Politics has broken the Internet.
To be more specific, political fundraising has inflicted serious damage on email fundraising.
We on the progressive side have withstood the monthly and quartyerly torrents of unabashedly beseeching emails from the DCCC, the DSCC, OFA, etc. With over-wrought subject lines like “I’m begging!” and “We’re desperate!” these emails have broken all rules of politeness, donor-centrism or anything else one might find in the boy or girl scout manual.
And they also raise buckets of cash.
The effect on the rest of us has been clear. To raise money in this environment you need to step up your email cadence and up the ante to just stay even in terms of “share of inbox.” That’s fancy talk meaning we need to send a lot more emails with better offers to raise the same amount of money.
We’re seeing a dramatic rise in frequency across the board among most nonprofits. It wasn’t that long ago that no one would think to send three or four emails to their list on December 31st, but now it’s SOP. This year, the EOY scrum spawned an even newer phenomenon: 2-to-1 and even 3-to-1 matches. A year or two ago we told clients an end of year dollar-for-dollar match was “the price of entry” for end of year. Now it’ll barely get you into the bleachers.
With the Presidential insanity officially under way, this is going to be a bad year for online fundraising, especially for bringing on new donors. You will be competing with massive political fundraising machines who have huge email teams, test hourly and have absolutely zero interest in relationship-building. Good luck sending an appeal at the end of an FEC fundraising quarter.
What to do? Gather up your best donors. Focus in on repeat givers, sustainers, the mid-level donors, and other true-believers. Think of three new ways to absolutely delight them. Do it. Shield them as much as possible from the email arms race you will inevitably find yourself caught up in.
If you’re not in AA, drink heavily.
The line between email fundraising and panhandling has never been finer. Time to decide which side you wanna be on.