July 29, 2014


Five reasons your email was deleted

Frank Barry

Frank Barry

Are you are about to hit send on that year-end appeal email? Stop!

First, be sure to review the following five reasons why email messages fail:

Weak subject

The subject line is the first thing people see. It's what gets their attention. It's what captures their imagination. Simply put, it's what gets people to open your message.

Knowing that should make you think long and hard about the subject line in all of your outbound email communications.

A few tips:

  • Keep it short. People don't want to read a lot, and with the rise of email consumption on mobile devices, the space they have to see your subject line is limited.
  • Tell them what they are about to get/read. Don't trick people or make the subject catchy just so someone will open your message. People won't continue opening long term if you treat them like that.
  • Make it interesting. Make the subject interesting and compelling. Then back it up with great content.

Poor design

The one tip I've got for you when it comes to email design is to make sure your outbound emails are designed to match your nonprofit's brand.

Include your logo and get the basic color scheme to match your brand.

Remember, you have a chance to reinforce your mission each time you touch a supporter.

Too long

Nowadays, people are getting used to reading less. Pay attention to this trend and start reviewing your email content with an eye for length.

Be a stickler about keeping your message short, clear and valuable to your audience. Remember, if you've got more to say, you can always provide links to content on your website.

No call to action

Not every email is intended to drive event registration, donations, etc., but every email should have a call to action.

Even if it's simply driving people back to your website where they can engage with you more deeply, consume more content, learn more about your mission and programs and see how your nonprofit is changing the world.

Lacking analytics

As with anything you're trying to get better at, if you don't measure it, you'll never know if you're improving.

First, make sure you are using an emarketing tool that allows you to track all of the basic email statistics (open rates, clicks, actions taken, money raised, etc.).

Second, use the tool correctly so you can both capture the metrics you need and use the data to make educated decisions about what to do next.

Third, get into the habit of reviewing the metrics. Analyze your data to see if your emarketing efforts are in line with industry standards. NTEN and M+R have developed a great report on nonprofit emarketing benchmarks, providing guidelines for open rates, click-through rates, response rates and unsubscribe rates for email marketing.

While is it important to benchmark against industry standards, it's equally, if not more important to benchmark against your previous performance to make sure you are improving.

A good way to start is by tackling one of the five problem areas above.

Frank Barry is manager of professional services at Blackbaud.


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