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With a focus on family, festivity and generosity, the Christmas season provides a fantastic opportunity to engage donors who wish to balance materialism with altruism. However, many charities roll out their Christmas email marketing campaigns and don’t place enough weight on how they will maintain the relationships with donors in the New Year.

The Econsultancy & Adestra Email Marketing Industry Census 2015 revealed that 79% of charities believe that email marketing offers a great ROI. However, non-profits were also found to devote the least time on optimisation, strategy and reporting. These figures suggest that there may be greater potential to be harnessed from email campaigns, provided the right strategy is in place.

If you’re aiming to create lasting relationships with your donors, here are three essential elements of your charity Christmas email marketing campaigns that you cannot afford to get wrong.

First impressions: The subject line

2015-Subject-Line-ReportIt’s only a few words – sometimes not even that – and yet the subject line of an email exerts a huge influence on whether the email will be opened at all. It’s the first interaction that a donor has with your charity’s campaign, and consequently it is intrinsically connected to your brand – or at least to your donor’s perception of what your brand is, which is arguably more important.

In our recent 2015 Subject Line report, we analysed the subject lines of billions of emails to find out their effect on opens, clicks and unsubscribe rates. We discovered that ‘essential’ and ‘exciting’ scored highly, while words like ‘today’ and ‘good’ faired very badly. This suggests that recipients seek to have an emotional connection with an email campaign, and enjoy being part of a relationship that treats them as valued individuals. With that in mind….

Welcome in: Personalising your campaign

Put simply, recipients are unlikely to keep opening emails if they continue to be generic.

For an email campaign to be effective, it should recognise donors as individuals. Only then can they feel like they are beginning to develop a deep relationship with the charity, and may be inclined to give again.

Blue Cross, for instance, following a memorable television campaign, personalised their welcome programme to recipients in a number of ways:

Getting to know you: The donor lifecycle

Just as businesses track consumer loyalty and buying patterns, charities can also take measures and implement tools to understand the timings, content and frequency of email campaigns that will have the optimal effect on a donor.

By tracking how individual donors interact with your emails, you can build a complete picture of interests, needs and preferences. What aspects of your charity most appeal to them? Which method of communication drives a more positive response? Analyse performance reports to see how many times a recipient has opened, clicked, engaged or donated during the course of a campaign, over a quarter or annually and you can identify the stage of lifecycle that they are in. This will help you to understand how best to segment, target and interact with them in the future.

Incorporate these three elements into your charity’s email marketing strategy, and you’ll be on your way to ensuring that your donors are for life, not just for Christmas.