Morgan Kazan, Senior Marketing Manager, DonorsChoose.org
DonorsChoose.org was founded 15 years ago by a former public school teacher in the Bronx, who realized that many teachers were using their own money to purchase classroom supplies. In an effort to help correct that, he started the website as a place where teachers could post what they needed, and be connected with people and businesses who wanted to help supply it.
“It’s essentially crowdfunding for classrooms, and our customer base is both on the teacher side, and on the donor side,” said Morgan Kazan, Senior Marketing Manager, DonorsChoose.org to the MarketingSherpa 2016 audience.
Kazan and her team set a goal of retention and revenue for their email audience, consisting of 1.5 million donors and 500,000 teachers.
“[Email] is essential to our business model, and it’s also our primary form of outreach,” she said. “You’re not necessarily getting something concrete when you donate … so you really need to feel connected to what you gave to the classroom, the teacher, and we use email to foster that connection.”
Keeping that connection growing is essential, since in 2015, DonorsChoose.org raised $75 million as an organization, $16 million of which came through email. So 20% of revenue comes in through this channel, making growth vital.
Of that revenue, 87% came from transactional emails, and 13% from promotional, Kazan added. The catch with that number is that “up until a year ago, we really had no idea that transactional emails were bringing in that much revenue,” she said.
Promotional emails are send through a separate email service provider, and are monitored and tested religiously, while transactional emails were functioning on a 15-year-old homegrown system that wasn’t being tested or monitored.
Focus on what makes transactional emails work
The realization came through an internal systems audit, and from that point on, the team realized they had to begin treating transactional and promotional emails the same way.
Transactional emails for DonorsChoose.org begins with the donation. At that point, the customer receives a receipt email. The customer is invited to share the project with friends and family, as well as asking the person to see if their employer matches donations.
“Something we try to do with our transactional emails across the board is have it be like a real person is writing you. Most receipts are pretty dry, and just numbers … but we try to make this a little more personable,” she said.
If it is the person’s first time giving, they will receive a welcome email a few minutes after the receipt. It comes from the founder, and invites the person to read about the crowdfunding site’s story.
After the project is funded, the teacher writes a letter thanking the donors, and uploads it to the project page. That upload triggers an email that shows an excerpt of the letter, and asks you to clickthrough to read the rest. This allows donors to visit the page, and have the opportunity to give again, towards that teacher’s next project.
The next email is a shipping notification, so donors are aware that the supplies they funded are getting to the classroom where they are needed. This gives a sense of transparency, and builds trust with DonorsChoose.org.
Next, as part of that transparency, an email is sent featuring photos of the funded classroom project taking place. This is in the effort of transparency, but also to drive repeat business by bringing the donor back to the project page.
Kazan and her team also utilize alerts, which trigger when someone’s “Favorite Teacher” or friend creates or donates to a project. This builds a personalized sense of community that can drive repeat business.
Watch Kazan’s entire presentation to see her speak about how they began testing and optimizing transactional emails.
“Recognize the power of transactional emails. Take a look at what you’re sending to your customers after their first purchase, and really look at the analytics … look at how your time is being spent,” she said.
See speakers like this on the stage at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 in Las Vegas
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