Knowing when the right time is to hit send on your email campaign or your social media posts presents a significant challenge for nonprofits. Most nonprofits prefer to stick to a handful of channels to communicate with their audience, taking their time to figure out a strategy and then sticking to it for the long run.
While a younger audience may prefer to get their updates through Facebook or Twitter, older audiences may be more comfortable with calls and text messages. Email on the other hand has a reputation for working across demographics and remains a solid outreach strategy for nonprofits.
It’s much like your stock broker who’d recommend a diversified portfolio to ensure that poor performance from a single channel doesn’t affect you. Diversified outreach channels ensure very much the same for your nonprofit.
But one of the qualms of setting up multi-channel engagement at your nonprofit is making sure that you find the right balance in your outreach and do not end up being treated as spam. In this article, we discuss how you can go about finding that balance.
Budget and Effort
Before we head into when and how often you should be communicating with your nonprofit supporters, I want to alleviate some of the fears that you might have about the effort and investment required to actually implement a multi-channel outreach strategy.
The top outreach platform is still email, with the vast majority of nonprofits using it as their go-to communication platform. Email marketing tools like Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor have done a great job of helping nonprofits optimize their email outreach, both manual and automated, at affordable costs.
Calling is still considered as an effective channel, but it has gotten a bad rap because of its increased use solely for soliciting donations. But phone calls have a lot of potential, with cloud based calling solutions significantly bringing down calling costs as well as the effort it takes to call your list.
When you want supporters to take a time-sensitive action, mostly applicable to advocacy groups, broadcast texting takes the spot as a reliable alternative to email. A single staffer can set up the texting campaign and send it out in a matter of minutes. A text will cost you more than an email, so it’s better keep the use of texts limited to the right use cases.
If you have a healthy intake of volunteers to your organization, peer to peer texting lends itself as a much more effective alternative to broadcast texting. Here, campaign volunteers are manually sending out texts to your supporters, engaging them in one-on-one conversations about events, fundraisers, surveys, or other updates from the nonprofit. It requires more effort from your side in terms of workforce and training for volunteers, but the rewards of having a personalized communication channel at scale (a single volunteer can send out approximately 1500 texts in the span of an hour) easily makes up for that.
Context determines frequency
The amount of healthy communication with a supporter varies with context. Reaching out to a person who has agreed to attend an event with multiple follow-ups is different from sending out multiple donation requests to someone who just donated to your organization.
That’s why segmenting your lists becomes important. Based on the context, segmented lists allow your to tailor your outreach, including the content and frequency.
Content and audience define timeline
When you do reach out to your supporters, always ensure that you are coming out with quality content. More important than following a strict timeline, is making sure that everything you do put out is work that you are proud of, and that it’s not there just because you have to adhere to a timeline.
If you do not have the resources to create quality content, dial back your outreach so that it aligns with the effort you can put in to produce quality work.
A general best practice for emails is one or two every month, where one can be a newsletter and the other anything from a survey, a case study, volunteer story or a fundraising appeal.
With social media, one Facebook post every day should be enough since the lifetime of a Facebook post is much higher than that of a Tweet. On Twitter, you’ll have to send out a few tweets every day to maximize engagement from your audience. With Instagram, depending on the amount of effort you can afford to put in to create quality visuals, you can start with 2 posts a week to posting multiple times in a day. Check out what the most popular nonprofits on social media are doing to get a better idea of how to optimize the schedule for your audience.
Bear in mind that this frequency is not a one stop solution and it can vary depending on the relationship you have with your audience. Your best best is to start with the recommended numbers, run controlled tests to see if engagement drops or grows, and then scale up or down accordingly.