This article is courtesy of Idealware, which provides candid information to help nonprofits choose effective software. For more articles and reviews, go to www.idealware.org.
A good broadcast email tool will let your organization email lots of people at once. It will also make it easy to incorporate whatever format you decide you want — plain text action alerts, fundraising requests that share the look and feel of your organization's website, or fancy formatted e-newsletters. You should also be able to send emails to select groups — both very large and relatively small — and a good tool will integrate with your offline database to let you customize content for large donors, send emails to tailored segments of your list, or track who has opened which email.
If you find that your current broadcast email software is no longer meeting your needs or supporting your NGO's strategies, it could be time to start looking for a replacement.
We asked a few nonprofit technology professionals about the most important things to consider when evaluating your existing system — and when considering a replacement if and when you're ready to move on. Here, then, in no particular order, are 10 reasons your nonprofit might change broadcast email providers.
Whether you're evaluating your existing broadcast email tool or looking for a new one, there are several things to consider. There may not be a system that meets all your criteria, but you shouldn't settle for one that doesn't meet most of them. Think about your strategic goals. If your goals are fairly basic and your email list has only a few hundred recipients, a simple HTML editor and templates may be enough, but if you have more ambitious communication plans, you may well want to segment your audience to easily target specific groups with dynamic content and analyze the data afterwards.
Don't just consider your current needs and goals — think about where your nonprofit wants to go in two years — or five. If you anticipate increasingly complex email campaigns in the future, make sure your system will accommodate those needs going forward or, at the very least, allow you to export your list easily when you do change systems. How big will your list be? How often will you be sending messages? Do you want to send different messages to different lists?
Always start with strategy and then define your needs. This will help you find the right tool for your particular needs. All the bells and whistles won't help you if the software doesn't do the basic tasks you ask of it, and there's no need to buy a system with high-end features and analytics if you never plan to use them.
Do your research. Once you've defined what you can't live with and without, map those to the features available from the various systems. Talk to other nonprofits. Take some test drives by having vendors demo the software, showing you how they handle the features and processes you would typically use. Remember, you're not necessarily looking for the best system — just the best system for your particular needs.
Thanks to the following nonprofit technology professionals who provided recommendations, advice, and other help:
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