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Jennifer Jones Ingram 5 min read

Why Email Deliverability is the Most Important Metric for Nonprofits

List size. Open rates. Page views. Click-through rates. Dollars donated. These are often the key metrics a nonprofit uses to determine the success of their digital program. However, it’s not the most important one.

The most important metric is email deliverability, or how many of the emails you send are making it into the recipient’s inbox.

Many nonprofits might be surprised at the impact spam has on their bottom line. According to EveryAction’s 2017 Nonprofit Email Deliverability Report, nonprofits are losing, on average, over $24,000 a year because of spam. In 2016, 18.6% of nonprofit emails were delivered to spam folders each month. That number jumped to over 30% in the month of December. And on Giving Tuesday alone, it jumped to almost 37%!

So, what is causing so many of your emails to go into spam folders? Here are some of the main culprits for rising spam rates: 

  • Making Unsubscribing Difficult – frustrated users who can’t easily unsubscribe will often mark your emails as spam to get off your list.

  • Using an Out-of-Date Mailing List – continuing to mail to inactive and out of date email addresses significantly worsens your deliverability rates.

  • Sending Irrelevant Emails – not providing engaging and thoughtful content to your list will result in disinterest, or worse, high complaints and higher spam rates.

So, how can nonprofits improve their email deliverability? Here are EveryAction's recommendations:

  • Send a Welcome Series to all new subscribers and donors. A Welcome Series gives your organization the opportunity to, well, welcome new people to your organization, educate them on your wonderful mission and work, and ask them to engage with your cause through a donation. A Welcome Series also helps you identify those who may not really be interested in your emails. By having a clear and easy unsubscribe option on these emails, you can take out people who may eventually cause your deliverability rates to fall.

  • Focus on email bounces. Check first to make sure there’s not a technical reason for the bounces. If not, and a particular email bounces 2 or 3 times, get rid of it. Emails that continually bounce raise alarm bells with email service providers.

  • Pay attention to your inactive emails. If someone doesn’t open or respond to your emails for over a year, remove them from your list. High rates of inactive emails are spam triggers for many email service providers. The more inactive emails on your list, the more likely you are to have trouble sending your emails.

  • Keep your HTML clean. If your HTML is messy and things aren’t coded properly, an email service provider can flag you as a “bad sender,” landing your emails in their spam traps.

With Giving Tuesday and year-end fundraising just around the corner, now is the time revisit how you manage your email list. By taking steps now to clean up your list, your organization will increase its email deliverability and raise more money this holiday season.