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With the right strategy in place, email marketing can be an incredibly powerful tool for donor stewardship and fundraising – and Central College’s most recent Giving Tuesday campaign proves just that.

“We’ve been using Emma for a few years now,” said Jenae Stokesbary, Director of External Engagement at Central College. “Before 2016, Emma was used as a tool to communicate with everyone, no matter what the message was. I wanted to create a better strategy for the institution, breaking down our communications by department and audience relevance to ensure the right messages were getting to the right people.”

The Advancement team had implemented a Giving Tuesday fundraising campaign in the past, but Jenae wanted to be sure their email strategy was fully optimized for one of the biggest fundraising days of the year.

Ahead of Giving Tuesday, Jenae sat down with her Client Success Manager, Becca Foreman, to brainstorm ideas and talk best practices.


Among Becca’s recommendations were the following:

• Becca recommended they tailor their Giving Tuesday messages based on behavior. For example, if someone didn’t open the first two mailings, the third should have a great subject line to encourage them to open. Or, if someone donated earlier in the day, they shouldn’t continue to contact that donor in the afternoon.

• She explained that using segmentation and making small adjustments to content based on those segments would help them be more successful, versus sending a mass email to their entire audience.

• She also passed along resources from the Emma blog and content focused on using email for fundraising.

“What’s really nice about having a Client Success Manager is that she serves as a true extension of the team. She’s a trusted advisor, and having that useful, tactical knowledge of email marketing on hand is such a huge asset for us,” said Jenae.

After speaking to Becca, Jenae and her team developed an entire series of emails to support their Giving Tuesday campaign.

“This was a moment where we felt we could gain a lot from segmentation, personalization, and testing,” Jenae said.

To begin, they developed separate emails for two segments of their audience: People who had donated before, but not on Giving Tuesday, and those who had donated on Giving Tuesday specifically.

An email for those who had previously donated on Giving Tuesday

An email for those who had previously donated, but not on Giving Tuesday

An email for those who had previously donated, but not on Giving Tuesday

Along with those segmented emails with tailored messaging, they did A/B subject line testing, paid special mind to send times, experimented with “from” names, and used a template that mimicked the aesthetic of the rest of their Giving Tuesday materials to help provide a consistent experience across channels.

Thanks to all their planning, Central College was able to raise over $80,000 on Giving Tuesday, making it their most successful Giving Tuesday ever.

“We also saw really great open rates,” Jenae said. “One of our best sends had a 59% open rate. On that one, we swapped out our usual ‘from’ name with Sunny Eighmy, our VP of Advancement. The audience knows her well, so we thought it might encourage opens – and we were right!”

They also sent a follow-up email on the 29th for those that chose to donate on Giving Tuesday.

The follow-up email to Giving Tuesday donors

“The subject line said, ‘[first-name] – you are awesome!’ That had a 75% open rate, which is the best open rate we’ve ever gotten. Within the higher education spectrum, especially within fundraising and advancement, you don’t always get to have fun or be creative. So we decided to push the bounds and got really great results because of it.”

Jenae also sent the following to Becca after the big day:

I really appreciate your advice on our audience segmentation and email pace. I think because of those two strategic moves, we were able to connect with our audience better and ultimately raise more money. Our team at the college is ecstatic!

When asked what she would tell other universities shopping around for an ESP, Jenae said, “You should absolutely use Emma. I’ve used multiple email marketing platforms before, and Emma is the most intuitive. Whether it’s someone at the college with no email experience or our web developer, anyone can hop into the platform and create a quality email campaign. Plus, the level of service and available resources is unparalleled.”

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