Guest post by Brady Josephson of NextAfter

No matter what type of nonprofit you are, when it comes to growing your online revenue, the size and quality of your email list is the most important factor that will influence your ability to raise money online.

And it’s not just about money online: Through analyzing online and offline data from our clients, we’ve found that just by adding email communication, offline donors give 90% more and are 29% more likely to be retained.

So stop reading this post and go get some emails!

…Okay, it’s not that easy. Why is it so hard to get peoples’ emails?

Because people come online to get, not to give. So you, as a marketer and fundraiser, need to give before you can get.

Here’s what I mean: In this experiment, a client ran a Facebook ad that led to a donation page with the goal of a donation. This was tested against a 3-step version, where the extra step offered a free online course in exchange for an email, which was then followed up with an ask for a donation.

In this case, Version B, the 3-step version, produced an infinite increase in donations.

By adding an additional step, which doesn’t seem like it would make sens, more value was actually being delivered throughout the process and in stages – not all at once.

You earn trust by offering value.

And when it comes to influencing someone to click, sign-up, register, or donate, the most important factor that influences conversion is your value proposition.

That’s one of the main things we’ve found from running over 1,000 experiments with a sample of more than 221,475,000 donor interactions. It’s how you answer the value proposition question that leads to actions and donations. It’s not ease of giving, the technology you use, or even how pretty your website is.

Through our studies, we’ve found that there is an endemic failure in the larger nonprofit industry to craft and communicate an effective value proposition. But this problem presents enormous opportunity. If we can solve this value proposition problem together, we can unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world.

The value proposition question

Value proposition when it comes to email acquisition is the answer to a simple but profound question: If I am your ideal donor, why should I sign up to follow you, rather than some other organization (or not at all)?

Now, there is an incredible amount packed into this one simple question, so let’s take a moment to unpack it:

If I…

This is a first-person question, so it requires a first-person answer. Do you know who this first-person is? Hint: it’s not you! It’s your donor. This poses a challenge because it means we have to think like our donor. And the only way to think from our donor’s perspective is to start doing research and piece together:

– Who they are (demographics)
– Where they come from (analytics)
– What interests them (psychographics)

Until you form a basic understanding of your donors, you will be shooting completely in the dark.

…ideal donor…

But hold on – it’s not just any donor’s perspective. It’s your ideal donor’s perspective that you’re after. You need to get really clear on who your best donors are and be willing to focus all of your attention on them. You can’t expect to reach everyone with your message – only those who are the best fit for you and your organization.

…why should I…

A value proposition is not your mission statement, and it’s not what you do. Ultimately, a value proposition is a reason why someone should move from their status quo and take a new action. For you and email, that means signing up. And so, a value proposition is essentially an argument. You need to ‘make your case’ before the jury of potential donors. You need to appeal to both their emotions and their intellect. You must inspire them.

…rather than some other organization…

In order for it to be strong, your value proposition must be unique. It must be something that you do that no one else can do – or something you do better than anyone else. If your value proposition has an -est modifier (biggest, fastest, strongest), or a most differentiator (most efficient, most trusted, most effective), then that’s a good start.

Now, I know, we don’t like to ever talk about competition in the not-for-profit space. But data suggests that although the amount of money that is donated to charity continues to grow, the number of individuals that are giving continues to shrink. That means the total universe of ‘probable’ donors is shrinking. So not only do we need to acknowledge that competition in the nonprofit space exists, but we need to prepare for even more fierce competition for donor dollars in the future.

…(or not at all).

To further exacerbate the issue of competition, we need to acknowledge the null hypothesis. That is, the donor has a third option: They can decide to get your updates, they can decide to get updates from some other organization, or they can decide to not get updates at all!

And in a world where the average office worker gets 121 emails a day, not signing up for more emails is a very viable option.

Getting people’s attention is hard, and trying to persuade them to sign up for your emails — which is the lifeblood of online fundraising — is hard, but if you aren’t clearly offering value in exchange for the email signup, you stand little to no chance. Start with a value proposition and communicate it throughout the signup process and you should see your list start to grow and with it your online fundraising.

If you’re looking to go even deeper with email fundraising, we’ve got a free, 6 session online course based on over 400 experiments – check it out!

Brady is a charity nerd, entrepreneur, digital marketer, professor, and writer. He’s the Vice President of Innovation and Optimization at NextAfter — a fundraising research lab and consultancy on a mission to unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world. Brady lives just outside Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada with his wife Liz, dog Melly, and cat Thor. You can follow him on Twitter @bradyjosephson.

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