Nathaniel Ward

No, your email fundraising probably isn’t cannibalizing your direct mail fundraising

Several years back, The Heritage Foundation conducted a substantial test to determine the effect of a multi-channel approach to fundraising.

We sought to definitively answer the question: are we better off sending just a direct mail letter, sending only emails, or sending both?

The real worry - one I’ve heard from other nonprofit fundraisers - was that sending emails alongside a letter would cannibalize the letter and reduce mail response. In other words, people would simply give online instead of through the mail.

So we took one of our best mailings and split it three ways: one segment got just a letter; one got a letter with no ask and an email; and one got both a letter and an email. The emails, which made an ask mirroring the mail piece, were timed to arrive shortly after the letters hit mailboxes.

Unfortunately, this test was never properly documented, and the results became the stuff of Heritage lore. Until now.

I dug up the data, and the results are astounding:

  1. Donors who got both direct mail and email saw a 60.5% lift in response rate in the mail compared to the mail-only group. The multichannel audience had a 23.9% response rate, compared to 14.9% for mail only.
  2. Donors who got just emails had a 90.6% lower response rate in the mail than the mail-only group. This audience had just a 1.4% response rate.

Not only that, people who got the multichannel treatment were also more likely to give online too. That means the worst option is to send people only email! More on that in another article.

This boost from multi-channel fundraising can be seen across the entire direct mail program. According to another study we ran, donors who receive emails give roughly 25 percent more annually than those who get only direct mail.

While we don’t necessarily expect these exact results in every campaign or for every organization, we can conclude that sending followup emails strengthens rather than cannibalizes direct mail.

By Nathaniel Ward on


Why do you still ‘blast’ your donors?

Each of your donors is probably open to receiving a personal email from you making the case for a gift.

None of them wants to get an impersonal “e-blast.”

Even if you’re sending a single message to everyone on your email list at once, always remember there are unique people at the other end. You’re sending a message to each individual person, and your terminology should reflect that.

By Nathaniel Ward on


Nick Marcelli parodies campaign technology reporters

Nick Marcelli has already written the post-election digital strategy article you’ll read seven times next week:

Over a dozen operatives interviewed for this story say [Campaign] has been quietly building a digital and data operation which may rival Obama’s vaunted machine. “This is the best digital operation in history.” Said one operative familiar with [Candidate]’s digital operation.

The closing paragraph nails it.

By Nathaniel Ward on


Don’t blindly follow design trends

Kevin Marks has a surprisingly quantitative take about why the web is getting harder to read:

There’s a widespread movement in design circles to reduce the contrast between text and background, making type harder to read. Apple is guilty. Google is, too. So is Twitter.

Typography may not seem like a crucial design element, but it is.

The key takeaway: blindly following design trends can make it harder for people to read your stuff. That’s especially important for fundraisers, who often deal with older audiences.

Fortunately, you don’t need to adopt a design because it’s trendy. You can experiment to find out if that design better achieves your goals than what you’re using now.

By Nathaniel Ward on


How to focus

How do you remain focused and productive in a world full of distractions? Here’s how I do it:

  • Use a task management system like the Getting Things Done framework. Getting your to-do list out of your head and into a list or an app like Todoist can help you declutter your mind and prioritize what’s important.

  • Take notes about everything. Jotting down a few ideas during or after every meeting will help you focused, organize your thoughts, and keep track of important information. Using an app like Apple’s Notes or Evernote will make your notes searchable in the future.

  • Turn off device notifications. All of them, on all devices. I only allow notifications for texts, phone calls, and calendar reminders, and then only on my phone. Very little is so important that it requires a chirp or a buzz or a visual alert when you’re in the zone.

  • Dedicate time to your priorities. If something is important, even something that’s not “work” like exercise, devote time specifically to its completion. Use your calendar to reserve the time so people don’t schedule you. And when you’re working, use a timer like Tadam to help maintain focus.

  • Start projects early. Start working on a project immediately upon receiving it, while it’s top of mind. Your initial inspiration, even if it’s just notes jotted down, will serve you well when you’re under the gun.

  • Turn down unnecessary meetings. Other people don’t control your time. You do. If you have something to do that’s more important than attending the meeting, politely decline.

What do you do to focus?

By Nathaniel Ward on