Email Delivery for Nonprofits: What You Need to Know
Facebook might be the king of social media but email is a far superior way to spread your good work to target audiences.
According to a recent survey, email remains the most effective digital marketing tactic with the best ROI, and with email marketing tools like Mail Chimp, EMMA, Constant Contact and Vertical Response, designing, crafting and sending an email newsletter or “e-newsletter” has never been easier.
However, just because the tools are easy to use, and you have a great strategy, doesn’t mean your nonprofit email will always get delivered to the addresses on your list – even if it’s the most amazing email EVER.
In fact, successful email deliverability is a lot more complicated than it seems.
At the most basic level, there are several gatekeepers you have to appease before you can even think about getting your email delivered:
- Your Internet Service Provider
Companies like Verizon, Comcast, and Century Link that provide your Internet are the first to pass on your email. They check your “email reputation” based on your IP address and decide whether they will allow your email to go through or not. Your email reputation is based on your history of spam reports, unethical email practices and being on an email blacklist.
- The Corporate Domain
Next is the corporate domain, which is the system administrator that handles computer and email issues for a business. These domains have filters in place to catch spam before it can even get to the spam filters set on your email service provider (like Gmail). Not all email addresses have this security filter in place, but many large companies do.
- Spam Filters
Email service providers like Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail have spam filters in place to catch junk before it enters your inbox. Getting past this filter is pretty easy if you know the rules.
Spam filters are always shifting so it can be hard to keep up, but there’s general advice that stays consistent year after year around the obvious words and phrases that set off spam filters. Avoid making these errors that can destroy your email credibility and deliverability.
At the more advanced level, you’ll want to make sure you keep your lists of subscribers clean and implement these best practices for effective email deliverability:
- Remove Hard Bounces
Hard bounces are emails that are incorrect, out of date, no longer in use, or made up. If you continue to send emails to these hard bounced addresses, Internet service providers are likely to consider you a spammer and as a result, your deliverability will suffer.
Some email marketing tools remove hard bounces for you, but some don’t, so go into your emails and remove those addresses that are invalid.
- Remove Users Who Haven’t Engaged
I know this feels scary! No one wants to shrink their list, but a smaller list of highly-engaged users is better because your open rates will go up, which improves your credibility as a sender in the eyes of the gate-keepers. A small and mighty list will lead to a higher ROI and ultimately receive better email deliverability than a giant list of dormant subscribers.
Insider tip: Take your list of dormant subscribers and send them a different email marketing campaign designed to motivate engagement. (Example message: “We noticed you’ve never donated a dime to our organization and that’s okay! We wanted to let you know about another way you can help.”
- Send From an Email Address in Your Domain
It might be tempting to send email campaigns using your free email service provider like Gmail or Hotmail, but don’t do it. This is due to a technical detail called email authentication, which you can read more about here. If you’re sending your e-newsletter from an @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, or @yahoo.com account it could drastically hurt your email open rates.
Set up an email address in your domain name (@prichardcommunications.com) and use that in the FROM line on your campaign.
- Segment Your Campaigns
A recent MailChimp survey, found that segmented campaigns have an average 14.4% better open rate than non-segmented campaigns. Segment your subscribers by location, interests or other factors to send more targeted emails that are relevant to your audiences to improve open rates. For more advice on segmentation, read this article from Unbounce.com.
- Make a New Subscriber “Double Opt-In”
“Double opt-in” requires a new subscriber to sign up for your newsletter and then to also click a confirmation email link to officially subscribe – hence the term “double opt-in.” Most experts agree that this is THE BEST way to handle your email list.
Only people who are truly interested in hearing from you will double opt-in, so this action assures that your subscribers are more likely to engage with your email.
- Monitor Your Open Rates and Clicks
Once your e-newsletter goes out, don’t forget to come back a couple days later to track your open rate and clicks.
Other metrics to track:
- What subject lines are working?
- What messages are resonating?
- Where are people clicking?
Use this information to analyze what’s resonating with your audiences and what’s not, to help you craft better and more engaging emails in the future.
For more email deliverability tips, check out these 10 things to avoid in email newsletters from Emma.com.
What email newsletter lessons have you learned?