Charity emails are the least opened – 5 ways you can be more inbox-friendly


Despite the constant changes in social media and communication, e-mail is still one of the most successful methods to get your message across to supporters, donors and the general public.

However, with inboxes bustling at the seams with similar messages how do you ensure that your communication gets the right impact?


The Direct Marketing Association has just released its Email Benchmarking Report 2017 and it is bad news for non-profits. Overall, it states that emails are read 14.2% of the time but non-profit mailings scored a lowly 6%.  You can view the complete findings here.

1At Chester Voluntary Action, we use Mailchimp for our monthly e-bulletin. It claims that the average open-rate for the sector is actually 22.1% and we are pleased to say that our open-rate is constantly above this. One benefit of using such a service is that you can track the results of each ‘campaign’ using analytics and therefore you can see who is reading and interacting with your e-marketing campaigns.

While Mailchimp is our e-marketing weapon of choice, other free or cheap tools you may use for sending updates may come from your CiviCRM database; WordPress plug-ins such as Mailpoet; or other online services such as Mailjet or the new non-profit focused TT-Mail (from TT Exchange). Each of these has the option to provide the statistics you need to see what is and isn’t working for you. This isn’t the case with standard emails of course where you hit ‘send’ and then it disappears into the unknown…


To make the most of email communication, here are five points to take into account to stand out . Some of these we will be adopting based on lessons learned from our own communications:

1. Attention-grabbing title
For a long time, our monthly e-bulletin had a title that was just that: ‘CVA Latest E-bulletin’. We thought our members would like the familiarity but it doesn’t really capture the imagination. In future our titles will mention some of the themes within the e-bulletin. We’ll also be using the new ‘Preview Text’ option in the Setup stage of creating a Mailchimp campaign.

2. Vary your send time
As before, we always sent our e-bulletin out on a Friday afternoon, hoping for more impact with people reading it at their desks as they wind down for the weekend. Instead you should try out different days and times. Monday morning might not be the best with people catching up with emails from the weekend but look at the analytics behind how your social media posts do and when you get the most interaction or ‘reach’. That may be a hint of when to send out your larger communications.

3. Avoid the Spam folder
There are no easy ways to avoid this. Using certain language can consign your lovely campaign straight to the scrapheap. If you have a free event coming up, saying it is ‘free’ should be important but that word is often a no-no for some email providers. In this case, the word should be on the poster image so no need to type about it. You want to sell your news, your events but don’t be too ‘sales-y’ about it. Keep up to date on what words might be spammy. Also, avoid red font!

4. Split your audience
It is common sense that some of your news might be more of interest to some groups than others so why not put them on different lists? You can have a separate list for volunteers, donors, the media…the choice is endless providing you don’t go over subscriber limits (2,000 in the case of Mailchimp). You can then tailor your communications to each group and you are keeping your messages relevant.

5. Monitor your audience
So you are getting a 25% open rate and it’s above the industry average! This is great but it isn’t really a cause for celebration. Mailchimp allows you to create sub-groups or rules from certain demographics, one of which is ‘hasn’t opened any of the last 5 campaigns’. If you have a large number here then you may want to do something about it. You could send one of those ‘We miss you’ type mailings or try to find out why they aren’t engaging. Using a tool other than Mailchimp may help here.



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