An Open Letter to Arts and Non-Profit Organizations
I wrote this letter and published it in our regular monthly e-mail newsletter earlier this week, and got a lot of positive feedback about it. As such, I thought I'd post it here in case you hadn't seen it. In it I address
the current economic turmoil and how I believe non-profits should
approach it with respect to their e-marketing efforts.
Sadly, in times of economic trouble, marketing is generally
the first department to take a hit. I suspect many of you may be facing
these kinds of budget discussions right now. When a sports team is in
trouble, any coach would offer the same advice I'd like to offer here — that you concentrate on fundamentals.
So let me offer some fundamentals for e-marketing in this challenging moment.
Reinforce Your Online Relationship with Your Existing Patrons
patrons who have signed up for your e-mail mailing lists have already
indicated that they're more interested in what you're doing than those
in the general public. And those patrons who actually open and read
your e-mails on a regular basis are an extremely important sub-set of your e-mail list — this is your most interested, most engaged audience.
If your e-mail system enables you to segment based on historical open
and click activity (as PatronMail does), then you should think about
the messages you're sending to those who are frequent readers of your
e-mail newsletters. Those people are the ones most likely to continue
to support your organization, no matter what their economic situation
is. So give them insider information — the kind that isn't in your
press releases or in newspaper articles. Treat these highly-engaged
patrons as "family" and continue to offer them exclusive access to the
inner workings of your organization.
organizations spend the bulk of their time and money prospecting for
new patrons, often leaving their existing audience behind. In these
times, there's no better investment you can make than to shore up your
engagement with those who have already bought in to your organization.
most important factor in e-mail marketing is consistency. As you well
know, not everyone will open and read each and every e-mail you send
them. However, what we also know is that open rates for arts e-mails
are in the 25-percent range for any individual mailing — but it's not
the same 25 percent each time! Our research shows that over a
six-month period, you will likely reach up to two-thirds of your
audience at least once, if you mail on a consistent basis.
Pay Attention to ROI
or "return on investment," is the marketing watchword of most of the
for-profit world, and it needs to be something that every non-profit
marketer pays attention to. In last Friday's edition of The New York Times, Casey Mulligan writes:
"[Since World War II,] each dollar of capital invested in the economy
earns, on average, 7 cents to 8 cents annually." The Direct Marketing
Association reports that for each dollar invested in e-mail marketing,
you'll get back $57.25 in revenue.
Do you know what the ROI is for every kind of marketing technique you are using today?
We know empirically that for most of our clients, e-mail marketing has the greatest return on investment —because
sending out an e-mail costs pennies, and the associated transaction can
bring in hundreds of dollars. Compare that to the cost of a direct mail
piece (one to two dollars), and even with an identical response rate,
you're getting a better ROI with e-mail.
you're doing a lot of un-measurable marketing ("branding" campaigns, or
television or radio campaigns), and you cannot effectively correlate
these expenditures against revenue, now might be the time to reconsider
If there is
ever a time to adopt a direct marketing mentality, where each and every
dollar is tracked against a return on investment, it is now.
Continue to Invest in Technology
events of the last few weeks notwithstanding, the Internet as a
marketing and communications tool is likely to continue to grow.
Internet advertising is the only bright spot in the advertising
industry, and is expected to grow in 2008. On October 9th, eMarketer reported that even in the midst of the economic crisis,
Barclays said that it was planning on increasing its online marketing
spending in the next four years by 16 percent. And from my perspective,
energy and money invested in new products and services online is racing
The good news is that Web-based
technology tools are becoming more affordable and better equipped to
meet the needs of non-profits. That's why I'm bullish on technology and
why we are spending all of our time building new, relevant products for
non-profit organizations that are operating on tight budgets.
Finally, I'd like to offer personal reflection. I serve on the board of High 5 Tickets to the Arts,
an organization that I helped start over 15 years ago. It provides a
way for New York City high school students to buy tickets to arts and
cultural events for five dollars each.
got a benefit coming up in three weeks, and we're faced with the
reality of not being able to sell nearly as many tickets to the benefit
as we had originally thought we would only a few months ago. My advice to that organization is the same advice as I have for yours. The people who care about your mission and your goals will continue to care about them in tough economic times.
We are finding that those patrons who are the most committed to High 5
are the ones now stepping up and adding the extra measure of energy and
So as you consider
your marketing strategies, double up on how you communicate with those
who care about you most. If you make sure your messages are targeted
and relevant, these are the supporters who will help your organization
weather this economic storm.