4 Ways to Upgrade Donor Emails with the Donor Management System

July 15, 2022

If you could get 20 percent more people to open a link to a donation form in your emails, how many more donations could your charity earn annually?

Think about it. That’s potentially tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars that could help accomplish your charity’s mission.

All of us receive dozens of emails every  day. That’s a lot of emails that your charity is competing with!

Even if you think you’ve developed the perfect email with the most fantastic hook, does your donor base feel the same way? So, to encourage a supporter or donor to open an email, let alone click a link in your email, what do you need to know?

Today, we’ll be exploring just that using the Donor Management System (DMS).

  • We’ll start by walking you through the importance of segmenting your audience into groups with shared interests or behaviours. 
  • Then, we’ll touch on metrics to help understand how to optimize your content based on the performance of your emails. 
  • Next, we’ll help you clean your email lists by showing you how to identify routinely unopened and bounced emails.
  • Lastly, we’ll go over how you can provide a human experience to your supporters that will surely surprise and delight them!

Send emails your donors will care about by segmenting

Segmenting is how marketers divide and organize the entire donor email list into smaller lists based on donor characteristics and behaviour. Common donor segments include donation history or donation size. Marketers can then create personalized emails to target different segments leading to more emails opened, links clicked, and ultimately, donations received.

Why does segmentation improve donor emails?

Charities segment their contact lists to show they care about the donor’s interests. By personalizing emails for your different segments, your charity provides more valuable content and information than a generic mass email. 

Perhaps you send a mass email with the subject line Sign up for monthly donations today! However, that email blast includes donors who have already signed up for recurring monthly contributions. What’s the likelihood those monthly donors will open that email? Probably close to zero.

At best, these monthly donors may simply delete this email. At worst, they unsubscribe from your mailing list entirely or report your email as spam.

So instead of sending a blanket email, why not create a segmented email list of your monthly donors? That way, you can target this monthly donor segment with much more valuable emails, such as thanking them for donating monthly and the specific impact of their monthly contributions.

You also don’t want to ask your monthly donors to sign up for monthly donations. Not only is it redundant, but it also gives the impression that your charity is unorganized. Creating a segment for your monthly donors is really an opportunity for your charity to ask for an increased monthly donation or even a major gift.

How do I segment using the DMS?

There are two ways to group your email lists using the DMS. 

Creating a Group

With Groups, charities have complete manual control over who they’d like to add or remove.

  • These are great for creating segmented email lists that don’t have predefined criteria, such as VIP donors or volunteers.
  • Charities can create Groups by selecting individual donors in the Contacts tab. Once you select which donors you’d like to add to a Group, click the Actions dropdown and select Group - add contacts.

Creating a Smart Group

  • Charities create Smart Groups when they want to start automating their segmenting process. 
  • Charities can do this by setting up specific criteria using the Advanced Search function in the DMS. 
  • Once set up, charities can use the Actions menu to save it as a Smart Group

Example: Creating a Smart Group based on donation sizes

In the example below, we'll show you how to create a segment for major donors - donors who’ve contributed $10,000 or more.

  • To create this Smart Group, navigate to the Contributions dropdown in Advanced Search
  • Enter $10,000 in the empty field on the left under CONTRIBUTION AMOUNTS and click Search to view the results. 
  • Select all the contacts on this list by clicking the check box to the left of the Name column. 
  • Click Actions and select Group - create smart group to create the Smart Group.
  • Once saved, donors will automatically be added to this segment if they meet the specified criteria. This also includes new donors added to the DMS for the first time!

Optimize your email by measuring CTR

Click-through rate (CTR) is a metric that charity marketers use to measure the percentage of supporters who clicked on a link in an email. It’s calculated by dividing the number of unique individuals who clicked a link in an email by the number of emails sent. The higher the click rate, the more likely your supporters find the content in your emails to be relevant to them.

Why does measuring CTR improve donor emails?

Measuring the CTR helps charities understand what content is relevant to their donors. That’s we started with segmenting. Segmenting helps charities brainstorm ideas about what type of content resonates with their donors. And charities should always aim to optimize email content to achieve higher CTR, and repurpose or avoid low content that results in lower CTR.

There are two major components to consider when a charity aims to improve the CTR of its emails. The call-to-action (CTA) and the content preceding it.

The CTA is the link itself, a line of text or an image that prompts the donor to take action. Think of those ubiquitous buttons asking you to, “Donate now,” or, “Learn more.” 

To improve the CTR, charities must be mindful of the targeted segment and the objective of the CTA.

Returning to the example in the section above, the CTA in an email to your segment of monthly donors shouldn’t be, “Sign up for monthly donation.”

Especially when sending emails to brand new subscribers, charities may want to tone down aggressive CTAs requesting donations. Instead, the objective should be building trust and a relationship with CTAs such as, “Read more about our mission,” or, “Learn about how we help our community.”

The content is the second component that plays a significant role in the CTR.

And to improve the CTR with email content, less is often more.

Because for successful charities, emails are not the final destination for their supporters and donors. As such, there isn’t a need to write lengthy emails that detail the entire charity’s story, mission, and values. 

Instead, these charities use email content to hook the reader and provide some context for the CTA to encourage and lead their audience to a form, donation page, or blog.

As you apply the two strategies above, regularly measuring the CTR of these emails will help you understand what’s working and what isn’t. Perhaps you need to tweak the CTA or update the messaging of the content. Whatever you’re optimizing, remember it’s a continuous cycle of learning.

How do I measure the CTR using the DMS?

Measuring CTR

Charities can measure the CTR of each email by navigating to the Administer tab and clicking on Draft, Schedule, and Manage DMS Mails.

