How to Build a Great Email Strategy for Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

As part of the recent virtual conference, It’s a Peer-to-Peer World, I worked with peer-to-peer fundraising experts to present a five-session email communications workshop. In the first session, Kari Bodell from Susan G. Komen and Jillian Stewart from Peerworks Consulting helped attendees learn how to build a strong peer-to-peer email communications strategy.

Here are some key points from the session:

Why develop an email communications strategy?
Establishing a strategy for your peer-to-peer fundraising email communications is critically important. Of course, when you have a lot to do, taking time to think about strategy might seem like a luxury. But keep in mind that there’s no point in sending emails just to send emails. They need a purpose.

A strategy establishes the “why” (what you’re trying to accomplish) for your email communications. Then you can determine how your email messages will help you get there.

Three steps to a strong email communications strategy
Here are three key steps for establishing a strong strategy for your email communications:

1. Articulate your goals.
When your campaign or event tries to be everything to everyone, it can fall flat in fully accomplishing what it needs to. Start by articulating your peer-to-peer campaign goals so you can then create your email communications plan to support those goals.

Here are some things to think about as you articulate your goals:

  • What is the primary purpose (goal) of the campaign? What must the campaign do to be viewed as successful?
  • What role does this campaign play in your overall fundraising program? How does it relate to, complement, or compete with your other peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns?
  • What do the campaign’s goal and role in the fundraising program tell you about what the tone of the campaign’s communications should be?

2. Understand your audience.
To communicate well, it’s important to understand the typical person in your target audience (their interests, demographic information, etc.). It’s also important to understand the groups of individuals in your audience so you can develop targeted messages that will inspire and motivate them most effectively.

Be sure to understand the types of information you will need to speak to your audience in a targeted way.

For example, look at your audience by their affinity with your campaign. This is what that might look like for groups of individuals in a cycling event (in order from weakest to strongest affinity):

Group Motivation What they might say
A The activity “I love to spin, and the cycling event is so much fun!”
B The group “My team from work (or school or church) is riding, so I’m riding, too.”
C The tribe “My friends and I ride every year in memory of our mutual friend, Jane.”
D The cause “My family and I are riding to celebrate my niece, who is now cancer free.”
E The organization “The doctor who helped save my life works at the medical system whose foundation hosts this cycling event.”

Another way to look at groups of individuals is their role with the campaign or event. For example:

  • Top fundraiser
  • Board member
  • Team captain
  • First-time participant
  • Survivor

Here are some other examples of insights you can gain from your peer-to-peer fundraising data to help you segment your audience and target your communications:

  • First time or returning participant status
  • Fundraising status
  • Team affiliation (captain, member, or none)
  • Logged into their fundraising center
  • Customized their fundraising center
  • Sent an email from their fundraising center
  • Changed the pre-set fundraising goal

And, some things you might not know, and might need to ask your participants to better understand them:

  • What is their affinity to the organization?
  • What is their connection with your cause?
  • Are they planning to fundraise?
  • Would they like to start or join a team?
  • What type of team would they like to join?

Here are some things to consider as you think about your audience:

  • What is your primary target audience for this campaign?
  • What do you know about the primary audience on average?
  • What other information might be helpful to know about individuals so you can customize your email communications?
  • How can you collect other important information?
  • How could you use audience information to build more targeted communications?

3. Get clear about what you want your audience to do.
An effective email communications strategy defines what the messages need to ask each audience to do. The messages need to make specific asks and inspire actions that ultimately help you reach your campaign’s goals.

Here is an example of what actions you might try to inspire, and the asks you might make to inspire them, for a walk event:

  Recruit Activate Optimize Retain
Asks Will you register? Will you start a team? Will you build a team? Will you fundraise? Will you continue fundraising? Will you participate again next time?

Bear in mind that these communications also need to inform your audience about what they need to do to take action. And, these communications will all be running at the same time — sent to various audiences depending on what stage they’re in with your campaign or event.

Here are some things to consider as you think about what you want your audience to do:

  • What is your ideal email communications timeline for each action step? For example:
    • When does the first message go out? What is the trigger for each step?
    • What (if ever) do you stop communicating about a step?
    • How does this plan differ from your current email communications timeline?
  • What calls to action are you currently using? How are they working?
  • What tools or incentives do you offer at each action step? How are they working?

Learn more
With some advance planning, you can ensure you send the right message to the right audience at the right time to improve your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign’s results. Learn more about how to build a strong email communications strategy for your next peer-to-peer fundraising campaign or event: Watch the on-demand session from the 2021 edition of It’s a Peer-to-Peer world virtual conference, Email Communications Workshop Week 1: Strategy.

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