We often need to ask members and supporters to help. So we send out emails to lists of people who might be interested. How can we do that to make sure those interested will know, without annoying others? How can we best communicate with groups of members, volunteers and supporters?
Take a look at a sample of what happens when we send out emails to lots of people.
Less than 40% open our emails. It can go as low as 1 in 4 when the subject line doesn't get people interested, or it hasn't been sent to those people most interested in the subject. These are actually better rates than most marketing companies get. Our unsubscribe rates are quite low, perhaps because our members expect lots of emails close to an election. But each person who unsubscribes will never hear from us again, they will neither volunteer nor donate.
We need to make sure that the emails are:
- sent to the right people (those most interested, not everyone),
- sent at the right time (not the day after another email blast),
- are clear and to the point (one issue per email),
- have a call to action with a link to a landing page where people can sign up,
- followed up by phone calls or text messages.
1. Sending to the right people
During the 2017 General Election many emails went out to all supporters. People expect lots of emails in a general election, but are less tolerant at other times. So we need to select the email addresses of those who might be most interested. We can create filters based on many criteria, including what people have volunteered to do, where they live and how long they have been members.
Take for example an email to find people to run a Green Party stall in an event in Faringdon. We can search for volunteers who live within 10 miles from Faringdon. Also, one of the things people can sign up for on our volunteer page is to run stalls. When they do that, a stallholder tag is added to their record. So we can filter only those who have volunteered to run stalls near Faringdon, like this:
That filter finds 5 people. We can save that filter, then use it to specify the recipients of an email.
2. Sending at the right time
If an email arrives that is exactly what you want to read, any time is a good time. But when sending to large numbers of people, only some of whom might be interested, it is best to send at times that are not too close to other email blasts, and when they have time to read the email.
We have a Google calendar to schedule email blasts to large numbers of people (several hundred). Anyone who wants to send emails to all members or all supporters or other large groups needs to contact the elections co-ordinator, who will space out large scale email blasts.
3. Writing good emails
People open emails that have a subject line that they find interesting and come from someone they trust. Then they quickly scan the beginning of the email to find out what it is about and whether it is relevant to them. Any email needs to be clear and quickly get to the point. You can put more explanation later in the email, but the subject line and first paragraph must set the scene.
Too often we don't spend enough time editing and proof reading our emails, with the result that the recipients can get confused. It is easy to leave out important details or mislead. So we have arranged a process by which all bulk emails need to be sent to the elections co-ordinator, who will forward it to an officer for checking before sending it out.
Those who have taken NationBuilder training can draft the email online under a NationBuilder broadcaster, ready to be sent out after approval, using the WYSIWYG editor:
NationBuilder have written instructions on how to create an email blast.
Others need to write a draft email and send it as an attachment to the elections co-ordinator, with a covering note specifying
- the subject line,
- links to the landing page and any associated Facebook pages,
- who are the intended recipients,
- a range of times it can be sent out, and
- whether it is to come from the Oxfordshire Green Party or a particular officer, candidate or role.
I prefer HTML or plain text drafts, then Open Office and last of all Word.
4. Call to action landing pages
Once someone receives an email, we need to make it easy for them to take action. There should be a link directly to the page where they can do something, be it to sign a petition, sign up for an event, volunteer to help or donate money. They should not have to email or telephone someone before taking the next step.
On our web site, greenoxfordshire.com, we can easily create interactive landing pages, ones where people can sign up to do something. There are over 20 different types of interactive pages. The most useful ones are to sign a petition, RSVP to an event (or buy a ticket), sign up as a volunteer, donate money, pledge to vote for a candidate, endorse a candidate, or just to leave a question or sign up for our newsletter.
So the first thing to do is to create the landing page, even before writing the email. Those who have had NationBuilder training can do it themselves. Others can contact Helen Gavin to ask her to set up an event in the calendar or one of the other types of page. Or first create an event in our Meetup group, Green events in Oxfordshire and let Helen Gavin know.
Take a look at the event page we set up for election day on 8 June 2017. At the top was why we needed help, followed by a list of what we needed people to do. Then there were details of where and when to come and help, followed by a signup form and list of specific shifts people can join at different times during the day. A reader could see all the details in one place and sign up immediately. Once they RSVPed, they were shown the election day volunteer page, where they could tick the tasks they were willing to do on polling day. One of the advanced settings in our web pages lets us specify the page they see next after completing a form. After filling in the volunteer page, they were dropped into a donation page, and prompted to share their signup on Facebook and Twitter. We can design the default social media messages for them.
You can read full instructions on creating an event in NationBuilder.
5. Following up emails on the phone
Only a few people will respond quickly to an email. 25% to 40% will read it, but less than 5% click through to the landing page. That may be enough, but if we need more people, we have to call them and ask. In the call you can refer to the email, so you don't have to explain everything from scratch.
A well-proven technique is to run phone banks, as explained in our phone banks FAQ. 3 to 6 people gather in someone's house to spend a couple of hours telephoning a list of supporters, asking them if they can help at an event. It can be a social occasion. Together you can celebrate successes and learn from each other how to engage with potential volunteers. Tea and biscuits help. In the London Green Party, phone banks became a regular part of their activities, leading to people looking forward to helping at events, as they are so often talking to other party members, and being thanked for what they do.
Then just before the event, send an email or SMS text message reminder. We have a system for sending out bulk text messages via callhub.io. Contact the elections co-ordinator to find out more.
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