Your supporters aren’t an ATM — they're a bank account

Final Notice Email If you follow any kind of progressive politics in the USA, chances are you’ve wound up on a Democratic Party email database, and hence have been subjected to some pretty ruthless ‘fundraising-masquerading-as-debt-collector’ pitches.

Testing and optimization are key to any email program. But as Michael Whitney rightly points out:

...these pitches are different, and dangerous. They bank on fear: that the recipient missed a payment; that they’re behind on bills; that their power will be cut.”

They treat the end user as an ATM, a pit of money to be mined at crucial ‘all or nothing’ points on the campaign cycle.

We prefer to think of your email list as a bank account – if you want to withdraw, you’d better make sure you’ve made a deposit first. Emails that have given the user something – video content, a donor report back, a survey of their opinions – build the kind of capital you draw from every time you ask for money. You need to keep yourself in the black, and view your emails over time not just in isolation. Ask yourself, ‘what does our data tell us about what our supporters want?’, not ‘how do we ruthlessly optimize?’

Take this recent example from Hillary Clinton’s US Presidential campaign, and contrast it to the ‘final notice’ style emails from her party:

Hillary Clinton Gets Email Right

Hillary's team has asked themselves the important questions: 'who are our users?', 'where is their headspace right now?' and 'what will motivate them to donate?'. They bring the user inside the tent by explaining why they need the money and how it will be spent. They know that -- just as important as raising money from this particular email -- the reader needs to keep coming back for more. There's a long journey, for candidate as well as supporter, between now and November 2016.

Jimmy Daly finds another example of a company treating their email list as humans: “If you want to improve your open rates by 10 percent, A/B test your subject line. If want to 10x your revenue, you need to blow the whole thing up. Just like TripAdvisor.” It’s a compelling read for anyone wanting to get into the psychology of email marketing, and a lesson in always putting yourself in your user’s shoes.

We’re all about data-driven fundraising at Corelab. But data is only a means to an end – and that end is having a better picture of your supporters, so you can better talk to them as humans. It’s tempting to miss the forest for the trees here, and forget that at the end of the day, your email is being sent from one human being to another. How much capital have your emails built with your list recently? Is your account in the red or the black?

Have you received these debt collector style emails? How do you make "deposits" in your supporters account? Share your thoughts.