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5 Ways (Plus 1) Email Beats Social Media

Last week StoryBoard HTX released a survey of Houston communications trends. One thing really caught us by surprise. The top priority for nonprofit leaders was improving their social media. Improving email campaigns finished down on the list.

Experts say that's backwards. Your website comes first, since that is the focal point of all of your communications and development, but email should be a close second. Social media only plays a supporting role. For a closer look at the problem with relying on social media, see one of our first blogs, Is Facebook Your Frenemy?

Why should email be a priority? Email has its own problems and people have been predicting its demise for a long time, but it is still here and is better than all of the options. Here are five reasons (plus one) why:

1. Email’s Return On Investment (ROI) Is Just So Much Better. ROI is hard to nail down, especially since it takes multiple contacts before many donors give, but the comparisons show pretty clearly that email does more for less.

Did you catch that? Social media ads cost more than they earned in donations!

2. It Feeds Your Fundraising Funnel. People come to you as strangers. You hope they turn into donors who increase their gifts over time. That’s sometimes called the fundraising funnel. Each level of your funnel requires a different approach and repeated “touches.”

  • New donors may need to hear from you 7-to-12 times before they give.

  • Faithful donors need regular stewardship to see the impact of their support.

Email doesn’t replace personal contact with donors, but it keeps you on their minds at minimal cost.

3. Your Donor Information Belongs To You, Not Mark Zuckerberg. Social media platforms own all the information on the people who see your posts. With email, you control the data, and you can use what you know about their giving patterns, addresses and any other information to personalize your communications.

4. Email Lets You Control The Flow Of Your Communications. Every message about your mission and your donors’ impact is a “goodwill deposit.” Every request for donations is a “goodwill withdrawal.” You need to make a lot more deposits than withdrawals or you will drain the goodwill account and your donors will think, “All they ever do is ask me for money.”

Email lets you control deposits and withdrawals, and sequence your communications to take advantage of your goodwill account. Social media is like giving your Goodwill ATM card to a stranger and hoping for the best!

5. Email Energizes Peer-to-Peer Fundraising –P2P fundraising is a powerful way to introduce new supporters to your nonprofit. Email makes it even stronger. A study by Blackbaud found that people who email their friends asking for a donation raised an average of $829 versus $480 raised through Facebook posts and messenger. The average gift through email was twice as much as Facebook.

PLUS 1 - 4-out-of-5 Marketers Can’t Be Wrong!

OK, this one may be a stretch, but people who communicate for a living just like email better. One survey asked professional marketers “If you had to give up one marketing tactic for the next 12 months, which would it be?” Some 80% said they’d rather give up social media and keep email.

The Downside - Email Marketing Takes Time And Patience.

One reason that nonprofits may shy away from email is that it takes some expertise and can take a while to see results. Social media may not be effective, but you can post something and be done with it. Actually, doing social media effectively also takes expertise and time, but that is another blog.

That is where StoryBoard HTX comes in. As your outside communications support, we can create and manage your email fundraising to fit within your development goals and keep you in front of your donors. Contact us at


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