LA2050 is a community-engaged grantmaking program that distributes $1+ million in grants each year based on input from Angelenos. LA2050 has been at the forefront of participatory grantmaking for a decade, with its 10th yearly Grants Challenge upcoming in 2023. Each year, LA2050 involves the public to dictate where its grants will be distributed in an effort to fund the projects that have the most community support.
In order to do this, we need direct channels to communicate with our community. This is achieved primarily through our bi-weekly newsletter where we provide information about the Grants Challenge, seek Angeleno's input in our grantmaking process, and provide resources such as social impact job openings, financial capital opportunities, and local events.
Each year, after the public votes in the Grants Challenge, they are prompted to sign up for our newsletter. This way, we know that our subscribers are already primed to care about their communities. Year after year, as we add more Angelenos to our email list, we gain more voters for the Grants Challenge. By having more voters, we are able to conduct our grantmaking to better fit the concerts of the public.
Many of our newsletter subscribers join our email list when voting in our yearly Grants Challenge, but they stay because of the valuable, socially impact-oriented, community-focused content and information in each newsletter. Useful information, accompanied by original design work, brings a welcoming email to their inbox twice a month. With this strategy, we have been able to grow our audience and continue to increase our open rate far beyond industry standards.
We have increased our open rate by providing resources for our subscribers. For example, each newsletter contains local job opportunities focused on social impact work, as well as financial capital opportunities and local, free or affordable event listings, often sourced from our grantees.
Another resource that we provide for our newsletter subscribers is our recurring “Fave Five” segment. Each newsletter features the social impact leader of a nonprofit organization or a social entrepreneur describing their five favorite places and spaces across Los Angeles, in alignment with our five organizational goal categories of live, learn, play, create, and connect. Our community learns more about essential organizations, plus receives trusted recommendations for parks, restaurants, weekend activities, and more.
Along with these resources, each newsletter is centered around an anchor piece of original content. Some weeks, this means an exclusive Q&A with a leader in a field such as guaranteed income or DEI in philanthropy. Other times, the anchor is related to the LA2050 Grants Challenge – for example, encouraging people to vote for the issues that matter most to them, such as homelessness or LGBTQ+ inclusion. Once we know our top-voted issue areas, our newsletter becomes a vessel to encourage nonprofits and social impact organizations to apply for funding.
Once the Grants Challenge voting and analysis periods conclude, our newsletter subscribers get to see their votes translated into action as we announce the winners. This way, Angelenos get to see the projects that are funded in their communities and directly impacted by their votes, all powered by our newsletter.
What we have learned is that our newsletter is the best way to connect with our audience. Using data analytics, we have been able to create a newsletter that people look forward to reading instead of instantly deleting from their inboxes.
This is proven through the high open rate for our newsletter, which is well above Mailchimp’s industry standard of 25.17% for nonprofits. Our average open rate for January 2023 is 55%, with an average of 23,900 people opening our newsletter. When you look at the year-over-year performance of our newsletter, you can understand how we have tailored it to fit our audience. The average open rate for January 2022 was 44.45%, and the average open rate for January 2021 was 23.5%. In the past two years, we have doubled our average open rate, showcasing our ability to have our finger on the pulse of what our community is looking for in their inboxes.
We have also noticed our subscribers' increased interest through their involvement in our yearly Grants Challenge. This year, our newsletter accounted for ~31% of Grants Challenge votes. Since activating our subscribers for the Grants Challenge is one of the main goals of the newsletter, we are happy to see these results. Additionally, we utilize the newsletter to encourage social impact organizations to apply for funding. This year, we received the most applications ever, with 480 organizations submitting applications.
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