4 Ways Nonprofits Can Win With Email This Holiday Season
Temperatures across the U.S. are still soaring, but back-to-school sales hint that fall is on the way—which means it’s time for nonprofit marketers to start planning for the 2018 holiday season. The holidays are a critical time for nonprofits to connect with donors, volunteers and advocates and drive them to action. But, unfortunately, nonprofits are often strapped for time, budget and resources—so reaching supporters in a cost effective way can be challenging.
Many innovative and successful nonprofit organizations rely on email marketing to help with this task. Email is a perfect fit for a nonprofit’s communication needs: It’s cost effective and easy to use, it can reach a vast audience with minimal effort and it’s proven to drive results. In fact, a recent report on nonprofit marketing found that nonprofit email lists grew by 11 percent in 2017, email revenue increased by 24 percent and email accounted for 28 percent of all online giving.
With numbers like these, it’s critical for nonprofits to squeeze as much value as possible out of the email channel. Following are five ways you can improve your nonprofit’s email performance this holiday season.
1. Know Your Sender Reputation
As a nonprofit marketer, you’re committed to reaching supporters and driving them to action. But mailbox providers (like Gmail, Yahoo and AOL) have a different agenda—and they’re the ones that decide whether your email reaches the inbox.
Mailbox providers want to provide the best possible inbox experience for email recipients, which means delivering only the messages that consumers really want—and sending unwanted mail to spam. One important factor in these filtering decisions is sender reputation. Similar to a credit score, sender reputation provides a way for mailbox providers to differentiate legitimate senders from spammers. Factors that contribute to your sender reputation include spam complaints, sending practices and list quality.
Our research shows that nonprofits have relatively few reputation issues, but it’s still a good idea to monitor your reputation to prevent deliverability problems. You can calculate your sender reputation using Return Path’s free tool, Sender Score.
2. Understand the Importance of Inbox Placement
Email is a great tool for reaching advocates and raising much-needed funds. But first, your email campaigns need to land in the inbox.
Not every email reaches its intended recipient. Some messages “bounce” due to bad email addresses. Others get filtered to spam. As of 2017, the average inbox placement rate for nonprofits was 76 percent—which means that one out of every four emails will never have a chance to be read.
Inbox placement is influenced by many factors—including sender reputation, list quality and subscriber engagement—so there’s plenty that a nonprofit marketer can do to improve this critical metric. Only those messages that actually land in the inbox have the potential to mobilize your audience, so maximizing your inbox placement is critical.
3. Learn the Value of List Quality
Building a list of highly engaged subscribers is important for any email marketer, but it can be a challenge in the nonprofit sector. Since nonprofits aren’t selling anything or offering direct benefits like sales or discounts, they often struggle to build a high quality list.
Some nonprofits solve this problem by renting or purchasing a list—a practice we generally don’t advise. Although they offer quick and easy access to subscribers, rented or purchased lists are often littered with spam traps, unknown users and other problematic addresses. Sending to these bad addresses will damage your sender reputation and limit your ability to reach the inbox.
The best way to acquire new subscribers is to do so organically. You’ll find plenty of smart list acquisition tactics in this ebook.
4. Look Into Whitelisting
Whitelists are the “secret weapon” of many successful nonprofit marketers. A whitelist is a record of senders who have proven themselves to be legitimate and responsible, by meeting established standards for reputation, engagement and sending practices. Email from whitelisted senders receives special treatment, which can lead to higher inbox placement rates.
Many mailbox providers offer whitelisting services, but benefits only apply to email sent to users of that mailbox service. Instead, consider a more universal whitelist that provides preferred handling with multiple mailbox providers.
With more than 15 years of marketing and PR experience, Jen Ribble is passionate about the art of storytelling and the science of creating high quality, data driven content. In her current role as director of public relations for Return Path, the world’s leading expert in email deliverability, Jen is responsible for elevating the company’s reputation in the marketplace, crafting engaging thought leadership content, enhancing customer relationships, and driving inbound leads.
In her spare time, Jen is an aspiring chef and food lover, a movie fan and a travel junkie.