Apple Mail Privacy Protection Changes: 7 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Respond
On Sept. 20, just as nonprofits were launching or preparing to launch their year-end fundraising email campaigns, Apple implemented its Mail Privacy Protection along with new features that fundamentally alter how organizations conduct their email outreach.
If the shift feels uncomfortable, remember how similar transitions — the move to responsive design, for example, and enacting Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) — may have felt seismic at first, but are now part of the everyday. Organizations will soon find themselves not just surviving Apple’s changes, but exceling with a revamped approach to email.
So, let’s review what exactly has changed, and how nonprofits can best navigate Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection and the new features introduced last month.
Most email providers, like Mailchimp and Movable Ink, add an invisible pixel to emails to collect data from recipients. The transparent image acts as a unique identifier that tells servers: if and when an email was opened; what device opened it, and sometimes where the recipient was when they opened the email; as well as the associated IP address.
But now Apple automatically preloads an email’s images and content, effectively neutralizing the pixel. As a result:
- Open rates are no longer a reliable performance metric.
- Tasks auto-triggered by email opens, such as resends or drip campaigns, are unnecessary
- Live content, such as countdown timers for year-end fundraising, is now inaccurate.
- These effects apply to all Apple Mail emails no matter who the provider is, be it Campaign Monitor, HubSpot or Mailchimp.
Here are seven ways your nonprofit can respond.
1. Conduct Basic Hygiene
To get a more accurate picture of your file, first scrub it of email addresses that bounced before Apple’s updates went into effect on Sept. 20. You should also remove unsubscribers if your email provider doesn’t do that for you automatically.
2. Audit Your File
Next, examine your file pre-Sept. 20. What percentage of emails were opened on Apple devices? The amount should tell you to what extent the changes will affect your email communications and fundraising.
3. Revise Automated Triggers
Update campaigns or tasks auto-triggered by opens, such as resends. Instead, set them up to fire based on clicks or time-based triggers, like:
- Dates, such as donor birthdays
- Time, e.g., deploy email No. 2 three days after email No. 1
- Behavior, like abandoning a donation page
- When the recipient clicks on a link
4. Retool Your Performance Metrics
Open rates have long been a measure of engagement for marketers and fundraisers, so they must be replaced with other metrics. Choose those best aligned to your organizational goals and consider the following:
- Conversion rate. At what pace are you growing your recurring donations? How many sign-ups are you getting for volunteering opportunities?
- List growth rate. How many new subscribers does your newsletter gain per month? How many unsubscribe?
- Click rate. Does your copy or content compel recipients to click?
- Overall ROI. Dollar for dollar, do your email initiatives equal or exceed the investment in time, staff and budget your organization allocates? How might you improve?
5. Gather Missing Data Directly From Your Audience
Mail Privacy Protection requires Apple to use proxy servers, which means fundraisers and marketers no longer have detailed data about where exactly their recipients are located. You’ll still have access to national and state-level information, though, so you can comply with laws like GDPR and CCPA.
But you can also begin to use surveys or other interactive methods to gather more precise information from your recipients, such as their zip codes. Perhaps let them know about the changes Apple has implemented and its effects on your ability to provide more targeted, personalized communications. For-profit companies, like Amazon, Netflix and Spotify, have accustomed many of us to more personalized experiences, so don’t be surprised if your audience prefers the same treatment from nonprofits.
6. Begin To Think of Yourself as a Data Company
In every recommendation I’ve suggested, data has played a critical role, so it’s time to recognize the defining truth of our era: All organizations — for-profit or nonprofit — are data companies. Each time you collect donors’ names or emails, review their donation history or look at which events they’ve attended. You’re using data to guide your decisions about strategy or tactics. The sooner you embrace this mindset and get buy-in (especially from leadership), the sooner you’ll see improved figures across the board — whether that’s in terms of engagement, subscribers or the all-important revenue.
7. Explore Other Channels
Consider newer touch points, such as SMS, for reaching your audiences. You might even pair your email messages with a text. For instance, you could send an email that allows recipients to opt-in to receive texts from you about the progress of funds raised for a capital campaign.
While it may take some time getting used to Apple’s updates, that time is worth the effort. The company has too big of an email footprint to ignore. Of all emails opened on a mobile device in May of 2021, for example, 93.5% used an Apple product, while 58.4 percent of all emails opened on Mac desktops were via Apple Mail, reported email tech company Litmus. Simply follow these suggestions and your nonprofit will experience little to no turbulence as it charts a course through these changes.
Rebecca “Becca” Segovia is a seasoned fundraising executive with a strong vision and passion to help nonprofits reach more donors and raise more dollars to further their mission. With over two decades of leadership experience spanning the disciplines of marketing, fundraising, and technology, Becca provides guidance across client services, marketing and sales to help nonprofit organizations achieve breakthrough results. She has a special affinity for omni-channel and relationship-based fundraising strategies aimed at increasing donor lifetime value and nonprofit health.