Email Marketing Know-How: Get More Opens, Avoid the Trash

Sending out emails can be frustrating, especially when you look at open rates.

You put your sweat and blood (stupid keyboard) into writing the perfect email. And some people have THE NERVE to not even open it??

How dare they. You can’t force your audience to open your emails, but you can increase the likelihood that they’ll click your perfectly-crafted subject line and stay engaged in your killer copy.

Build Your List, Check It Twice

Of course your list is going to produce subpar results if the list is subpar. Unfortunately too many nonprofits don’t recognize the importance of investing time. Every nonprofit is crunched for time and resources, and we all have a hard time with delayed rewards instead of instant gratification.

Just because somebody was once interested in what you had to say doesn’t mean they’ll always be engaged.

It’s required by law to have opt-out options in your emails (typically at the bottom). Keep your prospects from completely leaving by having specific subscription types, such as only receiving fundraising emails, or only receiving updates on a specific campaign. Then, if they go to opt out they can choose what type of content they’d like to opt out of. You could still save them in another aspect, but you should still have an option to opt out of all communications.

Beyond the opt-out law, the CAN-SPAM Act provides plenty of other regulations that if you don’t follow could end up causing you to be blacklisted, such as deceptive subject lines or misleading information. Basically, nobody will be able to receive your emails because they’ve identified you as spam.

Test Your Subject Lines

This is A/B testing, so maybe you should C if you can find some better results. (Editor’s note: We apologize for that bad joke.) A/B testing sounds overwhelming but it isn’t. A/B testing only means that you’re finding out which works better, option A or option B.

Beware of changing factors outside of your control. Maybe some of your recipients simply weren’t in the office one of the days, or they were feeling more in the mood to look at content on another.

You’ll never be able to send an email to the same exact list of people at the same exact time and see who opens which email. Technically you probably could, but your audience would be annoyed at the duplicated redundancy.

If you can, send the email to the same list, at the same time on the same day of the week (obviously not within minutes of each other, wait a week). It should contain the same content with a different subject line.

Seeing a problem here? Sometimes content doesn’t need to be sent twice. Try this for something like an event where you’ll be sending out multiple email blasts.

Or, you can segment your list and send half of your group an email with one subject line and the other half of your group a different subject line. Then, compare how the groups compare to one another with open rates.

Craft Your Message to Your Audience

Not every organization will have the same target audience, and not every person likes to consume a message in the same way. That’s why identifying the type of audience you’re trying to reach is vital for email marketing success.

If you know who you are contacting you can also craft a specific message that will help you achieve your goals for the campaign. These things take time, but the more time you put into it the greater your success will be.

Dig around in the analytics of your site. Depending on the provider you use, there should be a way to tell what types of site visitors you have, and your email marketing software should tell you about the people on your email list.

To take it one step further, segment your audience. Try crafting different messages for different demographics within your email list. The more you segment, the easier it is to cater to your audience.

Email marketing doesn’t have a magic bullet. You aren’t ever going to read an article that tells you how to make everyone open your emails. However, if you put the necessary time into refining your list, testing out subject lines and writing the right message, you will find the formula that works for you.


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

October 12, 2015

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