3 simple email improvements to make more money during EOY fundraising

We’re just over halfway through 2016 and, if we’ve learned anything so far, it’s that online fundraising has really found its stride in the nonprofit sector.

In fact, according to the annual Benchmarks report from NTEN and M+R, email fundraising revenue alone increased by a whopping 25% last year, outpacing the overall growth of other online revenue sources.

Great news, right? So all is well and the end-of-year (EOY) fundraising push should be more profitable than ever!

But what if I told you that bad email deliverability practices could be dragging down your EOY campaign before it even begins?

Let’s take a look at some newly-released nonprofit email deliverability findings and find out what you can do to reduce fundraising revenue losses simply by sending better email.

What email deliverability is and isn’t

Email deliverability is relatively easy to understand—it’s a measure of the success of email arriving in inboxes rather than, say, a junk folder. It’s affected by a lot of factors (and the rules are always changing), but spam and spam-related issues are generally the most common determinants of deliverability successes and failures.

What email deliverability isn’t is a metric that enough nonprofit fundraisers look at to determine the efficacy of their email programs.

Normally, fundraising teams use open rates, clicks, and conversion metrics to measure the success of email campaigns. Email service providers like Google and Yahoo!, however, look much more carefully at how recipients actually engage with your emails right down to the individual to determine an email’s spam score and your sender reputation, or Sender Score.

By not understanding deliverability or the rules that govern it, nonprofits fall victim to the plight of the black market pharmacist and the exotic lottery administrator: their messages end up being rerouted to the junk folder, never to be clicked or seen again.

EOY fundraising implications

Last month, EveryAction released its 2016 Nonprofit Email Deliverability Study, an examination of over 50 national nonprofits of all shapes, sizes, and internet service providers to establish some benchmarks for successfully engaging audiences and soliciting donations through email.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Spam costs the average nonprofit about $7,400 in potential fundraising revenue every year
  • Each month, 7.03% of nonprofit emails end up in spam folders
  • Nonprofits could increase email fundraising revenue by 7.56% if they improve their deliverability rates

While the data revealed some good and bad news for the state of email fundraising as a whole, it also shed light on a painful reality: the average spam rate for fundraising emails jumps to 9.27% on #GivingTuesday and 10.19% during EOY fundraising.

If that doesn’t shock you, the financial breakdown of what that means in fundraising revenue might.

Let’s do some math:

Using the same study’s research and benchmark figures, we find that an organization with an email list of 100,000 that sends the average 2.35 emails on #GivingTuesday (with the average rate of those emails ending up in spam folders) could be leaving $955.47 of potential revenue on the table on the biggest fundraising day of the year.

Try explaining that to your ED.

Deliverability tips from an expert

Believe it or not, there’s still time to make some small but mighty improvements to your email practices that will help you avoid the EOY spam trap.

Brett Schenker, EveryAction Email Deliverability Specialist, former NTC panelist, and all-around spam expert, offers these three quick fixes to get you on the path to deliverability nirvana.

Always opt-in and confirm

Not only should you be explicitly asking individuals if they’d like to opt into your email list, you should also send a follow up email to confirm their address is correct. By opting in addresses and confirming them, you ensure the person on the other end absolutely wants to hear from you.

Cut the “zombies” from your list

Inactive email addresses comprise those who have not opened or clicked one of your emails in more than one month. First, you can try a reactivation email series with specific messaging focused on getting them to re-engage with you. If they continue to be inactive for more than a year, then it’s time to remove them from your list.

While they may seem innocuous, internet service providers can turn dead email addresses into spam traps, marking all emails to that address as spam and seriously hurting your sender reputation. You (and your deliverability rates) are better off sending emails only to people that really want to hear from you.

Ask your provider about deliverability

In this case, an ounce of prevention could be worth thousands of dollars. That said, your email provider can give you information about your email deliverability, sender reputation, and more that isn’t always accessible from your end.

A good provider should work with you to monitor key deliverability metrics like sender score, as well as act quickly to fix problems like blocks and blacklisting before they get out of hand.

More deliverability data and tips from Brett to safeguard your EOY fundraising revenue is available in the 2016 Nonprofit Email Deliverability Study from EveryAction.

Marcella Vitulli
Marcella Vitulli works in Community & Creative at EveryAction. She writes about trends in nonprofit technology, marketing, fundraising, and more on the EveryAction blog. She believes in climate change, a woman’s right to choose, and that nonprofits should love their software.