Nonprofit Email Open Rates Jumped
Nonprofit Email Open Rates Jumped

If it is Wednesday, people are opening emails from nonprofits. Nonprofits have the second best industry open rate, just behind government, according to Campaign Monitor, which examined 30 billion emails during 2019.

The average open rate for a nonprofit email was 25.2 percent with a click-through rate of 2.6 percent. However, unsubscribes were twice the average across all industries at 0.20 percent. The bounce rate also was high compared to all industry standards at 1 percent, compared to 0.7 percent as an average for all industries.

Campaign Monitor analyzed emails sent globally between January and December 2019. These campaigns were sent from Campaign Monitor customers from 171 countries to subscribers around the world.

Though government unseated nonprofits as the top industry for open rates, the 2019 top three industries in that category — Government, Nonprofit, and Education, respectively — were also top performers in last year’s report. However, they saw even better numbers in this year’s report.

Government open rates improved by double digits — 10.71 percent (from 19.79 percent for 2018 to 30.5 percent this for 2019). Nonprofit open rates improved by 4.81 percent (from 20.39 percent during 2018 to 25.2 percent for 2019). Education open rates improved by 4.5 percent (from 18.9 percent for 2018 to 23.4 percent for 2019).

“People feel exceptionally connected to the nonprofits they support because they typically feel deeply passionate about the cause — often because they have known someone who was impacted by the cause or have experienced it themselves This emotional tie makes them more likely to open a nonprofit email they’ve subscribed to because they’re invested in the goals and the mission of the organization,” said Lane Harbin, director of marketing at Campaign Monitor. “This differs from other consumer emails, such as retail, because of the lack of a compelling emotional tie.” 

Consumer Packaged Goods only saw 14.53 percent open rates during 2018 and remained consistent during 2019 at 14.5 percent open rates. However, that percentage was high enough during 2019 to make it out of the bottom three.

The Automotive and Aerospace industry saw the lowest open rates of only 12.6 percent, dropping from around 17 percent during 2018. Meanwhile, Food and Beverage (13 percent for 2019 vs. 15.48 percent for 2018) as well as Retail (13.9 percent for 2019 vs. 14.98 percent for 2019) both experienced lower open rates than the previous year to remain in the bottom three.

The top three industries by click-through rate remained the same as in last year’s report, though the ranking differed. Government jumped two places to become the top industry for click-through rate, while Real Estate, Design and Construction Activities, and Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting also remained within the top three.

Government click-through rates improved by 1.06 percent (from 3.04 percent to 4.1 percent). Real Estate, Design and Construction Activities click-through rates improved by 1.02 percent (from 18.88 percent to 19.9 percent). And Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting click-through rates remained relatively consistent, decreasing by 0.16 percent (from 3.66 percent to 3.5 percent).

Tuesdays see the highest open rates but also the highest unsubscribe rates across all industries with Wednesday being best for nonprofits.

“While it’s unfortunate there’s no simple hack to seeing more opens and click-throughs for your email marketing strategy, this means that marketers can stop chasing an elusive ‘best day’ and instead focus on the real answer to seeing better metrics: following email marketing best practices and A/B testing to discover the day your audience is most engaged,” according to the report’s authors. The highest-performing industries see high engagement in all areas.

While most average benchmarks remained consistent from 2018’s performance, there was an improvement in bounce rates and unsubscribes. Bounce rates improved by 0.36 percent and 0.8 percent fewer unsubscribes. This means marketers are getting better at sending emails their subscribers love and look forward to receiving, according to Harbin.

Not only are marketers keeping their subscriber lists up to date, they’re also keeping subscribers engaged with high-quality content that meets subscribers’ needs.

Harbin said that research shows that “the number one way donors want to hear from nonprofits is through emails from the organization — and that, actually, emails from an organization are the channel that would make them most likely to donate again. We see this reflected in the accomplishments of our nonprofit customers, who are generating significant portions of their total yearly donations through email marketing.” 

There are no magic words to get people to open emails, said Bob Albrecht, chief operating officer of Anne Lewis Strategies in Washington, D.C., which specializes in fundraising and digital communications. “However, testing is really easy, especially on things like subject lines. It allows for this systematic process wherein organizations can learn about their supporters and what compels them. It’s rigorous, but easy to execute,” said Albrecht.

Open rates have everything to do with how that address was acquired. “For nonprofits, you’re either building your list with people who’ve visited your website, a very proactive step, or people you’ve acquired via paid media,” said Albrecht said. “Both are qualifying acts, in their own way. I won’t overstate expertise on the private sector side, but I’d imagine you could be successful with smaller initial engagements, helping build audiences on softer relationships.”