It costs money to send an extra person an extra mail piece. It costs no money to send an extra person an extra email. So it’s natural to get logorrhea online and have a default of sending more to more.
But it turns out this does have a cost: $24,522. That’s the amount that the average nonprofit lost to spam last year according to the excellent 2017 EveryAction Nonprofit Email Deliverability Study.
In fact, the study says that for every one percent of your email going to spam, you lose $1309.
And most of this comes from indiscriminate use of email. We’ll skip over the issue of data hygiene, except to say that neither Spielberg or Scorsese have returned my calls about directing my data hygiene PSA.
Rather, we’ll look at how you can reduce the costs of spam to your organization:
Reduce your email volume. We covered this spiffingly a couple weeks ago but the TL;DR version is that you can send fewer emails and get the same revenue.
In fact, our research gnomes are polishing up a study that shows that your best, high-commitment donors are turned off by additional informational communications. While these increase retention for your less committed donors (who don’t already know your mission), telling your best donors what they already know decreases retention.
Incidentally, if you want to hear about this research in more depth when it comes out, please sign up for our email newsletter here. It’s where we’ll announce the study and related white papers, webinars, and world tours:
Personalize and customize your emails. Here, I’m not referring only to names, although that is important. We recently received an email here at DonorVoice Global Headquarters addressed to
From an organization large enough to know and test better.
But beyond this, it’s important to know who people are (i.e., identity) and what they want from your communications (i.e., preferences). In fact, DonorVoice research shows that allowing donors to control the type and/or frequency of communications from your organization is the number one way to get people to opt in. For identity, we’ve seen significant lift in response rates from knowing information as simple as what animal someone prefers (for an animal charity) and playing that back to them in communications.
Put more simply, have you ever marked something spam that felt like it was written specifically to you? How about something that felt like it was written by a machine for a machine? Other people are like that as well.
So what happened on Giving Tuesday with spam rates? The deliverability report said:
“For #GivingTuesday specifically, the data showed modest growth in email sends and open rates, but the spam figures revealed something shocking: the rate at which fundraising emails were rerouted to junk folders nearly quadrupled.”
“Using our research and benchmark figures, we found that a nonprofit with a list of 100,000, the average spam rate of 36.68%, and sending the average of 3 emails loses an incredible $6,184.47 on #GivingTuesday as a result of spam.”
This isn’t surprising. If you were somehow assigned to Dante’s eleventh circle of hell (they’ve added some on in modernity) and had to personally filter emails for spam, you’d see that an email was the third from an organization in one day and the 12th from any organization with the word “match” in the subject line and you’d drop it into the trash like it was an 800-pound maggot. Same thing with the computer spam filters.
And once you have one email that triggers a spam filter for a donor, the more likely you are to go into that spam filter for that donor and to go to junk for other donors. Deliverability is like trust – easy to lose, hard to gain back.
We’re not saying not to email on December 31st. But you can benefit from being an orange in a sea of apples by asking at different times and different ways — ones that are custom to your donors.
Make it easy to unsubscribe. A person telling you they don’t want to receive your emails is a good thing: you don’t have to waste your time on them and vice versa. And they won’t take more drastic actions like marking you as spam. It’s not just allowing people to unsubscribe easily; it’s asking for feedback in your communications. If someone is hot under the collar, it’s better than they vent their spleen at you than clicking “Spam” not only for your deliveries but also to learn what you can do better.
It’s not that these weren’t always good practices, but now they are survival tools. Spam rates went from under 10% in January of last year to over 20% in June and July with no appreciable increase in volume. Thus, we must make our emails relevant to our donors and constituents or filters are going to make our emails irrelevant.