Between #GivingTuesday and year-end giving, nonprofits will be sending a lot of emails in the upcoming weeks.
How will you stand out in a sea of appeals?
Well first things first – before they can decide whether they want to open your email, it has to be delivered to their inbox.
So let’s start with email deliverability…
As I have mentioned in my post We Are Running an Email Re-Engagement Campaign and People Have Feelings, Inbox providers (Gmail, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc) look at many factors to determine your email deliverability. Those factors are changing constantly, but here are a few:
- Spam software
- IP reputation
- Domain reputation
- Speed of delivery
- Recipients themselves
According to the 2019 Email Deliverability Benchmarks Study by EveryAction, a little over 20% of nonprofit emails were delivered to spam folders monthly costing nonprofits $92.8 million in 2018. They also talk about how inbox providers are now focusing more on “grey mail” which includes a lot of political and nonprofit emails. This past election cycle, several emails from candidates I supported ended up in spam even though I had donated to them.
M+R’s 2019 end-of-year fundraising season wrap-up also revealed that many nonprofits struggled to get their email appeals into inboxes.
And in their 2018 year-end analysis, M+R also found that nonprofits who saw their list size drop year-over-year (because they actively managed their lists, dropping the unengaged) also saw better returns: a 26% improvement in response rate and a 2% improvement in email revenue.
Best Ways to Clean Up Your List:
Remove emails that have bounced more than once.
Sometimes there is a one-off issue with an inbox being full or a server timing out, but if you continue sending emails to accounts that are no longer active and continuously bounce, you will get dinged by email services hurting your sender reputation. Just delete them from your list.
Only send campaign emails to engaged subscribers.
Most services define “engaged” as opened or clicked within the last 6 months. But Gmail begins monitoring unengaged senders around 30 days.
This also has the added benefit of being able to better understand your email metrics. If you send to a list full of old email addresses or uninterested people you will end up with subpar open rates that don’t accurately reflect the success of the email or not. Was it bad content that led to that 10% open rate or was it an unhealthy list?
Run a re-engagement campaign NOW.
You don’t have to give up hope quite yet. A great re-engagement campaign can win back those who have lost interest for whatever reason. Run one now so they can be on your engaged list when your campaign starts.
A few ideas from Kerri Karvetski’s We Want You Back! How to Re-Engage Inactive Email Supporters include:
- Share your best blog posts, videos, or stories.
- Use a survey to ask why they haven’t opened an email in a while.
- Offer a special incentive to come back. (Discounted tickets, new merch, etc)
(Be sure to check out that full post for subject lines and other examples you can use.)
Now that you are in their inbox, let’s look at getting noticed in that inbox…
The 2 Things That Get Your Email Opened
Knowing where the email came from
In general, you want to consistently send from the same names and addresses, and you should also avoid generic role-based email addresses like newsletter@ or info@. And regardless of the actual email address used, be sure to fill in the From Field with a name that readers will recognize.
A good subject line
Unfortunately, you can find data that supports just about any claim someone wants to make about subject line best practices. There is no magic word or phrase that will work all the time for everybody. You have to play around and see what works for your list right now so test, test, test.
But in general, use a subject line that conveys personal, useful, and timely content.
NOTE: Our email service provider has suggested that you do not use any references to COVID-19 in your subject line or email as it can trigger spam filters.
You have a few weeks to get ready. Start with these tips and end this crazy year on a good note!