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Strategic Email Shifts During COVID-19, Part 1 of 2
December 15th, 2020
The unprecedented and unexpected global disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic challenged MarkeTeam and our clients to rethink email in numerous ways. Thankfully, the resulting donor and cultivation programs kept our clients relevant — and their donations strong — across multiple sectors: hospitals, healthcare/disease, veterans, and faith-based nonprofits.
Pivoting instantly, we convinced our clients to expand into patient email files and other warm prospect lists to communicate quickly how their nonprofit was responding to the health and financial crisis and to establish a timely reason for giving.
Four clients, in particular, made major strategic shifts in their email programs and experienced strong results: Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Inova, Operation Homefront and Oblate Missions. Here is the first set of our winning strategies and tactics.
Adjusted Email Frequency MarkeTeam client Oblate Missions, a Catholic nonprofit located in San Antonio, TX, provided numerous ways for its donors to continue to engage. Its mission includes providing a spiritual center for visitors, providing domestic and international relief (they serve the poorest of the poor), and educating seminarian students. As the pandemic unfolded, Oblate Missions increased the deployment of emails and communicated more frequently. Open rates continued to be strong and engagement levels higher than prior to COVID-19.
Refocused Messaging Before COVID-19, MarkeTeam had planned and developed a four-part Doctors’ Day email campaign with a supporting direct mail appeal for Vanderbilt University Medical Center. After the pandemic hit in mid/late March, we replaced that four-part series with a two-part series: Doctors’ Day and Follow Up emails acknowledged the current environment and reinforced Vanderbilt Health’s expertise.
The emails thanked all healthcare workers (not just doctors) and drove donations to two COVID-19 specific funds, leveraging the burgeoning support for health heroes, and reinforcing Vanderbilt Health’s expertise as a resource during the pandemic. Overall, with just half the touches, we doubled revenue generated from last year’s four-part series.
Operation Homefront, a charity that supports military families, also revised messaging and added a match grant funded by the Board of Directors in light of COVID-19 and promoted to renewal, mid-level, lapsed and acquisition audiences. Parts of the Operation Homefront planned email program were revamped to include copy that highlighted how the pandemic was affecting military families. Other campaigns were replaced wholesale with coronavirus-specific messages.
All of the Operation Homefront COVID-19 email campaigns outperformed their traditional counterparts across all metrics (open rate, CTR, and donations, with minimal opt-out rates). Since churches and religious services were quickly closed and cancelled to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Oblate Missions used email to send downloadable prayer cards, which provided immediate messages of comfort, schedule monthly 9-day novenas of prayer, and to invite constituents to “attend” a daily virtual Mass online.
Incorporated Video to Humanize the Appeal For Operation Homefront we deployed three monthly video email messages featuring an update from Operation Homefront’s CEO which were also promoted across their social media channels including YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. The video element helped humanize the ask and reinforced donors’ emotional connection to the organization and the military families it seeks to serve.
To learn more about how MarkeTeam can help bolster your email efforts and deliver strong fundraising response, contact Jeff Huberty or Barbara Johnson. We’re eager to discuss opportunities to work together to support your mission.