What’s your style?

I love Claire Kittle’s Talent Market emails!

SPN AM_gift bags2_2016-10They’re clever, well-written, and illustrated. Each contains a message beyond “here are jobs,” a message that inspires. Mind you, I’m not even looking for a job.

Each piece of outgoing text, image, or sound conveys more than its elements; it also broadcasts what sort of organization yours is. It says either, “This is from us” and is worth reading, or it says, “Yeah, I threw this together, but you need to join our effort, anyway.”

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Use Verbs to Increase Engagement


“When the weather is nice you should get out and hike the great outdoors.”


“Hike the great outdoors.”

Which one is the most effective? Sentences that start with verbs are more convincing and promote an action from your readers. With verbs, it is clear what you want your readers to do! In fact, verbs are the part of speech that generate the most shares on Twitter.

Give this a shot on social media and see what happens to your engagement and click throughs.

Connect With Your Target

Capture your target audience’s attention by articulating your ideas clearly and concisely. Avoid dreaded technical terms and use words like “review,” “why,” and “advice” instead.

You can start by writing down everything you think needs to be included the copy. Then remove words that don’t directly contribute to your core message.

6 Ways to Enhance Your Call To Action

Think of the last time you responded to a marketing or fundraising communication. What made you do it? Was there an incentive, or a chance to win something? A good call to action (CTA) takes a lot more than asking or providing a link. We argue that CTAs should be included in each and every  lead generation efforts produced by your organization — social media updates, emails, blog posts, press releases, and the list goes on. Whenever you want to ensure that your team is creating an effective piece, ask yourself “What CTA are we using to drive our audiences’ behavior” and “What do I want them to do after they have read or seen this?”1

Here are five tips to enhance your calls to action and increase your audiences’ response.2

1. Repetition

Within your messaging, whether direct mail, email, or a newspaper ad, zero in on exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and state that message. Be clear, and repeat the message. People are more likely to remember something—as well as take action—if they’re presented with the option multiple times.
Within each marketing piece, make sure that your CTA is repeated multiple times throughout. Also, try multiple marketing mediums with a cross promotional campaign – for example, reaching out via print, online, and email.

2. Clarity of Intent

This one can’t be overstated, and it works the same for both print and online: Your CTA has to be clear. There’s no room for vagueness in a CTA. Make the next step obvious, and give a specific time frame for completion.

3. Design

Size matters, make it big. For online CTAs, you want your  button to be large enough to stand out without overwhelming the design. Give the CTA room to breathe specially – but not enough so that it seems like a separate element altogether. And place it above the fold (no scrolling necessary) and in the top and left position. Test it out — and don’t always place your CTA in the same place. Readers will become desensitized.

A contrasting color and font also helps increase engagement — consider your overall design, if red is a dominate color it won’t work well for your CTA (most likely). Directional signs like arrows also creates flow and helps the reader prioritize the information.

4. Personalization

Personalizing your CTA tells consumers you understand that they are unique. Add a handwritten sticky note, use their name in your greeting, or personalize emails to match their interests.

5. Use a Widget

In the marketing world, a unique element makes your message stand out among the other messages in the same medium. In direct mail, this would be anything that isn’t paper: car keys, credit cards, and casino chips. These widgets add weight to the mailer — helping it stand out from other items in a mailbox and draws attention to the message.
On the web, use an interactive game instead of a generic capture form. Well-designed imagery and unique colors will make your communication stand out from your competitors’ efforts.

6. Offer Prizes

Offering prizes of some kind— like gift cards or iPads —can help you build a relationship with a consumer beyond just the CTA. Of course, you don’t simply want to pay your consumers to interact with you. Put some thought into the prize and make sure you’re still going to earn ROI on your marketing.

Make sure to track the results; what worked for one group may not work for another. A/B test your idea, or at least test the idea against similar campaigns you’ve done in the past. Pick one variable to change and track how it impacts the results.


How to Generate $500 Million Through Email Marketing

While the 2012 U.S. presidential election is long over, we can still gain valuable insights from the email strategy used to generate over $500 million for the Obama for America campaign.

Toby Fallsgraff lead the charge for email fundraising during the election and his team of 20 writers, as well as analysts, and other staff earned the majority of the campaign’s online donations, which totaled about $690 million — more than 4.5 million people donated, with an average gift of $53.

Encouraging repeat donors was central to the campaign’s strategy. However, that wasn’t the only tactic. Here are three of the best tactics they discovered:

Tactic #1. Send ‘quick donate’ links and speed up the donation process

“We were thanking them before we tested because it was the right thing to do,” he says. “Then we realized it made a small increase in performance. Merely acknowledging a donation and thanking them made people more likely to give again.”

The campaign also wanted to speed up the process for repeat donors. They created links which allowed previous donors to give again with a single click, eliminating the need to visit a landing page or fill out a form.

“Even if it only takes two minutes to complete the form, there’s a significant drop off when we ask people to complete it,” Fallsgraff says.

Conversion rates increased about 300% (even when controlling for variables) when using the links.