  • Starting from the Draft, Schedule, and Manage DMS Mails section, charities can access email reports to view the CTR and other email metrics.
  • Simply search or scroll to a sent email on the list. 
  • Once you’ve located the desired email, select Report under the Action column.
  • In the report, you’ll immediately see the Delivery Summary heading. Navigate to Click-throughs, and you’ll find the number and the percentage of people who clicked a link in the email.

Clean up your email lists by tracking unopened or bounced emails

With the DMS, you can clean up your email lists by identifying individuals who haven’t opened an email for an extended period of time and emails that consistently bounce back. That time period could be three months, half a year, or a custom time frame specified by you!

Bounced emails are emails that could not be delivered to the sender and, as a result, returned to the sender. Common culprits of bounced emails include incorrect email addresses or full inboxes.

Why does a clean email list improve donor emails?

Charities tend to consider individuals who haven’t opened their emails for extended periods as lapsed supporters or donors. One reason is that they’re no longer using that email. However, a more common and unfortunate reason is that the individual no longer sees value in your emails.

This is an opportunity for your charity to revisit the messaging of past emails. Investigate what emails these individuals opened in the past and when they started to drift away from your charity. You may find that you’ve been asking for donations too often, or the emails were too generic and weren’t tailored to their interests. 

By keeping lapsed supporters in your email lists, you risk negatively skewing your email metrics, such as the CTR. For example, if you send an email to 40 people and 30 of them open the email, that’s a CTR of 75 percent. However, if five of those 40 people are lapsed supporters, your actual CTR is about 86 percent, a more than 10 percent increase!

But before removing lapsed supporters from your email lists, consider re-engaging lapsed supporters first! It’s a great way to encourage them to support your cause with newfound excitement! 

As for bounced emails, this is an opportunity for your charity to help ensure the email addresses in your list are up-to-date. Whether the supporter’s inbox is full or if the email is incorrect, try to reach out to the supporter by alternative means to update their email address

How do I track unopened or bounced emails using the DMS?

To track unopened and bounced emails, click on the Contacts tab in the top menu, then select Advanced Search. On the Advanced Search page, scroll down to Mailings and open the dropdown.

Tracking bounced emails

  • Under MAILING START DATE, select the date range or period you want to search. 
  • Select Bounced under DELIVERY STATUS
  • Clicking Search will provide you with a list of all the individuals who had an email bounce from their inbox during the set time period.

Fixing bounced emails

  • To help ensure that all of these emails are updated, select all the contacts on the list above by clicking the check box to the left of the Name column in the search results. 
  • Then click Actions and select Add Activity to create multiple tasks at once for you or your team to request the correct email from these individuals.

Tracking unopened emails

  • Under MAILING START DATE, select the date range or period you want to search. 
  • Select Unopened/Hidden under TRACKABLE OPENS
  • Then click search to view all the individuals who did not open an email during the set time period.

Re-engaging lapsed supporters

  • You may wish to reach out and re-engage with them to support your mission once again. 
  • You can do so by saving your search results as a Group
  • Select all the contacts on this list by clicking the check box to the left of the Name column in the search results. 
  • Then click Actions and select Group - add contacts to create a custom email list. 
  • Once you send an email to this list, you can track the open rate, CTR and other metrics using the same steps outlined in the How do I measure the CTR using the DMS? Above.
  • Use these metrics to help you decide if you want to keep or remove these individuals from your DMS.

Integrating automation to provide human experiences efficiently

Intimate, honest, compassionate, and hyper-personal emails. This is how even some of the most streamlined charities provide a human connection with their supporters. In marketing, we call this type of customer service the human experience.

Why does providing human experiences improve donor emails?

Not every email needs to have a CTA. Don’t think that you’re losing out on donations because an email doesn’t have a, “Donate now,” button.

Part of the donor stewardship process is building trust and relationships with your supporters. And sometimes, that means more giving than taking.

Often, it takes more than a thank you email after donation to earn the trust and loyalty of donors. Sometimes it’s about going above and beyond to help your supporters feel appreciated and seen.

Providing a human experience goes beyond simply segmenting your audience and sending targeted emails. Celebrating anniversaries, graduations, and other personal milestones by emailing supporters are some of the best ways to provide that human experience.

With the DMS, charities can easily track and automate thousands of events using the Activities function.  No need to scribble down important dates on sticky notes ever again.

How do I provide human experiences using the DMS?

When a supporter shares an important date or event in their life, you can easily add and automatically track this information in their DMS profile using the Activities function.

Adding and creating Activities

  • Navigate to the supporter’s profile by clicking the Contacts tab. 
  • Click on their name to enter the profile. 
  • If a profile doesn’t exist, click on Add Contact to create a new profile. 
  • Once in the supporter’s profile, click the Activities tab and select the type of activity you wish to add. 
  • To add additional types of custom activities, such as a birthday, select the Administer tab at the very top of the page and click on Activity Types.

Automating Activities

  • Once you’ve selected the type of activity, enter the date and details, and assign the activity to yourself or a member of your team. For birthdays and other recurring events, you can set the frequency of the event in the Repeat Activity dropdown.
  • You can view all of your activities from the Activities Dashlet on the home page.

How easy is that? You'll be way ahead of the curve even by doing one or two of these upgrades. Whether you choose to send targeted emails to segments, optimize content based on CTR, clean up their donor email lists, or provide a more human experience, your charity will be better equipped to engage and delight your donor base. Most importantly, they’ll start looking forward to your emails rather than hitting, “Mark as read.”

As you refine your email strategy, many charities tend to focus on their segmentation strategy. Specifically, they’re curious about learning more about what motivates your donors to donate. Refine and focus your segmentation strategy in our recent blog about understanding your donors.

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