Straight to your inbox
Get the best email and digital marketing content delivered.
Join 250,000 in-the-know marketers and get the latest marketing tips, tactics, and news right in your inbox.Subscribe
A nonprofit’s goals can look completely different from those of its corporate counterparts.
Consider, for instance, businesses that adhere to the model of growing fast and breaking things. These companies have the intention of taking risks and dealing with the consequences later, all in the name of growth. This is often where nonprofits and for-profit companies diverge.
Rather than risking things, nonprofits seek solutions to systemic issues, often requiring donations and volunteers to accomplish their mission. Because nonprofits are different than businesses, they also require different marketing techniques.
Because of this, we’ve built an in-depth guide outlining email marketing benchmarks for nonprofits based on our original research taken from billions of Campaign Monitor emails. You can see the benchmarks for all industries here.
Here’s a brief summary of our findings:
While nonprofits aren’t companies, they are competing for something—interested, engaged supporters. Like marketers, nonprofits need data to make smart decisions regarding what messaging to send and what goals to achieve.
We’ve discovered that, while nonprofit open rates trend higher than other industries, their click-through and click-to-open rates are lower. This shows that audiences are likely interested in news from their favorite nonprofits, but inciting click-throughs still need help. The bottom of this guide outlines some tactics nonprofits can utilize to encourage higher click-through engagement in their emails.
These rates can vary depending on the subject line and the relevancy of the subject matter for subscribers, but we found the average open rate for nonprofit emails to be 20.39%.
Email open rate is the percentage of the total number of subscribers who opened an email campaign.
Tips on how to improve your email open rate:
Your click-through rate offers insight into how many of your total subscribers visit your website and ultimately convert because of email. Comparing your open rates, click-to-open rates, and your click-through rates can reveal where your email marketing campaign is weakest, and thus where you have the greatest chance to see a major improvement.
We found an average click-through rate of 2.66% in nonprofit emails.
The email click-through rate is the number of subscribers who click on a link or image in your email out of all the total emails delivered, regardless of whether or not the subscriber opened the campaign. Your click-through rate will be smaller than your click-to-open rate since it’s calculated using the larger number of total emails delivered (versus just those that have been opened).
Tips on how to improve your click-through rate:
This is often a key metric used to measure the success—or lack of success—of a specific email campaign, as it reveals how many people who read your email were inspired to act because of its content.
We found an average email click-to-open rate of 12.99% in nonprofit emails.
The email click-to-open rate is the percentage of email viewers (those that open an email) who click on a link or an image within the email. The click-to-open rate may be considered a measure of the immediate response rate of an email’s content.
Tips on how to improve your email click rate:
Your unsubscribe rate is an important number to study on every campaign. It may reveal certain topics, subject lines, or templates that drive up your unsubscribes, as this is an indicator of an unhappy or uninterested audience.
We found an average unsubscribe rate of 0.17% in nonprofit emails.
Unsubscribe is the action a user takes to opt out of getting any more emails from you. The percentage of people who unsubscribe is often displayed as a reporting number on each email campaign you send.
Tips on how to improve your unsubscribe rate:
A bounced email is an email that couldn’t be delivered. There are two types of bounces: hard and soft.
We found an average bounce rate of 1.09% in nonprofit emails.
Specifically, a bounced email is an explanation of delivery failure related to server or spam issues, whether these issues are permanent or temporary. Typically, bounce rate is a metric expressed as a percentage of subscribers who didn’t receive your message.
Tips on how to improve your bounce rate:
Email spam is also called junk mail, and it sometimes includes phishing links from sites that host malware and viruses. It is sometimes sent in large, bulk quantities, while other times it appears as unsolicited commercial emails.
Campaign Monitor nonprofit emails have an average spam rate of 0.00%.
The spam rate is how often the recipient marks your emails as spam, based on information that inbox clients report to email service providers via a defined path.
Tips on how to improve your spam rate:
Below are the best and worst days for nonprofit email marketing at a glance.
Average open rate for all industries vs. nonprofits
Average click-through rate for all industries vs. nonprofits
Average click-to-open rate for all industries vs. nonprofits
Average unsubscribe rate for all industries vs. nonprofits
Average bounce rate for all industries vs. nonprofits
As you plan email campaigns for the future, there are specific steps you can take to increase engagement and effectiveness.
Elevate the messaging for each email you send with these powerful nonprofit tactics.
You’re probably familiar with personalization and segmentation. If you aren’t, these are simple elements you can add to your email strategy that will strengthen your relationship with subscribers and donors.
Personalization and segmentation often go hand-in-hand, especially since they influence and inform each other. You want your emails to feel personal and approachable, right? Especially when driving donations.
There are manual steps you can take to achieve personalization, but segmentation is also an automated step that allows you to make each email feel tailored to every single subscriber and donor, without actually having to design emails for every single constituent on your list.
When personalizing your subscribers’ experiences, try to to use their names: This can easily be done through your email service provider. Not only are subscribers more likely to read emails that address them by name, but it also promotes a sense of familiarity. This sort of familiarity is vital for nonprofits, which promotes a sense of belonging that can inspire donations
Another way to improve the personalization factor of your emails is by giving subscribers the chance to communicate with you. This means you should try out sending from a consistent person (e.g. “firstname.lastname@example.org”) rather than a no-reply address or generic “hi@.”
