‘The Nonprofit Email Report’ Evaluated Thousands of Email Campaigns: Here’s What You Need to Know
When your nonprofit is creating email campaigns, do you consider what day of the week is best to deploy? Do you know which email metrics to track and actions to take based on your data?
With data from nearly 1,500 nonprofits, nonprofit software provider Neon One has evaluated more than 37,000 email campaigns totaling more than 157 million individual emails for “The Nonprofit Email Report.” The new report, which dropped today, also provides a look at nonprofit email benchmarks for both large and small organizations.
About a third of the organizations in the study are classified as “small,” or organizations with 250 to 999 contacts on their email list, which gives smaller nonprofits a better look at relevant email metrics for their campaigns.
“‘The Nonprofit Email Report’ is a critical step forward in our sector as we endeavor to ensure that every nonprofit, not just the well-resourced, has the data needed to make quick decisions that will enable them to connect with people and grow their community of generosity,” Steve Kriter, CEO of Neon One, said in a statement.
Neon One analyzed everything from the best day to deploy your emails (Fridays) to whether you should include emojis in the subject line (maybe?), but let’s focus on these three essential steps that will improve your email campaign strategy, based on data from the report.
1. Build an Engaged Email List
The average email list in the study had 4,191 contacts; however, that was heavily skewed by the larger nonprofits. Small nonprofits averaged 547 while large organizations averaged 6,602. While you may think there is strength in numbers, the priority is building a list of engaged supporters.
“In a best-case scenario, regularly emailing unengaged contacts can make them perceive your emails as ‘noise’ for them to tune out,” according to the report. “In a worst-case scenario, sending those unwanted emails will have a negative impact on your deliverability.”
Oversimplified translation: Your emails are more likely to end up in spam.
To build your engaged list, Neon One recommended using various points of contact to ask supporters to sign up for emails. That can be when they register or attend an event, and when they visit your website by using a lightbox.
2. Create Engaging Emails to Raise More Money
Neon One understandably didn’t analyze the copy for the thousands of email campaigns its platform sent in 2022, but provided a variety of insights into industry norms. Here are a few of its recommendations for creating engaging email content.
Include Preview Text
Your supporter can scan this text, along with the subject line, before opening an email. When included, nonprofits raised about 54% more than organizations that opted to not include preview text.
Ample hyperlinks are a great way to share a variety of information and measure engagement (See section No. 3). While descriptive text-based links work just fine, don’t limit yourself to them.
“Try using buttons or hyperlinked images instead of only using text hyperlinks,” Taylor Shanklin, CEO of Barlele, said in the report. “That’s not to say there’s never a time or place for hyperlinked texts, but it’s much easier to click on larger design elements — especially when you’re reading an email on your mobile device.”
Don’t Forget Calls to Action
It may seem obvious, but Neon One reminded nonprofits to not forget about the ask. Without a clear call to action, the donor might not give. The report found nonprofits averaged nearly $6,000 per email campaign, or about $3,522 and $6,513 when broken down between small and large nonprofits, respectively.
“Larger lists may include more unengaged contacts than smaller ones. They may also include a higher number of small dollar donors: A list that includes 200 donors who each give $10 … will raise more money overall than a list that includes 50 donors who give $30 each, but the smaller list will have a higher average raised per contact.”
3. Measure Your Email Engagement
There are a variety of metrics to analyze when determining the success of an email campaign. Open rate, for example, will provide a general understanding of how many supporters opened your email. The statistic won’t be exact since Apple allows users to opt out of sharing that information. With that in mind, Neon One found the average nonprofit open rate to fall around 29%. Small nonprofits hovered around 46% while large nonprofits remained near the overall average with 28%.
“If your CTRs are steady or rising — even if they’re lower than small organizations’ [CTRs] — you’re doing a good job of engaging your audience,” according to the report. “If your CTR is low, it may be time to evaluate your list and clean out inactive contacts, especially if open rates and bounce rates are high.”
More specifically, if subscribers are clicking through to your donation page but not completing a donation, Neon One recommended taking a closer look at your donation process.
“Your email appeal may be compelling, but an unpleasant donation experience can dissuade people from giving,” the report said. “Donation forms that are too long, include too many options, don’t help donors understand their impact, or include inappropriate suggested donation amounts can have a negative impact on your email campaign’s effectiveness.”
Amanda L. Cole is the editor-in-chief of NonProfit PRO. She was formerly editor-in-chief of special projects for NonProfit PRO's sister publication, Promo Marketing. Contact her at email@example.com.