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Need to Know: Top 3 Ideas From the 2018 Email Evolution Conference

Recently, I attended the DMA’s 2018 Email Evolution Conference in New Orleans. From aboard the Creole Queen to Frenchmen Street’s sweet jazz bands, the city — and this conference — was vibrant, enlightening, and like no other.

For someone like me with a nonprofit background, this conference was somewhat non-traditional, as it is commercial focused. How, you may wonder, can nonprofits leverage tactics that companies like Spotify and Lovepop are using to help their email strategies? Well, check out my top three takeaways from #eec2018, and you’ll see just how they can be useful to your organization’s program:

1. Email Deliverability Is All the Rage

Subscriber acquisition sources are one of the biggest reasons companies get blacklisted. According to Litmus, the top three “most dangerous” acquisition sources are 1) improperly using rented lists 2) co-registrations, and 3) buying lists. You can avoid them by:

  • Never buying a list; instead, rent a list and have the company you’re renting the list from send your first message on your behalf. Your first message should encourage those people to opt-in to receive your communications.
  • Using your organizations chapters' lists because those people are familiar with your brand.

Nonprofit note: Deliverability has been a hot topic for charities recently as well. Beyond smart segmentation and regular file hygiene, the source of those email addresses is very important!

2. Don’t Test Just to Test

A good test will allow you to make more informed decisions about what moves your audience.

Card company Lovepop (which sells 3-D, paper sculpture, pop-up cards) wanted to find out how adding GIFs to their emails would impact revenue. The GIF that incorporated the card’s message increased revenue by 6% over the GIF of a card opening. Because their audience was already familiar with what the cards look like, seeing a GIF of the card’s message was more meaningful.

Nonprofit note: When creating test, ask yourself:

  • What do I want to know?
  • What is my desired outcome?
  • How long should I test this? For example, if you’re determining your winner from the conversion rate, the test will have to run longer.
  • What did the results tell me, and what are the next steps?


3. Create One-to-One Moments

Music-streaming service Spotify created a highly personal “year in review” infographic that highlighted someone’s top artists, songs, and genres. Make your donors feel special by showing the impact of their support just like Spotify. Could you incorporate the advocacy actions a person took throughout the year into an infographic? Or, for peer-to-peer fundraising, could you show how involved someone was in your event?

You can also incorporate dynamic, real-time updates in your emails. The Philadelphia Flyers, a National Hockey League team, included a dynamic countdown clock, live traffic updates, and a social stream in one of their game day emails.

Nonprofit note: Creating personalized experiences for your donors is a key to your success. Not only could you use real-time updates, you could also use:

  • Personalized ask amounts
  • Smart segmentation based on audience behavior
  • Conditional content that can be coded into your emails


My Last Nonprofit Note:

Learn from commercial and retail companies. Much like how I viewed the entire conference from a nonprofit perspective, you can take the fundamental ideas being used by commercial companies and apply them to your own program.

Everyone, including commercial companies, should make sure they’re testing new tactics to keep their audiences engaged.

Jessica Lee

Account Manager, Digital Media