across as shrill, oddball, or corny. They often are. Deliberately.

As Eric Josephsen explains, the goal of a fundraising appeal isn’t to please pundits or win design awards:

As hard as I work to create a beautiful product for my clients, that’s not what email fundraising is ultimately about. It’s about getting as many dollars in the door as possible. At the end of the day, whatever it takes to accomplish that goal is what must be done.

The frequency and aggressiveness of political emails fundraising emails is dictated in part by a campaign’s short time horizons. A campaign generally aims to maximize revenue in the short run, before the election, which can lead to more aggressive churn-and-burn tactics. A charity, by contrast, typically aims to build relationships and maximize long-term value over several years.

Josephsen adds that there’s a method behind the tactics used in email fundraising:

In many respects, email fundraising grew out of the political direct mail industry, which established many of the common testing methodologies and creative best practices used in both political and commercial direct mail to this day.

But with the instant results provided by digital communication, political email marketers now also have access to the same analytics and testing tools used by clickbait giants like Upworthy, Amazon, BuzzFeed, and, yes, Gawker.

Online marketers can and should let data make the decisions. Anything else is a disservice to the organization they’re working for. As Josephsen says, “what works is, quite simply, what works.”

By Nathaniel Ward on