In part one and part two of this article we explored the potential new revolution in communication commonly referred to as email. We discussed some of the challenges of collecting email addresses, gaining permission to use them and creating an email strategy.
Before we discuss what communication magic might be created by your organization we will unveil just how good we are at reaching that first step of obtaining email addresses from our constituents. This data is again available for us due to the effort and sharing philosophy of one of the recognized experts in our sector, Michael Gilbert and the Gilbert Group of Seattle.
The above data rings true with what I find each month in my informal surveys taken around the country. So if we summarize the various data points from the survey we find:
- 44% have email addresses for less than 20% of their constituents
- 64% do not collect email addresses on their web site
- 78% do not have an email strategy
If your organization falls into the group where you have email addresses for less than 50% of your constituents do not despair. It can be corrected as you move forward. Please remember back to how few fax numbers we all had a decade or two ago.
Now is the time to make gathering email addresses a priority for your staff, your board and yes, even the constituents themselves. You see if any of the above groups find value and truly rely upon the flow of information from this medium, the problem takes care of itself. This is dependant on each group having a few mechanisms to insure accurate collection of the email addresses and the proper place to store and use them. Once again this could be an entire article, but we will provide a quick top ten list below:
- Insure it is easy to leave contact information including email addresses in a prominent spot on your web site. (Notice the plural in the address field; ask for both home and work emails as they often change.)
- Insure every paper intake form and registration form includes email address spots. Provide a reason to use them, such as a confirmation or information flow back.
- Start an electronic newsletter (yesterday!)
- Distribute all meeting announcements via email
- Distribute all meeting minutes via email
- Encourage discussions via email with boards and committees
- Always capture the addresses from incoming emails to you and your organization. Reply asking for permission to disseminate information via that address.
- In your next paper newsletter, annual report, special event invitation, and direct mail letter ask if they would prefer using the email address and if you can obtain it.
- Encourage your staff to always ask permission to obtain and use an email address for everyone they talk to.
- Make sure you have a central database that easily collects and stores the addresses from your web site, your staff, your board and others. Make sure the database facilitates easily using that email address whether it is for a single message or a mass email distribution.
Lastly, once all of the above is in place you are ready to spin some communication magic. If you recall from part one, the power of email is based upon the fact that communications in this age needs to be rapid (as in instant) and email does not interrupt the other party like a phone call. By incorporating this form of instant and personal communication into an overall relationship building plan, you can build closer and more lasting relationships with individuals both near and far. In addition, in many cases because of the “viral” effect of people forwarding on your message to others they know your overall base of constituents may be able to grow geometrically!