Tactic #2. Segment with behavioral data

The email team tested the viability of many segments. The data clearly showed that tailoring messages to a person’s previous actions (i.e., behavioral data) earned the best results.

They used these four segments (previous donors, quick donors, non-donors, and lapsed donors) to tailor their messages with targeted email copy.

Tactic #3. Test, test, retest

Obama for America tested and sent a national email almost every day. This increased to multiple times a day as Election Day drew nearer. There was a massive demand for copy, but the team kept testing because it worked, says Fallsgraff.

“Sometimes we’d see a lift of anywhere between 5% or 10%. But 5% or 10% on an email that’s projected to raise a million dollars is a lot of money. It’s totally worth our while, so that’s why we had 20 writers and 20 email staffers working at all hours of the night — to make sure these tests were ready.”

Here’s the testing process the team used:

Step 1. Write a bunch of emails

Step 2. Choose four to six and brainstorm

For each send, the team whittled the drafts down to a selection of four to six. It then brainstormed subject lines until it had three for each message (12 to 18 subject lines in total).

Step 3. Tailor the copy
The team tailored the copy of the chosen emails to each segment of the audience. For example, quick-donate links were added to emails that reached donors who had saved their payment information. Non-donors might be encouraged, “don’t wait until the last minute!”

Step 4. Test the message, then the subject line
The team randomly selected a group from each segment to receive test emails. A winner was determined for each segment, and then they tested three subject lines. The combination of best message and best subject line was then sent to the remainder of the group to complete the campaign.

Step 5. Start over


This is a summary of a post by the Marketing Sherpa. Click here for the full report.

Email for Nonprofits: The Basics of Building a Successful Program

Email can be a powerful marketing tool when used correctly. It can drive significant traffic to your blog or website, help you stay connected to your members, and help you create interest around specific topics. However, making sure you are doing all the right things to ensure your email program is in top form can be a challenge. Guest blogger Josh Eboch has a few tips that will either confirm that you are on the right track or guide you towards some necessary changes. Read on to learn more:


Step 1: Choosing the Right Email Service Provider

Before you ever send your first email, it’s important to find the right email service provider (ESP) to fit your needs. There are many to choose from, but deciding which one is right for you depends on a number of factors, from the size of your list, to the frequency of your mail schedule, to the amount of customer service you require.

If your list has fewer than 2,000 addresses, or you’re sending fewer than 12,000 emails a month, a free service like MailChimp is a popular way to get your program up and running at very little cost. If you have fewer than 40,000 addresses, Vertical Response offers a good value and a user-friendly interface. For organizations with larger lists and a very active email program, a custom solution like Convio or Sphere, though expensive, may be the best way to get the most out of your list.

Remember, not all providers are created equal. Before you choose yours, do some research online to see what other customers say about their pricing, features, customer service, and deliverability rates.


Step 2: Getting Your Emails Delivered

Nothing will kill an email program faster than low delivery rates. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t track this as carefully as they should. Although you won’t see 100 percent of your emails delivered every time you send, anything less than 90 percent should be a warning sign that something is broken.

Some ways to improve or maintain delivery rates:

  • Send emails only to individuals who have intentionally opted in to receive your messages
  • Use a “from” email address and a “from” name that your audience will recognize

  • Make subject lines concise (40-50 characters) and relevant to what’s in the email

  • Check your inbox for unsubscribe requests sent there rather than through the link that will be automatically attached to every email

  • Use a spam checker tool provided by your ESP when creating emails, and modify your content to improve your score if necessary

  • Purge your list regularly by removing all invalid and undeliverable addresses

At first it may be painful to purge your list, but remember that every undelivered email or message marked as spam reduces the chances of future emails reaching actual supporters.


Step 3: Sending the Right Message

One of the most common questions for organizations with a new or growing email program is how often to hit their list. While there is no magic number of emails that should be sent out every week or every month, the more often you share quality content with your list, the more responsive your list will become. However, there is one important distinction that every email marketer should understand: The difference between soft touches and solicitations.

A soft touch is an informational, relationship-building email. It may be an update on the progress of some key legislation, or a link to a recent op-ed, or even a grassroots call to action. But no matter what it’s about, a soft touch is an email that should not directly ask for money, and your list should receive at least two of these for every solicitation. This ratio will help keep your emails from becoming too predictable and will minimize list attrition and supporter burnout.

Of course, every email that goes out should include a link somewhere, such as at the very top or bottom, for recipients to donate and support your work. But the more you make quality informational communications a priority, the more your supporters will feel inclined to invest financially in the work you’re doing together.


Step 4: Tracking and Measuring Success

When it comes to their email program, every organization has different metrics for success, but there are a few basic benchmarks that marketers should aim for to make success possible.

  • Deliverability Rate (>90%): As mentioned above, this number should never be below 90 percent, but a truly clean list will see consistent delivery rates of 98 percent or higher.

  • Open Rate (>18%): The average open rate for nonprofit emails varies widely across platforms and programs, but a minimum of 18 percent should be sufficient to accomplish your organizational goals.

