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by Liz Icenogle, CAE, KCSAE Director

Members and volunteers…

they’re not reading your emails…

but they want or need the information contained in it.

What a conundrum. 

A leader within our association’s online community recently wrote:

“Disseminating information about programs and meetings in a way that people will read and NOTICEThis is a HUGE problem.

What was already a challenge pre-pandemic - effectively communicating with members and volunteers - has intensified.

If it is challenging for association professionals, how difficult is it for the volunteers who serve local members, like chapter or section leaders?  Their expertise is not in marketing.

Everyone seems to be dealing with more; with more work, with more personal responsibilities, with more pressure and with less time to accomplish it all. The average office worker in 2019 received 121 emails, excluding spam, every work day. From personal experience and experience with members and volunteers, I posit that number is higher in 2022.

Couple that with the fact that 85% of users are accessing email primarily on their smartphones and it makes for a difficult environment to serve and support members and volunteers. Just think about your personal habits.  How much of an email do you absorb as you scan and open emails on your phone?

I guess it depends on how well the email is composed.

This reminds me of the oft repeated, albeit hard to accurately attribute quote, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”.

Time is a commodity and every day, every minute members and volunteers make choices on how to spend it.  If an email is too long or has too much information in it, people will not read or absorb it.

So back to that conundrum.

How can we make it easier on members and volunteers to receive information with simple tweeks to how we compose our communications?

A good open-rate in an email in the nonprofit sector is 26.6%! That leaves out a lot of readers.

How do we overcome this challenge?

Start with the purpose of the email.

Are you packing your emails FULL of information?  Do you think the recipients are receiving all the information?

I used to (and sometimes still…) pack my emails full of every.single.detail.imaginable. Now I challenge myself to consider the following:

  • What is the ONE thing this reader needs to leave with?

Then the message is formed around that one goal and the rest left for follow-up emails or an invitation to submit questions.

Next is creating an attention-getting subject. 

"On average, 5x as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you’ve written your headline, you’ve spent eighty cents out of your dollar." -  David Ogilvy

Front-load your subject line with the important, juicy details, but don’t get too clever that people spend too much time trying to decipher the message.  A recent article in Association Now provides some guidelines on things to consider.

As association professionals we must effectively communicate with all those we serve, even if it is what we may consider the regular, day-to-day emails with volunteers and components leaders.

The work of effectively communicating does not rest solely with marketing professionals.

As a non-marketer, I continue to evolve my approach and as a Component Relations professional, I help chapter and region volunteers learn to effectively communicate with local members.  Our association has a curriculum and templates to support leaders to create dynamic, must-open event promos. And we host monthly virtual meetings to provide education and peer-to-peer learning on the topic.

I hope to see you at Pinstripes on June 8th and would love to hear how you and your organization are evolving your practices to effectively get messages to members and volunteers.

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