MomsRising – Advocacy Email Review

Just finished moving MomsRising emails for all of December and January to the site. This is the second Posterous site under my belt, after doing MoveOn.

Thoughts on MomsRising emails:

Like MoveOn, MomsRising (MR) pursues multiple campaigns at the same time, but unlike MoveOn they are organized more tightly around an overarching theme, namely issues of prime importance to women and families. So we have healthcare, children’s healthcare, hunger, paid sick days, Wal-Mart’s sick leave policy and more. It’s a useful cluster, even if the 3rd wave feminist in me (and single father) rejects the notion that family and parenting roles should be determined by gender…

Like MoveOn, MR features footnotes. A CREDO guy who presented at Netroots Nation claimed that MoveOn only adds footnotes to build legitimacy with journalists and others – not their own list members. If that’s true – why is MR doing it? Most organizations avoid footnotes. Does anyone  think they make a difference when it comes to click through rates?

Like MoveOn, MR is all about using first names as a way of establishing a kind of intimate personal relationship with constituents.  At this point, with so many groups using that same trick of establishing a fake intimacy, I’m left with too many first names flouting around my head, demanding a personal relationship. It’s come to the point that subscribers might consider putting ‘Mr. Lenchner’ as a string in the space reserved for ‘First Name.’

The free holiday coupon is an inspired effort – take a look: It’s taking a book from what kids do on parents birthdays to give a gift that doesn’t cost anything, or what lovers sometimes exchange. A promise to let her win an argument, babysit for a couple of hours, give a back rub, etc. Not every group has the resources to replicate this kind of effort, but its strong evidence that the creative team at MR is doing their job.

About half the subject lines are one word, cutesy or cryptic. Like: From your hips to your lips!, H1Ni, Unbelievable, Did you forget?, and Perfect Fit! I understand why this style is becoming dominant. If the subject line doesn’t arouse my curiosity or feel urgent enough, folks ignore it. So let’s use fancy copywriting techniques to GRAB folks and MAKE them look. So what if they feel cheated afterward, because no way will most advocacy emails deliver the punch that sexy subject lines promise. It’s semantic inflation, cheapening the work of online advocacy like so many Viagra ads, that’s what. Maybe open rates go up. I suspect that over time, the satisfaction people feel about being on the list goes down as a result of this style.

The fundraising email sequence – and there might be other emails based on past donations – features a request of only $20,000 from the entire list. One email states that “raising $20,000 in December will give us the fuel we need to effectively mobilize support for [the Healthy Families Act.] However, subsequent messages were far less specific:

With your help, in 2010 we will bring the voices of more moms to Washington, D.C. through upgraded technology, expanding our volunteer programs, increasing state level work, and more.

We need to raise $20,000 this December so we can fight for family-friendly policies in 2010.

My thought: $20,000 for a December fundraising push is very low. Another organization I helped this year made $1 per name in December. $20k is probably a nickel per name. Such a low goal means that MR is raising far, far, less during the holidays.  Which makes sense – much of the list growth this past year was a result of the brilliant Mother’s Day video effort which MoveOn helped to promote – names that reflect a low average commitment.

Leaving the amounts aside for a moment, let me register my objection to the fuzzy and moving goals of this campaign. Instead of asking me for $20,000 for a laundry list of infrastructure goals that undoubtedly cost many times that, why not raise $20,000 for something more specific? The whole point of naming a goal and making it clear what it’s for is so the donor can feel part of something concrete. Improving MR’s technology infrastructure isn’t even a line item in a budget.

There is an email announcing that MR is halfway to the $20,000 goal – but that was three weeks ago. Did they meet it? Did I miss an email? What new technology  are we gonna buy? It’s a teeny bit mean-spirited to point this out, but it also highlights the benefit of recording an entire email sequence. Observers can finally give these messages the critical attention they deserve, and notice shifts in messaging that otherwise remain hidden.

Finally, a note for anyone reading this who is NOT a progressive online activist already familiar with the great work of MomsRising. They kick ass on the issues, quality of email copy, ideas for actions, and creativity. Newbies could do worse than try to learn from MR emails. They get this attention because I respect the work they do. BTW, they are looking for a campaign manager these days.


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