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The Loyalty Letter

E-news that helps you keep donors connected (and giving)
to your cause.

August 2009
Published by Lisa Sargent

Dear Reader,

Back in the June issue of The Loyalty Letter, we talked about how, on average, 96 of every 100 visitors to your nonprofit website leave before giving their email address.

Think about that. A sea of prospective donors, volunteers, activists, patients, parents and students: engaged for a moment, they vanish without a trace.

Sobering as that is, online fundraising still pulled in an estimated $15 billion in 2008! Please tell me this makes you wonder: If even ten percent more of those visitors “raised their hands” by leaving their email address, what might that do for you?

Plenty, I'll bet. So this month we take a field trip to a nonprofit website with a near-perfect registration process.

Hope it's helpful. And thanks, as always, for being a subscriber,

Lisa Sargent
Sargent Communications

P.S. Once you’ve got ’em, then what? Article Number Two looks at real-life thank-you/welcome emails.

Virtual Field Trip: One Nonprofit Website That Gets Visitor E-Registration Right

If you want to raise more money online, you need a bigger email list. And following in this nonprofit's footsteps is a good place to start...

Regular readers will know that as part of my ongoing research into nonprofit email newsletters and appeals, I've visited hundreds of nonprofit websites -- and registered with nearly 100 of those organizations.
At some the process is long and painful. (Think tooth extraction.) Others are better: a string of green lights at rush hour. 
But one of the best -- so far -- is The United States Fund for UNICEF (and full disclosure: these folks are not a client). So open a new tab in your browser, click there now and let's begin:
1. Notice the large email sign up box. It's above the fold (yay!) in the upper right corner with a clear, concise call to action and helpful "enter email here" instructions in the sign-up box.
2. Also good: the “Why subscribe?” copy. Click on it for a redirect to...
3. The sign up page. Someone thought this through: in case I haven't entered my email on the homepage, I have another chance here. Plus, since they ask for first and last name, I know they'll be personalizing future appeals and e-newsletters. (But smartly, they don't assume too much good will on my part by asking for everything but the kitchen sink.)
4. Not sure which e-pub to pick? See the samples. Notice the right rail of UNICEF's sign-up form for more sharp thinking: open a thumbnail sample and it appears as a pop-up, important because the prospective registrant isn't "taken away" from the task at hand: signing up.
5. Now for my only beef with the sign up page: a lack of benefits in the copywriting. “Receiving updates on worldwide child survival” doesn't move me. Nor do the descriptions of the various publications -- monthly field work updates, etc. I'm here to save the life of a child... so why not warm up this copy?
6. Venture deeper, still see sign-ups. This is a huge blunder made by more than half of the nonprofit websites I visited, but UNICEF has it licked: they've placed e-news sign up boxes on every page of their main website, even the FAQ, Sitemap and Privacy Policy pages.
Of course, beyond this, you'll need to be thinking about what to do after your visitors subscribe: the copywriting and design of a “thank-you redirect,” for example; I wasn't thrilled with UNICEF's.
And I'm implying that you've got an e-communications program in place, with the ability to publish an e-newsletter that folks want to read. (Short on staff? This is one of the services I offer.)
But if you follow UNICEF's best practices on your nonprofit website, I'm willing to wager your email list will grow. 

Because Online Subscribers are Future Donors: How to Write a Welcome Email

When visitors to your nonprofit website start signing up, this little email matters most...

As mentioned earlier, nearly 100 nonprofit organizations have permission to send me regular emails. This means that I see a lot of email communications, from appeals to advocacy. 
It also means that, as a new subscriber, I should have received 100 or so welcome emails. I didn't.
Now tell me: why on earth would any organization waste such a timely, relevant opportunity to thank and welcome prospective online donors?
And for others, why go to the trouble of sending a "sign-up confirmation" email, only to treat the copywriting and design like an afterthought?
So based on my research, I offer your nonprofit a chance to do things differently, with...
Seven steps to better welcome emails
Step #1. Include a trigger-based welcome email (more on trigger emails in my April e-news) in your email communications plan. The biggest mistake is not sending one.
Step #2. Identify yourself. To date I've received welcome emails from “organizations” named confirmations, Site Administrator and Webmaster, among others. But you can't afford to be cryptic or cute when it comes to new subscribers: use the name of your organization somewhere.
Step #3. Avoid murky subject lines. There's nothing wrong with simply saying, “Thank you for signing up for e-news,” as did ACCION International, or “Welcome to PreservationNation,” as did the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Subject lines like “An account has been created for you,” or even “Thank you for updating your subscription preferences,” make no sense to a new subscriber.
Step #4. Treat it like a real email, which it is. So personalize it (as in “Dear Lisa”).
Step #5. Remind me why you're thanking me (and preferably in the first sentence). Here's how Defenders of Wildlife did it: Thank you for subscribing. You will receive the next issue of our monthly e-newsletter, Wildlife eNews, and other updates on how to protect our vanishing wildlife. Clear, concise and (hooray!) adds the benefit of protecting wildlife.
Step #6. Tell me how to learn more about your work. Here's how Prevent Blindness America does it:
Interested in learning more about eye health and safety? Prevent Blindness America has a wealth of resources available to you at... and continues with anchor text that links to their website.

Step #7. Tell me when I'll hear from you again. Here's what Jane Goodall Institute told me: In the coming weeks, we will send you critical updates about the Jane Goodall Institute as well as ways to take action to protect chimpanzees and our environment.
And there you have it: seven steps to better welcome emails, the keystone of any successful online fundraising and email communications plan.

Not yet a subscriber to The Loyalty Letter? Signing up is easy (and free): scroll up for handy sign-up form at the top of this page.   

Whether your nonprofit needs to build your email communications from the ground up, or just a tune-up, I can help:

Or call: +001 (860) 881-7009.

On Skype: lisa.sargent96.

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