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The Loyalty Letter

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

September 2009
Published by Lisa Sargent

Dear Reader,

Michael is a subscriber from the Southern Hemisphere. He emailed earlier this month to ask my thoughts on RSS vs. email, as it relates to nonprofits. Does it ever...

...and most especially, it relates to any of you doing online fundraising for higher ed, zoos, operas, museums and the like.

I share the story with you in Article Number One... along with some thoughts on RSS and email. (And thanks for the question, Michael!)

Also this month, eagle-eyed reader Sheri sips at Starbucks with my compliments. She was first to spot the typo in August's Loyalty Letter: my sidebar reference to a missing article on SEO, tentatively planned for 2010.

For the record, PreservationNation wasn't a typo... and Ken, stay tuned. I'll surely slip again, so better luck next round!

Thanks to everyone who wrote in. And thanks, as always, for being a subscriber,

Lisa Sargent
Sargent Communications

P.S. See how Homo Connectus can help you reach more donors online and offline, in Article Number Two.

RSS vs. Email: Which is Best for Your Nonprofit Website?

The RSS vs. email debate's been raging since 2003. So can't we just move on, already? No, and here's why:

I'll begin by cutting to the chase: if your nonprofit website offers RSS only, you should at the VERY least offer an RSS-to-email option. That's the bottom line.
Now for the story and the reasons behind it: As plenty of you know, I do lots of research on nonprofit websites and emails -- and regularly share those findings with subscribers. (See The Loyalty Letter archives.)
But one of my biggest research shockers involves RSS, specifically as it relates to nonprofit websites in the Education and Visitation sectors: zoos, operas, museums, colleges and universities.
The kicker? A jaw-dropping number of these nonprofit websites feature RSS and completely ignore email.
Visit one yourself. You'll soon spot the tangerine-colored RSS icon right there on the home page... or possibly some anchor text that says RSS FEEDS. But no email sign-up box.
And from a nonprofit marketing perspective -- one that must include donor acquisition and retention -- no email address capture is a huge mistake.

Why? Because if your nonprofit intends to communicate with donors and prospects, and raise money online, you need email addresses to do that.

RSS feeds alone won't give you email addresses. (Visit Copyblogger for a speedy primer on RSS, and TechSoup for info that focuses specifically on nonprofits and RSS.)

Something else: as recently as October of last year, Forrester Research reported that just eleven percent of consumers are using RSS.

The Micro Persuasion Blog notes something more telling about the data, though:

Nearly nine in ten people still don't use RSS feeds. And less than two of those intend to do so.

Now, as Michael so clearly described in his email to me, RSS feeds have plenty of good points. They don't clutter your inbox. There are no deliverability issues. And they let you sift through lots of information via a news aggregator, which "pulls" in only the stuff you want.

Email, on the other hand, is classic "push" marketing: you supply your email address, and until you opt out, messages are pushed through to your inbox.

But most of your donors and prospects still don't know what RSS is. And as the data shows, many won't know for some time to come...

...And that, in my mind, is the crux of the issue.

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not advising you to sprint out tomorrow and ditch your RSS feeds.

I'm saying that if you don't also offer email communications (and leverage email address capture) as part of your nonprofit marketing plan, you're missing the chance to engage hundreds... thousands... and even tens of thousands of prospects and donors.

Either way, you'd best be prepared to consistently create content that's personal and relevant, a task that you can easily outsource to me or to other experienced donor communications specialists.

Because no matter which channel it arrives by, if it's not personal and relevant? Fuhgeddaboutit.

Who Are Your Online Prospects? Pew Knows...

Shake hands with a fabulous resource for nonprofits looking to reach more donors both online and offline.

It isn't rocket science: the better you know your donors and prospects, the better your nonprofit can communicate with and keep them.

The Pew Internet Project is a great place to start.

There, you'll find an ultra-cool slideshow from Director Lee Rainie called The Nine Tribes of the Internet.

As its title implies, Pew has segmented technology users -- cutely called Homo Connectus, and which include your donors and prospects -- into nine groups, each of which have surprising qualities, such as:

· Fourteen percent of the population are below average tech users who'd prefer not to be "force-fed" tech applications (RSS ring a bell?)

· Thirteen percent are still tied to their desktops and may need help getting their heads around social media, and

· Nine percent are heavy Internet users, but busy: they'll likely find "push" media (like email autoresponders) helpful

Pew Internet offers plenty more, too... and all of it guaranteed to set your head spinning with new ways to reach your donors and prospects both online and offline, in ways they want to be reached.

And yes, some of them are still best reached *gasp* offline. Check it out, and you'll see what I mean.

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.

How on earth can you deliver donor-centered content across all those media channels? Let me help:

Or call:  +001 (860) 881-7009.

On Skype: lisa.sargent96.

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