Good communication is an essential part of any alumni association.
Fail to properly engage your membership, and things will go south pretty quickly:
- Membership will decline.
- Brothers and sisters will grow more distant.
- Dues, donations, and donors will drop dramatically.
If you want your alumni association to be successful in its programming, fundraising, and philanthropy, you have to keep your members engaged and as involved as possible.
So, how do you do it?
You improve your alumni communication.
Sounds simple, right? Not quite.
Chances are good that you’re already communicating with your alumni membership. Maybe you’re calling, emailing on a regular basis via a newsletter, or even organizing events with a local body and giving updates at chapter meetings.
All good things. But are you:
- Measuring the results of those efforts?
- Comparing those previous results with news ones?
- Tweaking your efforts to produce a better return on investment?
That may sound a bit abstract, so we’ll explain. In this article, we’re going to focus on the value of email marketing and the most important alumni communication metrics (the results) you should be focusing on to improve your alumni engagement.
So, let’s assume you’re working from an existing email list and shooting out this month’s email newsletter. Here are metrics to consider:
1. Bounce Rate
In email marketing, your bounce rate is the rate of emails that were undelivered due to some type of error (typically an invalid email address). This rate is derived from the total amount of emails sent—let’s say 1,000—divided by the total number of emails that came back as undeliverable. If the amount of email returned with an error message was 100 (1,000 / 100), your bounce rate would be 10%.
Ideally, you want your bounce rate to be as low as possible. A high one indicates that there’s an issue with your email list collection, either on your end (for example, one of your members isn’t recording the email addresses correctly) or on theirs (for example, you’re given fake email addresses on collection).
In the case of the former, if you’re recording these emails in person, get confirmation from the member or donor before committing it to your association’s internal database. In the case of the latter, it’s a bit more involved.
If a member or donor is giving you a fake or invalid email address, it’s because they don’t see the value of being on the list in the first place. Before requesting their personal email address, you have to sell the value of the email list.
Maybe membership on the email list will give them vital updates on the chapter’s events, philanthropies, and activities once a month. Or maybe, being on the list will keep them in contact with their other members and keep their network growing and strong.
Whatever the value is, impress it on them and your bounce rate will decline.
2. Open Rate
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Your open rate will be the rate in which your emails are opened from valid email addresses.
If you send 10,000 emails and only 1,000 are opened, then your open rate (10,000 / 1,000) is 10%—which is really good.
The biggest factor in determining whether your recipient will open your email or send it straight to the trash will come down to ONE thing:
The email’s subject line.
Remember, your recipients will only be able to see one or two lines of body copy from your email, but your subject line is your main attention grabber. A strong subject line (particularly one that teases helpful information to come) is an incredibly effective tool in compelling your readership to click your email, ingest the message, and decide if they want to take action on it.
Which leads us to your…
3. Click-Through Rate
Your click-through rate is the rate in which your recipient decides to commit to a given action in your email. Typically this will take the form of clicking whatever attachment or embedded link you’ve left in your email.
So, for example, let’s say that you’ve just sent your monthly newsletter to your donor list for the month of June, and your bounce rate is a low 2 percent (You’ve got a strong list.), and your open rate is high (Let’s say 20 percent.). The email you sent has a button linking to a philanthropy your association is championing, which will then take the user to the philanthropy’s donation page.
The amount of email recipients that click that button out of the total amount that received and opened the email is your click-through rate. You want this number to be high.
Again, whether your recipient decides to follow the path you’ve created and click your email link will depend on the strength of the email copy.
Is it compelling? Does it command authority and diffuse any doubts? Does it tease or inspire enough to commit the user to action?
If not, work on it.
Consider what would convince you to take action?
4. Conversion Rate
Following the steps we’ve listed so far, the next alumni communication metric you want to measure is your conversion rate.
Your conversion rate reflects an email recipient taking any kind of action; basically, it’s the instance where they make the choice you want them to make to move farther along in your marketing process.
So, in the example we’ve used so far, a conversion would be when your email recipient chooses to open the email. The rate at which they opened it is the conversion rate of email opens.
In the instance your recipient clicked the embedded button in the email, the rate at which they committed that action holds its own conversion rate.
You get the idea.
In the case of the philanthropic donation page: If your goal is to get donors to open the email, read it, click the button, go to the donation page and give X dollars, your final conversion rate will be the what would be the “sale” in most scenarios—but in this case, it’s the donation.
To calculate this conversion rate, look at the total number of recipients who clicked your donation button and made it to the philanthropy’s website, then divide that number by the number who actually committed to a donation.
5. Unsubscribe Rate
This is a big one. Your unsubscribe rate is the rate at which you recipients have received your email, and have chosen to be removed from your list via the unsubscribe button at the bottom. You can derive this number by dividing the total number of recipients of your email by the number who have chosen to unsubscribe.
Due to several laws against spam, every email platform MUST include the ability to unsubscribe from an email list. This typically will be a small hyperlink at the bottom of an email.
If your email is causing users on your list to unsubscribe, you’ve got a problem. Either you’re sending content of low value—it feels useless or spammy—or you’re sending emails too frequently; typically, an unsubscribe is a combination of the two.
Having a few unsubscribers here and there when you send emails is normal, but the unsubscribe rate should NEVER be in the double digits.
If you want to lower your unsubscribe rate, lower the frequency at which you send emails, strengthen your copy so it’s appealing and useful, and ensure the action you’re requesting from recipients doesn’t exclusively involve money.
6. List Growth Rate
How much is your list growing?
Did you have 10,000 names on your list last quarter and now you have 12,000?
Congratulations! Your list has grown by 20% within three months.
That’s your list growth rate. Ideally, you want your list to be constantly growing because each new address on it represents a potential donor—even among your membership. The stronger, more engaged, and bigger the list, the more effective your email marketing campaigns will be.
7. Overall ROI
It’s not always about money, but money is pretty important. If you’re looking to improve your alumni communication, a solid email marketing campaign will help. But if you’re looking to engage your membership with the goal to keep them warm enough for donations at a later point in time, email marketing can help there, too.
Your return on investment (ROI) measures the money or results you get back from the money/effort you put in.
For example, if your goal is to raise donations among your membership, and you’ve committed to an email marketing campaign that cost you $1000 in work hours and pulls in $10,000 in donations among your membership, then your return on investment was 10x.
When looking to better any aspect of your alumni communication, engagement, or marketing, you need baseline metrics to give you a starting point from which to improve. To get started in improving your communication efforts—particularly as they pertain to email marketing—start with these seven metrics.
If there’s a kink in your process, try something new. If it works better than the old version, replace it.
Keep doing this, and you’ll improve your engagement, donation revenue, and growth rate significantly over time.
For free resources, guidance, and other materials to help you with your alumni communication
Call 1.785.843.1661 or contact us directly here.