June 13, 2018

Mobile Email Marketing Chart: Online fundraising scorecard (plus mobile optimization tips)


About half of email is read on phones these days.

Hopefully, you’ve optimized your marketing emails for mobile by now. But is the entire customer journey consistent?

Read on to see how different nonprofit verticals perform, along with tips for optimizing your mobile email opt-in and landing pages based on examples from high-performing nonprofits.

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa Chart newsletter. Click to get a free subscription to the latest research and case studies from MarketingSherpa.)

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Nonprofits are an excellent test bed for other brands to learn from because they are the most reliant on marketing. Essentially, their entire organization’s success at fundraising is driven by perceived value.

No product is ever received after a purchase. The resulting experience of a conversion action doesn’t help overcome a challenge or meet a direct goal for the donor.

Even when a concrete action is achieved — more children learn to read, endangered land is preserved — since the donor doesn’t experience it, the perceived value entirely relies on marketing’s communication ability.

So in this article, we explore which nonprofit verticals have addressed mobile optimization the best, and what all brands can learn from them.

Study Methodology

Fundraising consultants Dunham+Company analyzed 46 key indicators across 151 American charities to assess the effectiveness of digital fundraising and published what they learned in “Online Fundraising Scorecard 2.0: A National Study Analyzing Online Fundraising Habits & Donor Experience of Nonprofits.”

Over a two-month period, the research team analyzed the buyer’s (in this case, donor’s) journey: They signed up for e-communications from these 151 nonprofits, monitored the inbox to study communications, made a $20 donation to each organization, analyzed the thank-you process and watched to see what would happen next.

The research team used patented methodologies from MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa) for the score criteria, specifically the Email Messaging Sequence, Email Effectiveness Index and Conversion Sequence heuristics. From the study …

Background: Scoring Criteria from the Online Fundraising Scorecard study

Let’s examine one specific area — mobile optimization. The research team analyzed four areas:

  • Email Capture
  • Email Communications
  • Donation Experience
  • Gift Acknowledgement

Nonprofits could score up to 100% in each of the four areas and had an aggregate score across all four areas as well. The chart below shows aggregates of the scores across those four critical steps in the online fundraising process for the mobile experience specifically.

Chart: Average study score for mobile, by nonprofit vertical (updated 6.19.18)

Environment/animals nonprofits did best with an average score of 86%, while arts, culture & humanities nonprofits did worst with an average score of 64%.

 “Looking at the averages across all verticals, environmental nonprofits are up in all four critical online fundraising categories. However, there are noticeable differences in the email capture category and the actual donation process, which are well above the industry standards for those categories,” said Jennifer Abohosh, Chief Digital Strategist, Dunham+Company.

Here are a few lessons all marketers can learn from the high-performing nonprofits, and what they can avoid from the low-performing nonprofits.

LESSON #1: Make sure email is optimized for mobile

Let’s start with the biggest and most obvious — make sure your email is easy to read and interact with on mobile devices. After all, for several years now, about half of email is opened on a mobile device (for example, 55% of 7.15 billion emails studied in December 2015).

However, according to the study, one out of five (19%) charities still do not have text that can be read without pinching or zooming.

“This means checking all links, adjusting the copy, optimizing the photos and, of course, optimizing the landing page for mobile,” Abohosh advised.

LESSON #2: A mobile email is only as strong as the mobile landing page where it sends traffic

An optimized email (both for mobile and for conversion) is important. But an email is a conversation platform; the landing page is ultimately where the conversion takes place. To give you specific ideas for your own mobile landing pages, here’s an example from an environmental nonprofit that scored high in the study:

Creative Sample #1: Humane Society mobile landing page (as seen on iPhone X)

This example from The Humane Society of the United States excelled in the areas of:

  • Gift array — different donation amounts ($35, $60, etc.) that can help increase what donors end up giving. Ecommerce or B2B companies could test similar tactics with different pricing and product options. For example, B2B and B2C marketers can use a configurator or a features and pricing comparison chart.
  • Simple, clean mobile-responsive form — the simpler, the better. As we saw in a previous experiment with a luxury homebuilder, just changing one form field (phone) to optional increased conversion 275% (see pages 18-19 in MECLABS Quarterly Research Digest Vol. 1, Issue 1).
  • Case for support — There is a value proposition for the donation.
  • No navigation menu — Don’t distract the ideal donor or customer form the desired conversion action.
  • Overall ease of use — These are mobile users. Many of them are on a phone out in the physical world with many distractions. They’re waiting at the doctor’s office, ignoring their kid’s baseball game or driving behind me on the highway. Reduce friction. Make the conversion action as easy as possible. (Please. I don’t want to get rear-ended while they figure out how to purchase on your landing page.)

Also, keep in mind how many clicks it takes to donate. Abohosh described one of the low-performing arts nonprofits, a local PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio) affiliate, as having “four clicks to make the donation and a variety of areas of friction that are only detracting from the online experience for the potential donors.”

LESSON #3: Optimize the email opt-in process so you have people to send this mobile email to

For some brands, the email opt-in process is an afterthought. Perhaps a template is used. Maybe the marketers think people will want to sign up because the email is free. Or the marketer assumes the customer knows the value of the newsletter since the marketer knows the value of the newsletter so well.

A “Sign up for our newsletter” headline with a “SUBMIT” button is not very compelling. Rare is the customer looking to get more random email.

Creative Sample #2: Unoptimized email opt-in form

One of the Arts, Culture & Humanities organizations (the lowest-scoring vertical) analyzed didn’t even have an email signup on its website. The only discernible way homepage visitors could opt-in was a “Daily Newsletter” link in the footer (one of 26 links in the footer). And it was a public radio station, an organization with plenty of content for an engaging email newsletter.

According to the study, a difficult-to-find email opt-in wasn’t necessarily rare, “Fifty-five percent of nonprofits’ mobile sites are designed so that users can locate the email sign-up in five seconds or less. So, nearly half are putting speed bumps in the path of e-list growth.”

Here’s another example from the environmental nonprofit category, an optimized email opt-in form from the National Audubon Society as it would look on an LG Optimus L70 (just because you have an iPhone X doesn’t mean your customers do).

Creative Sample #3: Audubon mobile email opt-in (on an LG Optimus L70)

This opt-in form excelled, according to Abohosh, because it had “great positioning on the homepage on desktop and mobile, clean call-to-action and doesn’t ask for too many fields. It also has a clear correlation with the target audience for the organization.”

Related Resources

Email Messaging online certification course, from MECLABS Institute — Learn proven methodologies based on years of research

Random Apps of Kindness: Using mobile for nonprofit and cause-based marketing

Nonprofit Marketing: What you can learn from B2B and consumer marketing

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