An email workflow is a series of steps and actions that you can automate to make your email marketing and fundraising more effective and efficient. A workflow isn't just a "one and done" email blast or campaign. For the purpose of this post, you'll want to think about the entire flow of the email series, your goals, how many emails you want to send, and the end goal or action that you want your donors, members or contacts to make. If you're familiar with the business marketing concept of "lead nurturing" you can think of it like that—donor nurturing.
If you're fortunate enough to have a robust automated marketing platform, you can get super detailed with your workflow. If not, no problem. You can use various tools and systems to piece together a cohesive email workflow that can be tracked, measured and analyzed. It will take a little more time and resources, but it can be done.
So, let's get started planning and creating a fundraising workflow to your donors.
1. Define your goal.
The first step of any good fundraising campaign or lead nurturing workflow is to set a specific goal. Your goals should include your audience, your fundraising goals and date of completion if it's not an evergreen workflow. Here are some examples:
- We will engage with first-time donors wtih the goal of getting them signed-up for automatic annual renewal of membership/donation.
- We will nurture all new contacts with the goal of a first-time donation.
- We will invite our top donors to sponsor a table at our annual breakfast.
2. Define your focus metric.
A focus metric is simply way to measure the success of your workflow. If your workflow is going out to new donors, what are your metrics for success? Make sure not to use vanity metrics like open rates or "likes" on social media. What is a valuable focus metric for a fundraising email workflow? Click-thru-rate (CTR), donations, sign-ups or RSVPs are the first that come to mind.
You may have different focus metrics for different pieces of the workflow. For example, your main focus metric may be tickets sold or number of RSVPs: we have a goal of 100 RSVPs for this workflow. The goal is 100 RSVPs and the focus metrics would be opens/CTRs for emails, and submissions for landing page forms, etc. You may have a large percentage of contacts clicking thru to the RSVP form, but you notice that submissions are really low. This is an indicator that something is wrong with either the landing page messaging, the form, or something else that is preventing the user from completing the final step.
This kind of data is really valuable to the process, so if you have access to it, use it! If you don't, start tracking now. Figure out how you'll gather this data. You may need to set up tracking URLs and discreet fundraising pages to measure the success of your email workflow.
3. Target your audience.
Targeting vital to a good response and will effect the performance of your workflow. If you send a fundraising email out to everyone in your database, chances are the open rate and CTR will be very low. That's because a mass email is too generic. Successful fundraising requires a personal approach. Narrow your list to a very specific group of donors or contacts.
4. Personalize the content.
If you're using a decent email marketing system, you should be able to personalize your email with tokens like first name, last donation amount, last donation date, etc. Don't get carried away with personalization, though, because it can be creepy. You want the reader to feel like you know them, but not like you're peeping through their window. Here are a few ways to personalize your email:
- Personalize the subject line and the body of the email.
- Make sure the sender name & email are from a real person in your organization.
- Write warm, creative copy that captures the right tone. Read it out loud to someone!
5. Plan the steps.
A workflow is a series of steps and actions, not just a "one and done" approach. Think of the entire flow of the email series. If you have a robust digital marketing system, you can get super detailed with your workflow. Here's an example, using HubSpot's Workflow tool that I created as an example for this post:
Enrollment criteria: Made first donation sometime in the last half of 2016.
Email 1: Annual report (personalize with a thank you for their donation last year, link to your annual report)
delay 5 days
Email 2: Spring Campaign Kickoff Invite (link to RSVP)
delay 1 day
IF they didn't open, send reminder email
delay 5 days
Email 3: Reminder to RSVP for Spring Campaign (send to those on your list who did not RSVP)
delay 3 days
Email 4: Can't make it? Consider a donation online instead! (send to those who did not RSVP)
This is an example of how you can set up delays, IF/Then branching, and other automated steps into your workflow. As you know, people need multiple reminders and opportunities to give. It's good practice to tailor your follow-up messages and reminders to match the actions of your readers. For example, you should only send reminders to register for an event to those who haven't registered yet and not to your entire original list.
Criteria, number of steps, branching and delays can all be adjusted to your needs. Most likely, you can find ways to set up this kind of workflow no matter what system you use, given you have enough time and resources to dedicate to the process.
You've created a big goal for your workflow. You know how you'll be measuring success. Your list is ready to go and you have personalized content ready to go. You've planned out the steps. Now, for the fun part! Get all of your assets ready to go first. Do you need graphics? Do you need landing pages? Are you using CTAs and customized lists? How many separate emails do you need to create and test? Get all of the pieces in place first, and make sure to test everything!
If you have the luxury to A/B test emails and landing pages, please take the time to do it! Google just launched it's Google Optimize tool that gives anyone access to test different variations of their website and then tailor it to deliver a personalized experience that works best for your donors and members. It's really cool and you can learn more about Google Optimize here.
Even if you don't have a way to automate A/B testing, be sure to test the old fashioned way. Send a few different ideas and copy samples (subject lines, email content, landing page messaging and graphics) to a committee, friends or co-workers and ask for their feedback.
7. Launch and learn.
Once you've crafted your workflow and tested it, the time has come to launch your masterpiece out into the world. This doesn't mean it's time to sit back and forget about your workflow! If you've set up a really nice automated workflow, there is a degree of kicking back and letting it run it's course that you can enjoy. Just make sure to keep an eye on the progress of your workflow. You may notice a problem and be able to adjust or tweak a few things to help get better results. If you have a definite "end" to your workflow, take time to analyze performance: what worked, what didn't work, and what can you change the next time around?