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Is Email A Tired Tool For Advocacy?

Is Email A Tired Tool For Advocacy?

Here’s a statistic that should give you pause: 95 percent of advocacy professionals name email as a tool they rely upon to run their program.

That’s more than organic social media (66 percent), professional advocacy software (60 percent), legislative tracking systems (33 percent) and video (33 percent), according to the Phone2Action 2019 Advocacy Survey, which will be released later this month. 

What’s odd about this is that studies show email is no longer particularly effective when it comes to moving people to action. Moreover, many organizations have stuck with it, declining to pursue alternative channels, even as performance declines.

It begs an important question: why the addiction to email?

Want to learn more about how advocacy programs behave? Get a copy of the 2019 Advocacy Survey and benchmark your program.

The Facts About Email

When you look at the numbers, email is easy to defend. 

First of all, email is ubiquitous. It is integral to our lives. A study by Adobe found that people spent an average of 2.5 hours a day on their personal email in 2018, an increase of 17 percent over the previous year. That’s a lot of time.    

Email is also growing. More than 281 billion emails were sent worldwide in 2018, according to Statistica, and that flow is estimated to grow to more than 347 billion by 2023. Email is also a low-cost medium, meaning it is easier to show ROI. It’s no mystery why advocacy programs embraced email and continue to use it.

Yet, email is not necessarily a high-performing channel for advocacy. A study by M+R Benchmarks in 2019 showed that the metrics for nonprofit advocacy emails were all relatively low and continue to decline:  

  • The average open rate was 15 percent in 2018, down 5 percent over the previous year.
  • The average click rate was 2.4 percent, down 16 percent.
  • The average conversion rate, meaning the rate of those who took action, was 1.8 percent, down 15 percent.

Text Messaging Beats Email

While email is the engine behind most advocacy programs, and few organizations are going to stop using it anytime soon, savvy advocacy professionals are starting to augment it with new channels. And few are more effective than text messaging.

Text requires organizations to build a list of advocates who give a mobile number and opt in to receive messages. The organization then sends calls to action via text, making use of shortcodes and custom keywords that allow advocates to take action right from their phone. 

The lists are generally smaller, but they often perform far better than their email counterparts: 

  • Almost everyone on the list will see the CTA. The open rate for text messaging is roughly 99 percent. 
  • Text produces action. The average conversion rate for text is 6 percent to 8 percent, depending on the call to action, according to the 2019 State of Advocacy report. It can run as high as 25 percent or more on some campaigns. 
  • Action is immediate. Among those who take action on a text message, 65 percent do so in the first hour after receiving it—and more than half of them do so in the first seven minutes. 

The organizations that embrace text see strong results. The Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM), for example, began using Phone2Action last year, in part to make use of text messaging. AIM’s text program now has more than 12,000 advocates. One recent campaign saw a 21.5-percent click rate and 7.5-percent conversion.

“We wanted to take our efforts to the next level,” Christopher Masak, senior associate director for advocacy at AIM, said in a recent webinar. “When we were looking at engaging our audiences and the broader public, we knew that we needed some of the best tools available.”

Want to learn more about how advocacy programs behave? Get a copy of the 2019 Advocacy Survey and benchmark your program.

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