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DonorsChoose’s Valentine’s Day campaign is a great example of smart, effective email marketing

Omar Akhtar
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In a world where the buzz is all about social and mobile, DonorsChoose.org turned to old, unsexy email to produce some fantastic rates of engagement.

DonorsChoose.org is a website that allows public school teachers to raise money for their classroom materials and activities through donations. The site makes it easy for teachers to ask for funds related to specific projects such as field trips or art supplies, and for potential donors to pick and support the causes that most interest them.

On Valentine’s Day, DonorsChoose came up with a novel way to use the holiday to solicit donations for its teachers’ projects. It sent out targeted emails to donors, asking them to donate to teachers who shared the same last name as them. Only they did it in a far more charming way, with this poem:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Give to a teacher
With the same name as you.

Here's what it looked like:

Not only did DonorsChoose get a spike in donations, the donors appreciated the simple, but highly engaging tactic of getting a personalized email that matched them to a person with the same name. Although giving money towards education is a always a good thing, DonorsChoose made it even easier to do by making it playful activity, introducing a brief moment of real human connection.

The engagement didn’t just spike on email either. People took to social media to tell everyone how surprised and delighted they were with DonorsChoose’s marketing tactics.

What this email marketing strategy highlights is that the channel of engagement doesn’t matter as much the context in which you reach a customer. DonorsChoose could have sent out an email blast to all its donors, with a generic title and subject line. By targeting the emails with such granularity, it made the customers feel like they had a personal relationship with the website, which they extended to the teacher who shared the same name as them. 

This was a case where a customer didn’t mind that the company had a record of their last name, since it was used to make something good happen. It’s a reminder that for a company to gather and keep the kind of data it does, it has to offer its customers a far greater benefit in return.

The DonorsChoose campaign is also a great example of leveraging customer data to build one-on-one relationships rather than just collecting information for the sake of saying you have “Big Data.” On its own, Big Data can do nothing. And neither can a creative mind.But once a brand is able to marry both data analysis, along with a creative idea that makes it actionable, it creates an extremely potent combination that highlights the power of marketing to an audience of one.