Non-profits are still losing thousands of dollars a year in donations because of poor email practices despite hitting supporters' inboxes harder in 2015 than in previous years. That’s one of the findings from a new study conducted by EveryAction, NGP VAN's non-profit services arm.
Email remains the dominant fundraising tool for non-profits and campaigns alike. But in a study of 55 national advocacy organizations doing email outreach with a variety of ESPs, EveryAction found that 7 percent of their email was going to spam. That’s costing groups, on average, $7,400 a year in lost fundraising. In other words, a group loses roughly a grand for every email that gets spam filtered.
November is a particularly bad month for email fundraising when more than 10 percent of non-profits’ email goes to spam, according to the report. Meanwhile, February last year saw the lowest amount of email go to spam, at just under 6 percent. Those figures call into question the end-of-the-year fundraising efforts that most advocacy groups launch.
Another email myth that’s persisted despite the best efforts of digital consultants is the idea that a bigger list is better. “List size is still a metric that people care about,” said Brett Schenker, a deliverability specialist at NGP VAN and chief author of the study. “Not everyone is willing to cut their lists — that’s pretty consistent.”
Still, Schenker noted that non-profit groups are improving. Last year’s email report notes that groups lost $14,795 in 2014 because of spam. “There’s improvement,” he said of 2015. “[In 2014] spam was double digitals — around 12 percent — now you’re down to 7 percent.
“To see that is really great,” he said. “Every email that is not going to the inbox is a lost opportunity.”
That improvement has come with groups sticking to the basics, according to Schenker. “The real innovation is going on in corporate email.”
He pointed to Amazon, which is sending some 100 different versions of the same email to its customers. “You talk about scale, every small detail in everything they send is there for a reason,” he said.
Non-profits, on the other hand, say they’re testing their emails for how well the content is received, Schenker added. “But I’m not convinced they’re using data to know what people are really interested in.”
Still, organizations don’t need Amazon’s budget to improve their email deliverability, Schenker said. Groups can make simple changes and still see an improvement.
For instance, Schenker warned against relying on clicks and open rates as a way to measure success and noted that how a recipient reacts to the subject line and content were also a way to rate performance. He also suggested a welcome series after a supporter subscribes, an opt-in and confirmation, and insisted groups pay attention to inactives in order to cut them from their lists.
“A lot of old habits persist,” he said.