January is the perfect time for reflection and with the heaps of emails I received from non-profits
in December, I have had a lot of reflecting to do! Recently I shared a selection of year-end
emails that I received and some lessons learned from each of them. Today I want to talk about
email arcs used for year-end emails – specifically the emails that I received from Mercy Corps.
The Power of the Email Arc
Email arcs are essentially a series of emails sent of days or weeks as a part of one campaign.
The campaigns that we’ll be looking at today are all year-end campaigns and were sent during
the month of December.
The power of email arcs is that there is an opportunity to communicate a very cohesive
message to reader and to reinforce that message over time. It’s a well-known fact that people
have to read or see something a minimum of three times before it becomes familiar and are
likely to act on what they know.
You Sent How Many Emails?!
So I could have told you that I received a lot of emails from Mercy Corps. Have I ever counted
them? Not until I decided to write this blog post, no. As it turns out, Mercy Corps sent me 11
emails during the month of December. You’ll notice that things really heat up after December
Here’s an overview of the email dates and subject lines:
December 5 – Grateful to be alive
December 7 – Global update: What we’ve accomplished together in 2013
December 10 – The perfect gift? Search no further.
December 19 – Consider your holiday shopping finished.
December 26 – An unprecedented year
December 27 – Will you help Baby Yolee?
December 28 – Snow storms, tropical rain and you
December 29 – Lives are on the line
December 30 – Two more days
December 31 – DEADLINE: make your tax deductible gift by midnight
December 31 – Deadline: only hours left
*Note – the emails don’t have a “view in browser” functionality so I have no way of sharing the
full emails with you in the blog post.*
Just in scanning these subject lines, you can see the escalating urgency leading up to
December 31st. It starts off much softer in trying to win the reader over and transitions to being
How Does This Compare
After doing a bit of digging in my inbox, I discovered that Mercy Corps out emailed every other
non-profit that I receive email updates from by more than double. Most non-profits averaged 3
emails in the month of December.
The ultimate question to ask is – does Mercy Corps increased email lead to increased
conversions? Is the more money in the bank?
Since I haven’t talked to anyone at Mercy Corps, I don’t have a finite answer. (If you happen to
work at Mercy Corps and want to answer this in the comments, I’m sure we’d love to know!)
I do know from the second email sent on December 31, they had raised $1.5 million and were
now shooting for $2 million.
Final Thoughts and Takeaways
Beyond just the dollars raised, I would add that email success should be judged on the open
rates of the emails and the number of unsubscribes. Obviously you don’t want to irritate your
email subscribers to the point of getting hundreds of people fleeing from your list. That would be
I do think that the volume of emails did keep them top of mind for me. In fact that’s how I ended
up writing this blog post – because I remembered they sent me emails in December. I’m not
entirely confident that I’d be able to list any other organizations that I receive emails from in a
similar fashion. They are less memorable.
Of course December is a popular time to send emails. But that means that your email
subscribers are probably receiving a higher volume of emails overall and yours could get lost in
the shuffle. My inquiring mind wonders if doing this in November would yield similar results. Or
at another time during the year that makes sense with your annual campaign.
Here’s to a year of emailing!