Email isn’t dead.
Email continues to grow in influence year after year. In 2014, nonprofits increased their open rates by 4% and grew their lists by 11%, while globally, total email accounts swelled to an astonishing 4.1 billion. Obviously, email remains an integral part of any nonprofit’s toolbox, and looks set to be so for some time yet.
But nothing stands still online - how will email continue to develop? We asked 5 experts about the future of nonprofit email fundraising - here's what they had to say.
With the growth of mobile and the changes in the usage of email among the younger demographics, nonprofits will have to be smart about how they use email in 2020.
In order continue to capture the attention, time, and dollars of supporters of all ages, nonprofits will need to rethink the type of communications we share. The length and quality, and the mobile accessibility of content promoted within will all be important factors.
We must practice creating engaging content that is short and to the point, and not burying the lead - or ask. We must also utilize visuals that allow supporters to digest stories quicker, and speak to the heart within our stories. Show, not just tell.
In addition, we must understand our supporters, their needs, and actions, and we must create relevant content targeted to specific audiences in order to stand out.
The jury is still out on whether email will survive the larger trend towards increased use of social, text and mobile app messaging. But have no doubt that today, email is alive and well.
There’s two very big changes that are currently going on that will shape how we use email in 2020: increased tailoring of content to the individual, and the changes in the devices people use to interact with email.
There is an ever greater need to make sure email is relevant to the individual you’re sending it to, and I expect that to continue. At the same time people are reading email on the go with phones and tablets more and more.
With the introduction of wearables, that’ll continue to increase in tandem with the need to create content specific to those devices, and to each individual.
My gut tells me that email will become even more effective over the next 5 years.
Nonprofits will leverage more of their data and available tools to make their communications more targeted, relevant, and specific.
This will happen out of necessity as more and more messages and distractions will compete for donors’ attention. When done well, this kind of segmentation and personalization will help causes stand out in their readers’ inboxes.
While most nonprofits aren’t making their messages as personal as they could be, the good news is that technology is evolving to make it much easier for organizations of all sizes to access information about their donors and deploy more targeted campaigns.
I think email will still be an integral part of a nonprofit’s fundraising strategy in 2020.
The biggest change will center on personalization. Donors will expect to receive messages on topics of interest to them, when they are most likely to give. Appeals will also need to work across even more sizes and surfaces. In five years, some of the practices seen as cutting-edge now will become the norm as technology trickles down and costs drop.
Are your emails and donation pages mobile-friendly?
I think this is the biggest change that will either boost or bomb nonprofit email fundraising in the next five years. The percentage of people opening emails on their mobile devices is at 53%, and will only continue to rise. Nonprofits will continue to raise money through email if they make their giving experience super simple and mobile-friendly. Those that do not will likely be penalized heavily in years to come.
(Editor's note: Google just came out with "mobilegeddon", an update to their search ranking algorithm. Websites that aren’t mobile responsive will now suffer a big SEO hit!)
There you have it folks! As we march into the latter half of the decade, email will become more sophisticated and more adaptable.
Not only will the content become more personal, the technology we use to consume it will grow smaller, more portable - and maybe even more wearable!
With recent changes like Google's mobile responsiveness algorithm and the rise of mobile traffic, the technology to create and deliver successful email campaigns will also become more important - and more available.
It's an exciting new world out there.