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Have you ever wondered if people come to your website, sign up to receive emails, and somehow slip through the cracks, never to hear from you again? If the answer is yes, that’s good, because it means you care about the experience your supporters have when they’re introduced to your organization. What’s more, this kind of slip is  unlikely because you’re carefully pulling your email blast recipients together using filters, lists, and/or tags. You may also have autoresponses enabled on your website pages. But it does pose an interesting question: what is the experience new supporters have when signing up to your organization, and does it optimize their engagement and move them to action?

Using and customizing autoresponse emails on each of your action pages is something the vast majority of NationBuilder users do. However, once the autoresponse is sent, and the supporter is acknowledged for opting into email, donating, RSVPing to an event, etc., oftentimes they are grouped into a general pool of email recipients that receive meaningful, but not targeted, email communication from the organization. Wouldn’t it be nice, as a donor, to receive a donation receipt followed by a personal note of gratitude and some brief details on how your donation will be used from the Executive Director, or Candidate? Or as a new sign up, to go on an educational journey about the organization before receiving weekly newsletters? 

While targeted communication to donors and onboarding new supporters with a welcome series aren’t new concepts, if I were to ask most NationBuilder users why they don’t send people on journeys like this, the answer would be something like: “We don’t have the time or resources to manage a recurring process like this (and especially not at scale).” To this, I’d reply “Have you considered using workflows?”

What are workflows and automations?

Workflows and automations allow organizations to streamline communication and manage unique supporter journeys at scale. From the Workflows tab in your nation, you can create an automation, or automated email series, that will trigger manually via list, or automatically when someone takes an action on a specific website page. Each automation can include multiple emails separated by a customizable time delay. 

The most common and widely used example of how NationBuilder users utilize automations is a welcome series. At minimum, most organizations are sending an autoresponse email when someone opts in to receive email via the website, but automations allow you to tailor that experience and slowly push new supporters to become more engaged.

Here’s an example of a new supporter’s journey without automations enabled:

  • New supporter stumbles on your Facebook page, scans your website, and opts into email on a signup page
  • Supporter receives autoresponse immediately (if enabled)
  • Supporter doesn’t receive any additional communication until the next email blast is sent from the organization; this blast may include calls to action the new supporter is not yet ready to complete, such as a donation ask

Here’s an example of a new supporter’s journey with automations enabled:

  • New supporter stumbles on your Facebook page, scans your website, and opts into email on a signup page
  • Supporter receives autoresponse immediately (if enabled)
  • Supporter is enrolled in an automation that triggers when someone signs up on that specific signup page, and receives a personal welcome email from the organization’s Executive Director one day after signing up
  • Two days later, Supporter receives an email with information about the organization’s latest accomplishments, and encourages them to complete a survey and share more about themselves and their interest
  • Two days later, Supporter receives an email with a small call to action, such as a petition
  • Supporter enters into the organization’s main email list once they complete the welcome series feeling valued by the organization and educated about its initiatives

Benefits of implementing workflows

At the highest level, workflows and automations allow you to build relationships with your supporters without creating more work for you and your team. But using automations also allows you to:

  • See statistics (opens and clicks) for each email in your series, giving you an idea of where there’s potential for drop-off and an opportunity to course correct
  • Ensure everyone who joins your organization receives meaningful follow-up within days of signing up, even if you don’t have an email blast upcoming or scheduled
  • Filter for people who are/have been enrolled in an automation so they can be suppressed from large email blasts until they’re integrated into your regular mailing list
  • Track whether or not a series has pushed someone to take an action by setting up a conversion rule

Tracking the success of a workflow

Beyond the welcome series use case, workflows and automations are designed to drive all supporters to action, not just new sign ups. If you are using an automation to encourage individuals to donate, RSVP for an event, sign up for a new campaign/initiative, or become a member, you can set up a conversion rule that will identify when someone took the action you asked them to take, and you can decide to prevent them from receiving the rest of the automated emails as a result. 

For example, if I am sending out an end of year donation ask, I can opt to do this using an automation instead of an email blast. I will run a filter for my email recipients, add them to a list, and send the following automated emails to everyone on that list:

  • Email 1: Initial donation ask with last year’s end of year giving stats and how that money was used to help the organization
  • Email 2 (2 days later): Follow-up on the initial ask from a leader within the organization, possibly with a recommended donation amount
  • Email 3 (1 week later): Time sensitive follow-up with a recommended donation amount, summary of what they’ve given so far this year (using a smart field) and a deadline to donate

Finally, set up a conversion rule so that recipients who make a donation do not receive additional emails asking them to donate. Using automations and conversion rules will prevent you from accidentally sending donation asks to someone who has already donated versus relying on building the right filter criteria to suppress certain audiences. Beyond that, you’ll be able to see when someone converted, or donated, which may provide insight into which email in your series is resonating with supporters the most.

Start building workflows and automations

We’ve covered what workflows are and why they’re helpful. Now, it’s time to start building! My one piece of advice is this: don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. You can pause a live workflow and edit its content at any time. Your email series will go through many iterations, but not until you first get it up and running.

  • Test it out: In the Workflows tab of your nation, start a new automation with a series of test emails. Set the source as a page that’s accessible to Control Panel users only or set the source as a list consisting of only you, or you and a few members of your team. Add emails and run the workflow through to see what the email statistics and conversion results look like.
  • Plan your content: This is often the most daunting task of the entire process, so we’ve created a helpful workbook you can use to plan out the series. Feel free to make a copy and jot down your ideas here before building the emails in NationBuilder!
  • Brainstorm ideas: A welcome series is an easy place to start, but don’t forget to explore all possible sources for automations to see what else you might be able to automate! Below are a few ideas to get you started.
    • Page source
      • Enroll anyone who signs a specific petition into an automation encouraging them to contact their legislator, forward to friends, or to consider volunteering to collect signatures
      • Enroll all donors in a series encouraging them to take the next step and become a member
      • Enroll new signups in a series that encourages them to RSVP to an upcoming webinar
    • List source
      • Send follow-up emails to event attendees on a list, including a post-event feedback survey or an event recap/recording
      • Put one-time donors on a list and enroll them in an automation encouraging them to make a recurring donation
      • Add disengaged supporters who haven’t opened email in six months to a list and enroll them in a reconfirmation campaign email series

Once you have live workflows in place, you can feel confident that your supporters will receive the right email, at the right time, depending on the recent action(s) they’ve taken. Workflows, when used in combination with the rest of your NationBuilder website and communications tools, are the perfect way to provide a personalized touch to your emails at scale.

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