Fewer Email Donation Requests Could Increase Donations for Politicians

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This guest post is from Ashley Tumson.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a politician’s email newsletters, you’ll know that they (or their fundraisers) tend to bombard inboxes near the end of the quarter, attempting to squeeze out more contributions before campaign deadlines.  But this begs the question – does this sort of mailing technique actually generate more contributions, or does the negative backlash negate any positive effect of the additional mailings?  What are the potential negative effects of bombarding list subscribers this way?

Maximizing Return on an Email Marketing Campaign

The truth is that each of those annoying end of quarter fundraising emails does earn money each time they’re sent.  Does that mean it makes sense to send additional emails, allowing each additional email to generate further revenue?  Not necessarily – the correct way to analyze the benefits of an email fundraising campaign is to look at the campaign earnings as a whole, rather than looking at the cost-benefit of each individual email.  The question then is whether the whole series of emails would produce greater returns if the email campaign was restructured with fewer emails bombarding readers with donation requests, and perhaps more emails designed to engage readers and provide value.

Basic best practices for email marketing suggest that constantly bombarding your list with requests for money will reduce returns for each subsequent email – meaning fewer email opens and fewer conversions – as readers not only get resistant to your constant intrusions into their inbox, but offended readers may even unsubscribe to your list, eliminating any chance of earning a financial return or engaging with them in the future.

Generally, the emails in a marketing series that tend to get the greatest response are the emails at the very end of an email series – near the campaign fundraising deadline, and the first email.  The first email has the benefit of freshness.  The audience hasn’t yet gotten tired of responding to requests for donations.  The last few emails are often successful as well, as the approaching deadline increases the sense of urgency, causing more readers to take action.

Whether or not a politician should bombard inboxes with donation requests at the end of a quarter is highly dependent on a wide variety of factors.  It could depend on the politician, how he/she is perceived by the public, the target audience, the political climate, how the email campaign is executed, and the content of the emails themselves.  Presidential campaigns may be able to get away with more donation requests due to their perceived importance.  Politicians with extremely loyal followings and politicians in extremely polarized political climates might also be able to gain positive returns from more frequent requests for donations.

However, many fundraisers have experienced positive overall returns by reducing the number of emails requesting donations, and even including emails that are not focused on requesting money, but rather on engaging the reader and providing helpful or interesting information.  Making it a point to avoid making every email about donations can actually boost overall returns.   Savvy email marketers might also be able to design an email series that subtly increases the reader’s desire to donate.  For example, some emails could focus on hot-button issues that are important to the politician’s constituents, emphasizing the importance of the issues and the politician’s promise to make a change, while the actual email requesting donations can benefit from the fervor and urgency generated by the previous emails to increase overall returns.

The Importance of A/B Split Testing

While basic mailing best practices suggest a more cautious approach to end of quarter mailing rather than bombarding constituents with donation requests, the only way to determine the relative effectiveness of these two methods is to split test them.  A conscientious fundraiser could A/B test two email campaigns – one with a series of repeated requests for fundraising, and another series with fewer requests.  A sequence with some emails focused on engaging the audience could also be included to gauge the potential returns.

The only way to truly know if your email marketing strategy is effective is to split test you campaign.  Whether you’re selling dating site subscriptions or soliciting political donations, the basic principles of successful email marketing remain the same.

This guest post is from Ashley Tumson, a small business marketing advocate. When she doesn’t work as online marketing consultant she is freelance copywriter and occasional guest blogger in all things social media and marketing, with a keen interest in stock trading. She currently represents Jangomail, a popular email service provider.

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