You should also include accessible options directly in your email, such as support availability and a detailed preference center. Encourage subscribers to utilize these options or reply to your email directly so your audience knows you’re available and ready to listen.
Segmentation allows you to separate your list into several groups based on subscriber differences. That preference center we mentioned above? It’s a perfect way to segment your audience based on how they self-identify.
You can segment based on gender preference, location, donation amount, loyalty, and much more. By paying close attention to your segments, you can easily create dynamic emails and localized content for your subscribers.
Notice how the American Red Cross segments emails based on blood type, as well as by donors who are eligible to give.
With just a bit of personalization and segmentation, this subscriber receives a highly tailored email: The messaging addresses them by name, notes their blood type, and outlines why their donation is critical at this time.
Automation can sound impersonal as a concept, but quality automation actually allows you to have consistently personal messaging, without the risk of forgetting subscribers at a crucial time in their relationship with you. And automation isn’t just for transactional emails like donation receipts.
In fact, you can automate your email marketing at every stage. For instance, let’s say a subscriber signs a petition you’ve sponsored, providing their email address and opting into your list. If you have a quality automation strategy, you hit donors and subscribers at crucial points in their journey. In this instance, you want to welcome them with a welcome email (and a drip series if possible) upon signup. This is a perfect opportunity to outline your mission and show them how they can be a part of it.
The above email from Save the Children is an example of welcoming new subscribers while also outlining the goals of the organization.
You can also automate based on the time of year, whether it’s one annual email that describes the year’s successes, or a monthly newsletter with timely updates. End Slavery Tennessee outlines important July information in its August newsletter.
No matter which emails you automate, you always have the opportunity to include a bold call-to-action encouraging subscribers to take their next step.
In addition to automated emails like transactional messages, welcome emails, and newsletters, your nonprofit should consider sending a few key emails throughout the year.
We’ll cover five emails your nonprofit should be sending, along with email examples of each.
Chances are, your nonprofit puts on one or several events during the year. Email is a great way to update people about the special happenings you’re sponsoring and encourage volunteers to join in. What’s more, email can offer an accessible call to action, unlike some other forms of promotional material.
Hands On Nashville facilitates numerous volunteer opportunities within the Tennessee area. In this email, several events are outlined, and subscribers have the opportunity to learn about each event and get in touch with coordinators. The email simplifies volunteering for subscribers.
Nonprofits often provide critical research that inspires and encourages change, sometimes on a global scale. Your donors can be a wonderful resource for information, which is why surveys are an important part of the subscriber journey.
Notice how this survey email from Plan International attempts to connect with subscribers based on the women and girls in their lives, then prompts them to take a survey.
As we discussed above, annual emails can be a thoughtful way to communicate your nonprofit’s successes over the previous year. This type of email is especially crucial for donors, as it provides insight into how their money is being spent, giving them a sense of where they fit into your nonprofit’s broader mission.
This example from the Sundance Institute provides a CTA for the 2018 annual report, as well as inspiring images and quotes from artists and filmmakers, driving home the idea that supporters make an impact.
Subscribers can be your biggest advocates, which is why you should nurture your relationship with them after they take action. Once someone volunteers or attends an event, encourage your active subscriber to take more action, by spreading the word or donating to your cause.
This email from the ACLU first thanks the subscriber for signing a petition, then goes even further, asking them to share the information with others on social media. By providing ready-made links, this email simplifies taking action.
Naturally, the email ends with a donation call-to-action, but not before outlining messaging the subscriber can use to encourage others to get involved.
For nonprofits, Giving Tuesday campaigns are perhaps the most crucial emails you can send. These emails serve as the final push for nonprofits at the end of each year, encouraging donations and often providing financial matches.
Because Giving Tuesday is such an important holiday, and because subscribers will be expecting to donate, it’s critical that you provide amazing Giving Tuesday messaging. Your email might be a detailed summary of the nonprofit’s goals, providing images and quotes, like this email from Amazon Frontlines. This is a thoughtful way to remind donors why they began giving in the first place.
Alternatively, you might keep it short and sweet, with one or two impactful statistics, like this Giving Tuesday email example from The Belcourt Theatre.
Another option during your Giving Tuesday campaign is to extend your Giving Tuesday offer. In this International Rescue Committee email example, the giving opportunity is extended thanks to a generous donor.
While the above email is a unique situation, consider extending your Giving Tuesday donation period, and provide additional promotion around it in a similar style.
If you’re building a nonprofit email strategy from scratch, or even if you’re just revamping an existing one, you don’t have to go it alone.
With this guide, you can easily measure where your nonprofit stands compared to the industry standards, and you can build out your upcoming campaigns with established examples from successful nonprofits, big and small.
Want to see more in-depth resources available to nonprofits just like yours? Check out Campaign Monitor’s nonprofit page, where we discuss nonprofit customer stories, helpful integrations, and more.
Join 250,000 in-the-know marketers and get the latest marketing tips, tactics, and news right in your inbox.Subscribe
With our powerful yet easy-to-use tools, it's never been easier to make an impact with email marketing.Try it for free