  • Click Through Rate (>15%): This is the percent of recipients who click a link after opening your email. Soft touches with a call to action should be able to generate at least a 15 percent click through rate, while solicitations could be as low as one percent or less and still be considered a success.

  • Unsubscribe Rate (<1%): Every time an email goes out a few people will unsubscribe from future messages. However, if this number consistently reaches 1 percent or more, it can hurt deliverability and lead to lower performance overall.



Despite the rise of social media and other forms of grassroots engagement, email remains the most powerful way to communicate with supporters and raise money online. The steps laid out above, while by no means exhaustive, are some of the most important elements to a successful email program. By following them closely and constantly testing your methods, you can build an effective foundation for email marketing that will help take your organization to a higher level.

Questions or comments?
Leave them below or connect with Josh on Twitter –

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Your e-mails Are Being Reported as Spam – On Purpose?

So you have a pretty sizable e-mail list. You’ve worked over the years to gather all the e-mail addresses of your friends, supporters, industry people, activists, customers, groupies (if you’re in an awesome band), or whoever has taken an interest in what you do. It takes time, and a lot of labor, to create an e-mail list to be proud of.

There are a number of potential pitfalls you face when you are running an e-mail campaign to your list. MailChimp outlines a few problems you could be having here. It’s not easy to keep your email list of thousands of recipients clean, avoid bounces, and get a decent “open” rate. On occasion, folks will get tired of your email campaign, or got on your list by accident, and they will report you as spam. Most email marketing services, like Constant Contact, MailChimp, etc…frown mightily upon your emails being reported as spam. If enough people report you as “spam,” your account may even be suspended, and you will be asked to do a number of things, including, but not limited to:

  • “age your list” (code for delete everyone on your list added more than 18 months ago, even if they are your oldest, most reliable supporters)
  • add a “permission reminder to every email you send (this is that “You are receiving this email because” thing you see at the top of some emails)
  • and my favorite, the “Opt-in email” (your list is shut down and the service sends an email to your list asking them to re-opt in, if they don’t, they are off the list)

These are all annoying, and in my experience, generally serve only to annoy your best customers or supporters, often without addressing the real issue. But, when you are doing email marketing, it’s bound to happen occasionally, and life goes on. Today, I want to raise an email marketing pitfall you may not have thought of at all, and one that can really gum up the works. 

I’m talking about S-RATS, or  Spam Reporting As To Shutdown (totally made that up). If you are doing email marketing for a cause, or group, that has opponents (think political figure, hated sports team, or some generic diabolical right-wing conspiracy group) it is completely possible that you could run into S-RATS being deployed against you. Under the current spam reporting model of most email marketing services, its very easy to sign up for someone’s email list through an opt-in (on the group’s website or Facebook page), and once you get an email from them, simply report it as spam. It’s also possible to create multiple free email accounts and do this many times over.

Keep in mind, most email services don’t like more than 1 spam report per 1,000 email addresses, so it only takes about 12 – 20 spam reports on an email list of 10,000 to trigger a shutdown of your service. This makes it incredibly easy for someone, or a group of someones, to shutdown your email campaign by reporting you as spam. As of right now, I don’t know of a specific safeguard against this, and I’m not confident that the email marketing services have a great way to deal with it.

Have you, or your group, ever been the victim of S-RATS? How did you deal with? Was your email marketing company helpful in helping you with this problem?

S-RATS is no fun, and it’s just wrong. Let’s work together to find a way to prevent it.

I’ll trade you: my premium content for your e-mail address

In most organizations, particularly non-profits who are working to get their message out to the masses, growing the organizational contact list is a huge priority. The all important e-mail list is a critical measurement of how well a group is doing at swelling their ranks. There are many ways of growing your e-mail list, but there is one in particular you may not be utilizing – trading your “premium” content for an e-mail address.

It’s as simple as it sounds. Let’s say you are a non-profit, research organization. If you have a website where you post research, ideas or commentaries, then you are already providing readers of your website with a content, and you’re giving it to them for free. That’s ok; after all, you are a non-profit, and you want to make your life-changing message accessible. But there is another level of content that you might not be providing, and when you do, it’s worth something a little extra.

Consider a recent real-life example. I saw an ad for a free eBook from elitefts.com (an occasional web stop of mine). In return for being able to download this eBook, with exclusive content I couldn’t get anywhere else, I simply had to sign up for the elitefts.com e-mail list. Done deal, a real no-brainer. I mean after all, I’m interested in the subject and I know I can always unsubscribe down the road if I want to.

The thing is, I haven’t unsubscribed, and now I’m actually reading and clicking through those e-mails that come through, plus I have the great eBook they gave for me signing up. Imagine the list gains elitefts must be getting from making this premium content available for only the “price” of an e-mail.

You can do the same thing. You probably have some “premium” content already. It could be a publication you usually charge $2.00 for at events, it could be access to a searchable database of state spending, or it could be something you have yet to create. Just remember, as an outreach organization, nothing is more valuable to you than a growing audience, and giving folks premium content in exchange for adding them your list gives you tremendous growth potential.