I was talking to a fundraiser and he said, “We’ve got this cool system that includes pre-written estate planning e-newsletters I can send to my list whenever I want.”
So I asked, “Did the people on the list opt-in to receive the e-newsletter?”
“They are donors,” he replied.
So I asked again, “But did they opt-in to receive the e-newsletter?”
“Well, they opted-in when they donated…. I think,” he responded.
No they didn’t!
Folks, just because someone signed up to run a 5k, get email updates, or even if they donated, it doesn’t mean they also wanted to get your jargon-laden planned giving e-newsletter every month.
Those kinds of ‘informative’ and ‘educational’ newsletters incite ‘rational error detection.’ That’s a term you’ll soon learn more about when MarketSmart begins to lead the release of Dr. Russell James’ new research findings this fall (2021). He’s got a ton of new findings and I’ll be rolling it all out for him (and with him).
So what is rational error detection?
Rational error detection happens when a supporter’s brain recognizes that the information supplied by a fundraiser is sent before the donor is ready for it. Often the kind of information I’m talking about here focuses on how one can make a gift (via CRT, pooled income fund, CGA, etc.).
This kind of information is most effective at the end of the giving consideration process, not at the beginning or in the middle.
During the earlier stages (which is where legacy gift donors spend around 95% of their time), it’s essential that your communications tell stories and provide value in ways that help them think about the intersection of their life story and your organization’s mission. I call these ‘why’ messages.
Those kinds of emails can, indeed, include links to ‘how’ information. But the research shows that making the communications mostly about ‘how’ too early makes donors slam on the breaks. It makes them stop moving themselves forward in the decision-making process.
In other words.
Sending unwelcome, mostly ‘educational’ communications (SPAM) before the point in the process when your supporters are ready for them results in rational error detection. In fact it makes your supporters do the opposite of what you want them to do—move forward.
Ask yourself these simple questions.
Do I have prior explicit and verifiable permission (opt-in) from the recipient to send them this email/content?
Are my messages providing the right kind of value in-line with where each donor resides in their consideration continuum?
If you don’t have permission and your messages are irrelevant, then you’re just plain being rude.
Think of it this way: Are you ever thrilled to receive an irrelevant email you didn’t explicitly request? Surely the answer is, “NO!” So why would you send your supporters (the people who pay your salary) e-newsletters on a topic they didn’t request?
It’s spam! Plain and simple!
Sure, you can dance around the word and twist yourself into a pretzel explaining that you are not a spammer. You might even say, “But I’m sending good information and they like our organization.”
If you are sending unsolicited email, that’s spam. What matters is only whether or not they explicitly gave you permission to send the information to them.
Email communications absent permission is spam, plain and simple (even if it’s legal).
So, be nice. Be respectful. Stop spamming your supporters.
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