Email Campaign Success Depends on the Details
June 6, 2008 — As nonprofits increase their use of email to reach—and build—their constituencies, one of the biggest challenges they face is how to break through the flood of competing emails and avoid being rejected as spam.

A recent special report published by The Nonprofit Times offered specific ways to improve email readership and click-throughs, links from your email message to your website. It suggests the following:
  • Design graphically-appealing emails

    Brand your emails graphically with your site. Include strategic photos throughout the emails. Design themes for each season to keep things graphically pleasing.
  • Keep It simple

    One of the goals is not to overwhelm the reader with too much information in the email. Keep emails short, highlighting information and allowing them to click through to read the full report or story. Lengthy emails overwhelmed the reader.
  • Make your goal/objective of the email prominent

    For fundraising emails, focus clearly on the one or two things you want to say to. Most people skim through emails so you need to make your message jump out to the reader.
  • Test subject lines

    Create two small segmentations and send out the same email with two different subject lines. Then, analyze the results to determine which email has the best open rate. Use that subject line to distribute the full email campaign.

Key to any email campaign is maintaining current email addresses, a never ending but crucial task.

Getting People to Open Your Emails

Having the right email addresses and taking care to design email campaigns is just part of the battle to get recipients to open your email. Chad Nykamp, of Salem Web Network in Richmond, Virginia, recommends the following to help readers engage with your content:
  • Use a person’s name in the “To” line. This can increase response by as much as 10%.
  • Strategically think about the “From” line since 70% of readers make their decision to open an email based on the “From” line and subject line. Use the name of the organization or a well-known name from the organization in the “From” and subject lines. This can increase open rates by 32% to 60%.
  • Design for the preview pane and tell “who” and “what” at a glance.
  • Keep subject lines to 50 to 65 characters and avoid words, such as “help,” “reminder,” and “percent off.” These words won’t trip the spam filter but will negatively affect open rates.
  • Be straight-forward and avoid flashy phrases in the subject line. Don’t use all caps or exclamation points.
  • Questions are often the best-performing subject lines.
  • Test subject lines over and over. This is truly the only way to determine what works and what doesn’t work.
For the full special report, click here.