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An email welcome series is critical to make a good first impression with new subscribers on your email list. It doesn't matter how each new subscriber has made her or his way onto your list; the welcome series is your big chance to engage and amaze someone who is exploring your organization's social mission in the world.
A welcome series usually includes multiple email messages. M+R surveyed organizations about their onboarding strategies for its 2016 Benchmarks Report and found that "Sixty-four percent of respondents send at least one dedicated welcome message to new subscribers. Of these, the majority send more than one message, with the most common welcome series comprising three messages."
The pacing of a welcome series is up to each organization to decide. The first message should go out as soon as possible after the subscription event. If you have automation tools at your disposal with your online platform, then I recommend sending the first message immediately.
Pacing thereafter could be at three- or five-day intervals. Some organizations like to avoid sending welcome emails on weekends, but I'm not overly concerned about this issue; many of your supporters will open your messages any day of the week.
Think about how you want to present yourself to a new subscriber. This new subscriber is an individual who may already be familiar with your mission and has probably visited your website. They may already be following you on social media.
What's different now is that they've stepped forward to invite an email relationship, opening the door to deeper contact. It's important to respect that permission you've been granted and also to take advantage of the opportunity.
Consider who in your organization might be the best spokespeople for a welcome series. It might be fine to start a welcome from your executive director. However, be sure to include other staff, board members, or volunteers so you can offer a diverse number of voices that can represent different aspects of your organization.
Be sure to craft your language and tone so that you're focused on engagement and cultivation. The welcome series isn't an exercise in talking about yourself and what your mission and programs have accomplished. It's your unique opportunity to strengthen your relationship with someone. The language should focus on the importance of new supporters, volunteers, and donors, and how these individuals help grow and enrich the organization.
Focus your welcome series on presenting ways that new people can get more deeply involved. These could include volunteering, participating in core programmatic activities, becoming a donor, joining a committee, etc. Provide a list of activities and links to more detailed information on your website. Consider how photographs or video could help make your welcome series more engaging.
The M+R 2016 Benchmarks Study specifically studied the question of whether to include a fundraising appeal as part of a welcome series: "For nonprofits that send one or two messages, the welcome series generally consists of engagement messaging, with a fundraising message included just 11 percent of the time. Longer series of three or more messages are overwhelmingly likely to include at least one fundraising message, and also include advocacy messaging more than a third of the time."
While the statistics appear to lean in one direction, I'd like to make the case that asking for financial support in an email welcome series is optional. There'll be plenty of later opportunities to send fundraising appeals to your subscribers. However, be sure to mention throughout the welcome series that being a donor is an important way to get engaged.
If you decide to include a fundraising appeal as part of your welcome series, be sure to suggest both a one-time gift or a smaller monthly gift. Monthly donors are critically important to long-term financial growth.
Most emails now get opened first on mobile devices. Using a mobile-responsive email template for your welcome series will ensure that it is opened and read by the largest number of people. By using a mobile-responsive email template, you're assuring your subscribers from the start of your relationship that you're committed to a good mobile experience.
There's no reason to hold off on integrating new email subscribers into your regular communications calendar for e-appeals and e-newsletter. I support adding them fully into the mix right away.
A welcome series is like any other email campaign, so be sure to review your email metrics to assess your performance. You'll want to understand the progression of open rates through your series. Also review click rates to understand which content is most engaging to your new subscriber audience. Use this performance review opportunity to help you decide where to make changes so the content, language, and messaging can stay as fresh as possible.
Image: Jennifer Leahy Photography
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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