The demise of email marketing has been foretold possibly since email marketing took its first breath in 1978. And while I’m still yet to see it pass, there can be no doubt that it is in a state of decline.

A 2019 report from Campaign Monitor notes average open and click rates industry-wide are in decline:

  • 17.92% open rate
  • 2.69% click through rate
  • 14.10% click-to-open rate

Compare that to 3 years ago in 2016 when we were seeing around about 27% – 30% open rates and 3% click-through rates, you’ll notice that there is a downward trend. This is problematic industry-wide as email plays the biggest part in nurturing your leads into potential supporters, donors, and advocates.

The good news about the report was that Nonprofit sector actually had the highest average open rate (20.39%). The better news is, that with a few simple tricks, you can also improve these metrics and email will still drive the fundraising or advocacy results you want.

But, the MOST important news is that it’s time for a shakeup in how and where you are talking to your supporters – and we are SO excited by it.

The Multi-Channel Time Is Now

We do a lot of audits on nurture & retention journeys here at Parachute Digital. Do you know what we often find? Most of the journeys are only email comms (sometimes with a sprinkle of SMS if it’s a p2p event). And hey, emails are great, but since a decline IS happening, you’re going to have to start looking beyond the channel when trying to nurture, retain or convert your supporters.

Enter Multi-Channel storytelling.

We constantly push “multi-channel” and “multi-touchpoint” for all the projects we do – lead gen, appeals, nurturing, retaining & converting supporters and donors. It essentially means talking to your leads/supporters/prospects across different channels – social, email, your website, SMS.

It’s Marketing 101; it takes an average 12 touchpoints before a lead decides to act (donate, sign up, make a purchase). Sometimes this could happen quicker, slower, or never. But almost always, it takes seeing something across multiple channels (whether consciously or not) before they act. We also know our supporters exist, communicate, and actively or passively consume content across various channels.

So why do we only mainly use email to nurture and retain our leads or supporters?

Our users and supporters are savvier, they receive an overwhelming amount of email, and they don’t only prescribe to one-channel. So your digital strategy needs to become savvier too – optimising email to get cut-through in their inbox, but also getting omni-channel to ensure you stay top of mind and permeate your supporters consciousness across different channels that they use.

First, Let’s Be Clear: Email Marketing Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

And it isn’t over yet. Email is still relevant. In fact, as we’ve seen through the projects we help with, email is still THE most effective way to communicate with your supporters.


And email slays all other channels in nurturing your leads and getting them to convert to an action. Plus, according to a Litmus survey, 70% of people still believe email will remain relevant a decade from now. But ONLY if you’re doing it right.

When you re-assess your email comms and journeys, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the subject line short, engaging & intriguing to entice people to open?
  • Are the subject line & sender details good enough to get cut-through in the supporters inbox?
  • Is my database cleaned up to stop poor deliverability and marking me as spam?
  • Do I have strategic calls-to-action and hyperlinks within the body copy to get people to take action?
  • Is my journey automated? And is that automation effective?
  • Are the comms personalised?
  • Is the journey segmented? Is the content tailored for the segments?
  • Are there clear exit parameters within the journey to stop people unsubscribing?
  • Am I sending the emails at the right time when people are most likely to read them?
  • Do I use compelling images?
  • Is the content engaging, relevant & of value?

Even if you do end up having the most perfect email blasts & journeys though, supporter behaviour has evolved past just emails and a simple automated workflow of emails isn’t going to be enough.

You need to incorporate other channels, techniques & tools to cover more ground and speak to your supporters wherever they are.


Ever felt that uneasy feeling of ads following you around after you’ve visited a certain web page? Yep, that’s retargeting/remarketing ads for you. Retargeting is so effective, yet so underutilised by the charity sector. But coupled with email marketing, it’s one of the best ways to stay top-of-mind and spread your message to your supporters.

Essentially retargeting is a way to feed specific ads to people who have visited your site or taken an action on your ads/page – i.e. watched video, read blog, engaged with page in x days. Retargeting ads exist across Facebook/IG as well as the Google Display Networks (Banner Ads, YouTube Gmail ads).

People who are retargeted are 70% more likely to convert than those who are not, which makes sense considering they are further down that marketing funnel (having already engaged in some way with your content/site/ad).

But retargeting doesn’t just have to be about the conversion. It is a great way to nurture your supporters and reach a broader audience with compelling content, stories, and videos to ensure they remember you in between emails and campaigns, and convert when/if the time comes for another ask. Retargeting should be setup as part of your journey and planned out properly so you are sending the right types of messages for your segments on different channels.

(P.s. We love talking retargeting and not enough people are doing it right – so drop us a line if you want to know more.) 

Connecting Through Real-Time Chat

I just had a conversation last week with a charity who were asking about whether they should give Facebook messenger a go. I said, “Sure, but what are you going to be using it for?”.

Messenger and live chats have become a game changer as you’re able to have an automated real-time conversation with your supporters. It’s also the preferred choice for supporters looking for an answer because it gives more immediacy than email or phone. It can exist on your website and also across your social channels with messenger, and it’s getting savvier and more relevant.

You can generate new leads, you can offer support, you can drive action based on key events, you can automate and personalise responses based on segments and triggers:

  • Website activity (pages viewed, etc.)
  • Visit frequency (and number of pages viewed)
  • Location and language
  • Previous conversations

You can do a whole host with it.

But before you start giving it a hard crack, ensure it fits into your comms strategy and that it is the right platform for the message, story and action you want your supporters to take. For example, chat might work better in a p2p event nurture journey to promote fundraising. Or you could trigger chat for an upgrade ask in your RG/Cash supporter journeys. For retention, it would be a good way to get feedback and conduct surveys from your existing supporters.

It won’t always work for everything, but it is a powerful communications tool that you can, and definitely should, use to nurture and retain your supporters.


We’ve been preaching about it for years, but we still don’t see organisations use SMS enough. Which is weird, because email open rates are dropping to 17% but SMS open rates are 99%…

Part of the reason for the amazing open rates is because SMS hasn’t been completely saturated like email. And we want to keep it that way, but we do encourage you to maximise SMS in your comms journeys to nurture your leads and supporters.

It’s a given with p2p events for logistics and fundraising asks. But it is also a good tool to talk to general supporters with any topical issues or immediate asks (i.e. petition, emergency appeal, pledges) and breaking relevant stories (link through to your site). It would also be worth lead scoring through other channels and then testing upgrade and cash/RG asks via SMS.

Content Will Forever Be King (or Queen)

No matter what multi-channel strategy you’re going to adopt to talk to your supporters, content is always going to be king. The key to any lead/supporter nurturing journeys is to provide engaging content that gives value to your supporters on a regular basis.

This keeps you relevant, keeps the supporter warm and gives you a natural opportunity to show how your org can solve the problems your supporter cares about. So, whichever channel you use, ensure the content is:

  • Personalised (based on segments)
  • Tailored (for the channel)
  • Valuable (to your supporter)
  • Actionable (to meet your goal)

No One-Size Fits All

Email isn’t dying, but if you don’t get more diverse with your channels to nurture your supporters, your comms strategy will start to. There’s no one-size fits all strategy to nurture your supporters. Each supporter is unique and where they spend their time online is unique.

If you want to offer them the best supporter experience, and get your message across, you need to acknowledge the multi-channels they spend their time on, and disperse your stories & message across multi-touchpoints to stay relevant, valuable and engaging.

Have more questions or need a fresh pair of eyes on how you’re nurturing your supporters currently? Feel free to drop a comment below or contact us today.