Charity email newsletters 'a waste of time', says Obama strategist

Short, personalised emails to supporters work better, says Thomas Gensemer, the man behind US President's online election campaign

Email newsletters to supporters are a waste of time and effort and should be ditched by charities and NGOs, according to Barack Obama's digital strategist.

Speaking at a presentation at City University in London this week, Thomas Gensemer, managing partner of Blue State Digital, the company behind President Obama's online election campaign, urged organisations to instead send short, personalised emails to supporters giving clear instructions for participation.

"Email newsletters don't get read, yet they take more effort to prepare than a 250-word email," he said. "Email is still a killer application, but only when used properly."

Gensemer urged organisations to promote their causes by adopting the digital media principles of the ‘Obama for America' presidential campaign, which raised more than $500m (£350m) in donations from more than three million individual donors online. Volunteers created more than 30,000 groups online and organised more than 200,000 offline campaign events leading up to last November's election.

Fundraising and participation tactics included sending regular, short emails to supporters asking recipients to do one thing that day. Each email also told the supporter what their action would accomplish and what would happen next.

These emails gave supporters a "steady narrative of actions, feedback and milestones", Gensemer said.

Obama rewarded supporters who took action with public praise. Gensemer said the tactic had elicited a "new sense of transparency" among supporters about where their money was going.

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