How to Execute Your Peer-to-Peer Email Communications Plan and Make Continuous Improvements

This article was originally posted on NonProfit PRO’s blog.

So, you’ve created a strategy for your peer-to-peer email communications. You’ve segmented your audience, built compelling content, and prepared to design emails that will grab your readers’ attention.

Now there’s one thing left to do: Start executing on your plan (and find ways to improve it).

In this article, I’m sharing email execution tips and techniques from an email communications workshop I presented with peer-to-peer fundraising experts from Susan G. Komen, Event 360, Peerworks Consulting, and our own Cathexis Partners team as part of the virtual conference, It’s a Peer-to-Peer World. These pointers will help you bring your email communications to life and analyze results so that you can continue to make improvements.

Executing your email communications plan
There are three main technology functions you will need to execute on your email communications plan. These are: the ability to build messages, the ability to send messages, and the ability to report on email message performance.

While capabilities will vary depending on the software platform you use, here is the typical functionality you will need to employ:

  • Email building
    • Some type of drag-and-drop visual editing environment
    • Additional design capabilities (often using CSS, HTML, or JavaScript)
    • Content personalization/customization
  • Email sending
    • Audience creation, including segmentation and conditionalized content
    • The ability to schedule email sends or send messages in real time
    • Set up auto-responder emails (system-generated emails)
  • Email reporting
    • Tracking of email open, click-through, action taken rates, etc.
    • Hard and soft bounce counts/rates

Analyzing the performance of your email communications
To make sure your email messages are performing as well as possible, it’s critically important to set up and analyze reports for your events and campaigns. Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Decide what to track. Determine the key performance metrics for your email communications. These will typically include click-through and unsubscribe rates. However, they also include action taken rates, such as:
    • How many people registered for the campaign or event
    • How many registered, but did not raise funds
    • How many people raised funds, and how much did they raise, on average
    • Did certain groups raise more than others
  • Determine your projected performance targets. You can use past performance to help you estimate what your target metrics should be. If you don’t have previous metrics, or if you want additional data points, another way to determine projected targets is to use industry benchmarks.

    Multiple companies and organizations that serve the nonprofit sector produce industry benchmark studies that provide helpful insights, including email marketing benchmarks and peer-to-peer fundraising benchmarks. Here are just a few:
  • Allocate time for measurement and analysis. The benefits of tracking and analyzing your results is threefold. It can help you:
    • During the campaign – Determine how your event is performing so you can make improvements throughout the campaign.
    • After the campaign – Evaluate how your event performed so you can determine if it met expectations and, if not, then why?
    • Before the next campaign – Use metrics from this year to determine what you might do differently as you plan the next campaign or event, such as changes to email communications or tweaks to what you measure and analyze along the way.

A good way to think about what to measure and when, at a minimum, is to think about the key actions you’re trying to inspire your audiences to take. For example:

  • How many new registrations are you getting / did you get?
  • What percentage of your audience raised funds?
  • Which groups of your audience raised more funds than others?
  • How many people are returning registrants?

Now, set up reports to track your results. And be sure to set aside time during and after the campaign or event to analyze your results compared with your performance targets and industry benchmarks.

  • Consider if it’s time for a change.
    As you analyze your results, think about opportunities for improvement. Here are some things to consider:
    • Communications – Are your recruitment and fundraising results falling short of your performance targets? Maybe you can make small (or even larger) tweaks to improve them.
    • Campaign type – Does it seem like your campaign or event has reached the limit of what it can do? Maybe it’s time to add a new virtual campaign? Or, if you’re running a virtual campaign, what about adding a physical event?
    • Software platform – Is your platform holding you back? Maybe your participants are leaving part-way through the registration process. Perhaps your staff is having trouble managing email communications and setting up reports. Or maybe your platform doesn’t work well with your other software systems. If any of this is the case, it might be time for a change.

TIP: The Nonprofit Toolkit for Selecting Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Software includes a how-to guide and interactive online tool to help you find the right software for your nonprofit.

Learn more
You can discover more tips and best practices for building strong peer-to-peer fundraising email communications in the free guide, Building Powerful Email Communications for Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns and Events. This guide includes tips, techniques, lessons learned, and worksheets from experts at Cathexis Partners, Event 360, Peerworks Consulting, and Susan G. Komen, who have worked on countless peer-to-peer campaigns.

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