As promised, I wanted to share some thoughts on the advocacy data included in the 2008 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study from M+R and NTEN (you can read about the email campaign data and the fundraising data, too).

Email Advocacy
The average rate for page completion (filling in a form, etc.) increased from 85% in 2006 to 89% in 2007. Things like improved layout and design of advocacy pages could be the reason for the increase, or that supporters are more comfortble/used to the forms and what to expect when clicking through to the page. I think it is also important to think about the inclusion of auto-complete/fill information either from a personal option on the users’ computers or through a cookie from your site.

Taking Action
Environmental and rights organizations each had about half of their membership taking action in 2007. That is well ahead of health and international organizations. Often, it is hard to simplify the best reason or couple reasons that contribute to the high action rates. Of course, doing everything ‘right’ doesn’t hurt! I suggest signing up on the list for organizations or campaigns that strikes/surprises/motivates/impresses you outside (or in) your sector of work and learn from the ways it is done – how the emails are done (how many, about what, etc.), how you are called to action, how you are rewarded for action if you do take it, etc.

One statistic that is very important to learn from is that of those who are active members, 13% are categorized as ‘super activists’ but those 13% account for 42% of the action taken (in 2007). These super activists comprise about 5% of an organization’s list. These are very important members. That much goes without saying; but, what does it mean for your organization’s interaction with them? It’s important to investigate and develop ways for super activists to do the work of cultivating less active or inactive members into taking action, so that you don’t have to. Building a system for interaction between members can allow for further actions that include inviting others to become active when you do, or suggesting actions to your contacts, etc.

Case Studies
#1. Human Rights Campaign

The HRC increased its advocacy response rates in 2007 by a full percentage point and contribute this increase to segmentation of its list. It split the list into five sub-lists based on the members’ past activities/interactions with the organization. HRC could then communicate in a more tailored way with the members on each list.

Today, everyone on the list gets one advocacy action and the one email newsletter per month, plus a fundraising campaign every 2-3 months. Beyond that, audiences for emails are based on demonstrated interest. For example, extra action alerts only go to people who’ve already shown an interest in that issue and to core activists (who have taken 5+ online actions in the page year). Special fundraising campaigns target recent donors. Higher-threshold actions like phone calls and letters to the editor never go to inactives.

Even though there may be fewer people receiving an important action, it is directed at the members more likely to actually do it, instead of becoming another email to someone frustrated by action alerts who only subscribes for the news and information.

#2. Environmental Defense

ED noticed that they were earning 40% of their dollars in the year-end and that people gave at the same rate regardless of how many emails when looking at the data from three consecutive Decembers. In 2007, they took a random 15% of their list and those members received only 3 messages while the rest of the list received 13 (between Thanksgiving and December 31st). The group receiving only 3 messages had a lower donation rate so they plan to do further list testing to find the ‘sweet spot’ with their members. What has been the result of list tests like this; if you haven’t yet done any segmenting or testing, do you plan to?

An interesting test that ED conducted on their website took place right on the home page. They used a graphic with polar bears and a call to action for contributions, in one instance, and in the other simply put the donation form in the same spot (top, center of the home page). What they noticed was an increase of 8% more gifts with the donation form, 8% more donations of $1,000 or less and 10% more donations of %500 or less. The lesson they learned was to just put the option completely in front of the visitor, take out all possible clicks, and let them decide right away if they are going to give or not.

What has been the best advocacy campaign/call to action in the last year at your organization? What data did you collect (either quantitative or qualitative) that helped you plan for the next one?

And then there’s Advocacy
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