Pulling Offline Members onto Your Email List

Sarah DiJulio with M&R Strategic Services has some excellent tips for converting traditional offline members into online activists. Switching members from snailmail to email for many communications has the obvious advantage of lowering mailing costs and can also reduce the barriers for donations (besides turning your members into potential e-advocates). Note: the mix of direct mail and email is important, since email addresses churn but snail mail can follow a forwarding notice. Make sure you can still reach your members even if their online addresses change.

Here’s what Sarah has to say:

If you’re looking for cost-effective ways to convert direct mail donors to give you their email addresses (for the purpose of e-advocacy), a few strategies that have worked for some of our clients:

  • Including a space for email address on reply cards (no additional printing or mailing costs beyond data entry, generally done in such a way as to ensure that response rates aren’t effected).
  • Email list append — using commercial data to append email addresses to direct mail records. There are some big downsides to this strategy but the cost is generally quite low.
  • Including a “PS” in fundraising appeals that suggests people give online at a unique URL such as www.railstotrails.org/give that takes people straight to a donation page.
  • Promoting online petitions in your print magazine/newsletter, with a corresponding web site — i.e., a brief article about a petition campaign with the URL www.railstotrails.org/act directing people to sign the petition.
  • Including a printed petition in a mailing, with a space for email address, with the addresses to be entered into a database when the petitions are returned.
  • Asking for an email address at the end of a telemarketing call that you are already making to solicit donations.

We’ve found that the high cost of standalone mailings to recruit email addresses (or telephone calls) do not warrant the results. It’s been a while since I’ve seen anyone test this, but the last time I saw data on this, it was costing $8-$20 per email address collected.

Comparatively, if you want to invest resources in ONLINE recruitment of e-activists, the cost per acquisition of a new e-advocate can range from $1-$5 per email address collected, AND these people often make better e-advocates.

Generally we would recommend that you focus on the low-cost methods of email address collection mentioned above, plus online recruitment, and avoid the really high-cost methods.

Thanks, Sarah! Great suggestions.


Written by
Colin Delany
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