How nonprofits can improve email newsletter engagement

Charities that accept donations online have many things to consider when sending email newsletters. Although nonprofit marketing is different from the communications of for-profit organizations, charities should take note of their donors' preferences to boost email engagement.

Email newsletters with subject lines consisting of four to 15 characters have the highest open rates, according to MailerMailer's annual "Email Marketing Metrics Report." Longer subject lines can result in lower open rates. In the first half of 2012, the average open rate was 9.7 percent, and it climbed to 10 percent in the second half of the year. This may mean nonprofits need to adjust their email marketing strategies to increase effectiveness.

The study also assessed the timing for the best open and click-through rates. Open rates were at their highest within the first hours after delivery. Half of all opens occurred within six hours after a message reached recipients' inboxes. Tuesday was revealed to be the day of the week with the highest number of opens, but Sunday had the best click-through rates. Emails were most likely to be opened between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Additionally, personalizing the message resulted in an average open rate of 13.9 percent. Including a recipient's name in only the subject line lead to more opens as well, but personalizing the body and the headline reduced open rates.

How to improve newsletter engagement
Since newsletters are an important source of marketing for nonprofits, they may need to assess how they are writing and sending these communications. In some cases, adjusting the subject line and the time messages are sent can increase open rates. Although getting recipients to open emails is half the battle, nonprofits need to create content that will encourage readers to click-through to the website. 

Because Internet marketing has grown in significance, some organizations are making the mistake of reproducing their mailed newsletters in email format, Fundraising 123 stated. All online communications should be shorter than direct mail pieces to reduce the chances readers will abandon the email. If recipients need to download a PDF to view the newsletter, they are unlikely to read the content. Short headlines, compelling photos and relevant stories can increase engagement. 

Nonprofits can also use content to show donors they are important. Some organizations place too much emphasis on the work they have done and miss the opportunity to thank people who have supported the cause. Engaging previous benefactors may increase the chances they will make another contribution in the future. 

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