Abundant Options & Opting In

Jessica Bobbitt- 08.21.09

Chocolate is one of my favorite things. While picking out a chocolate treat the other day at the airport newsstand it hit me how many different options I had to choose from. My options not only included various types or brands of chocolate bars but there were also several options within a single brand, for example M&Ms – plain, peanut, dark chocolate, or almonds. I was struck by the latter as it related to a conversation I had earlier that day with a nonprofit organization.

While talking with the nonprofit we discussed how to manage online communication options, and hopefully decrease the number of people who opt out. The key is abundant options. Give people choices. This may seem simple but it is often overlooked when nonprofits are sending communications. Nonprofit organizations have a lot to say, in a typical week or month there may be several exciting things going on and you want to share all of this information with your constituents. The problem is that all of your constituents do not want to hear about the same thing and by sending them information on everything you may overload your audience.


The solution is to give your constituents several options so they can indicate which types of communications they want to receive from you. People have preferences, some people like peanut M&Ms and others prefer plain. Keeping that in mind, think about various types of messages that you want to share with your constituents and give them the option to choose. Where to start? Think about the topics currently included in your messages or think about various segments in your constituency and tailor a message specifically for them. Why not survey your audience to see what they are interested in and how often they would like to receive these communications.  


Let’s take a look at some nonprofits that are currently giving people options: 


Chicago Foundation for Women allows people to indicate online communication preferences when they sign up for a login to the website.
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society asks online donors to share email preferences as a part of the online donation process.

Ocean Institute gives online community members the ability to indicate the types of communications they want to receive before Opting Out, which is an important option to have.



Nonprofits have to provide a communication Opt Out for individuals. If this is the only option you give them, people will choose it. If instead the individual has several communication options to choose between they will think about the options and be less likely to opt out of all communications. As an organization you want to decrease the percentage of constituents that opt out of all communications. You will be able to do this by understanding reasons why people opt out and thinking about offering your constituents abundant options to choose from.


Common reasons people Opt out of email communications

1.       Content is not relevant

2.       They receive too many communications from your organization

3.       Recipient would like to receive communications less frequently


People like choices, so give them abundant options for online communications.


I am curious to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment and let me know what you think or how abundant options have worked for you!


Related Blog posts:

5 Email Sins to Avoid by Steve MacLaughlin

Are Your Recipients Tired? Look No Further Than List Fatigue by Ben Jenkins


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