May 25, 2021
The 4 ‘Hows’ of “How Many Messages Should Nonprofits Send?”
Communication plans and telling your story is a frequent topic of ours, as it’s continually on the minds of fundraising professionals. Connecting with people, getting them interested in your cause, willing to give up their email, phone number and more, is a struggle. One of the most common questions we hear in our webinars when talking about communications is: “How many messages are too many?”
Truthfully, there is no magic number to answer the “how many” question. I know that’s blasphemous to say, but it’s true, and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply wrong. If you’re asking about this, then you’re most likely not sending out enough messages (as in orders of magnitude not enough), but more importantly, not asking the right question. Instead of specific numbers, shift your focus to how you connect with people using your message.
#1 – How do I Inspire My Audience with My Message?
The most important thing you need is to be genuinely excited about your organization, event, campaign or topic. The more genuinely passionate you are, the more likely your work will show it, your conversations will reflect it and your voice will tell it. You’ll need some good story-telling structure to demonstrate it effectively in your communications. But first and foremost, you’ll need that passion.
#2 – How do I Get My Message to the Right Person?
Now you have your story, you just need to get it out there. While “getting it out there” may be the tent poles of your campaign, they alone will not make a tent! You can communicate your message on all your channels: do a blast via email, physical mail, all the social media outlets and even texting. But a blast is just, well, a blast. It may reach a huge group of people but, without some strategy, it’s going to impact very few.
That’s why segmenting your communications by medium can help make a greater impact. You can tell a different story with Facebook than you can with Twitter or texting or Instagram or email. Hit as many channels of communication as you can in order to reach your different audiences where they are the most. Bottom line: take advantage of each type of communication method to optimize how you say what you say.
#3 – How do I Get People to Respond to My Messages?
Let’s get personal. People respond to personalized messages. In this stage, you can personalize or segment by just about anything: profession, zip code, giving history, and more. If you make your communication specific to whom you are speaking, people are proven to be more likely to respond. Don’t use that generic message, talk to your specific audience. When you do, they can relate to you and will naturally want more.
If they do express wanting more from you, then you really can’t send enough messages. I’ve seen some organizations send one message a week with no story, no way to involve me (other than to donate) and no follow up on what they’ve actually done. On the other hand, I’ve seen organizations send daily messages all through November leading up to #GivingTuesday that were interesting, exciting, and I looked forward to the next piece of the story. That’s how you get people to initially engage with your message.
#4 – How do I keep My Audience Engaged?
You may have the absolute best story, and you’ve done a good job of getting it out there. Sure enough, people are signing up for more. Now the question is: how do you keep them? There is no “If you build it, they will come,” meaning you cannot stop with just this message. One message, or even one series of messages, will not enlist supporters who are also passionate about your cause.
Keep your audience engaged by being engaged yourself. Talk about your own passion with other people! Isn’t that what you do when you’re excited about anything? This is where it comes together and your tent poles become the complete tent. Talk to the people who responded to your message. Where are they talking? If they share in social media, respond! Thank them, ask them questions, point them to other cool things about your organization. Think about it like any face-to-face interaction. They’ve shown interest in your cause, so find out more. Don’t overwhelm them, but let them know they can count on you for details in a two-way conversation.
For some people, more information is simply one extra exchange. For others it’s a longer communication and a great conversation. This is why there is no magic number or formula for how many messages you need to send. Because you shouldn’t be thinking of your communications like a checkbox to complete and be done. You need to create the spark, and then fan the fire.
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