Lessons Learned in a Year-End Email Campaign Marathon

At M&C, the months of September and October are furiously busy with copywriting. With messaging in place, November and December are equally as busy as we work to get those appeals out the door.

Reports are still streaming in, but it appears 2015 was a strong year. Cheers to that! I'm also happy to report that it was a relatively low-stress season for our team despite deploying more emails than ever before (more than 250, I think!). Why? Efficiency, I think. Here are a few tips that have made a world of difference in getting ahead of the mad rush. Hopefully, they'll help your team too.

1. Seems obvious, but PLAN EVERYTHING about your campaign ... the message, the date/time, the sender, the subject line, the graphics, the donation page, the audience segments, the tracking, the goals. Use that information as your guiding roadmap and try not to veer from it. This should be nailed down in early November if possible.

2. USE THE SCHEDULE FUNCTION—Most email programs have a feature where you can set up your emails and choose a date in advance to send them. I resisted this for many years (it made me nuts not to do 100 last-minute checks!), but it really is a time saver and can help you enjoy those holiday parties without dashing back to send an email. One note, be sure to check that the delivery went out without a hitch; sometimes snafus can occur.

Another bonus to scheduling your message: a lot of email programs get bogged down during the busy holiday time. Scheduled messages often get you first priority.

3. TOO MANY COOKS—Avoid having too many people involved in the deployments. Yes, a team of proofers is good, but one set of hands on the wheel is always preferred. Trust me on this one!

4. CONSIDER LIST NEEDS—Do you plan to remove the names of those who donate during the course of the campaign period so they don't receive additional appeals? It's vital that those processes be worked out before the person who knows how to do it is gone for the holidays.

5. BE A CASUAL RECIPIENT—Don't just proof your emails. Proof your process. Live test an email and make a donation ... pretend you are an average user. This will give you a chance to see the whole process from start to finish. If possible, have another person who hasn't been involved go through the process to alert you to any hiccups.

The year-end timeframe will always be busy and adrenaline-filled. I love that. But I also love a cozy fire, a glass of wine and a good night's sleep.

What tips do you have that make your year-end campaigns a little less stressful?