Once you tiptoe into the world of measuring the effectiveness of anything, it’s hard to avoid going down a rabbit hole and being awash in terms and opinions and advice. It’s easier to say your fundraising emails are successful if your fundraising numbers are going up, but what if you could tweak a few things to make them even more effective?
At CharityEngine, we help some of the biggest nonprofits in the world get their emails delivered (we have an impressive 98% delivery rate) and we regularly offer tips on how to craft the perfect fundraising emails, and then how to use data to pinpoint ways to make sure they are getting the best results.
And once you start measuring data points, you’re in great shape to notice when something changes and get ahead of potential problems before your fundraising is affected.
Let’s cut through the noise and get you started tracking the right numbers! Here are the five key nonprofit email metrics to measure. And, if you’re a CharityEngine client, all of these are tracked on your email deliverability dashboard.
Metric #1: Click-Through Rate
Don’t mind us as we jump on a tiny soapbox. Many clients track email views as proof of good email deliverability. But there are a lot of behind-the-scenes actions that can make that metric unreliable. For example, IOS has implemented some changes to prevent pixel tracking – which means we, and therefore you, are prevented from tracking views.
Sometimes emails are delivered but land in spam folders, and sometimes your emails go to fake email addresses.
As you can tell, none of these situations will give you an accurate picture of your deliverability and engagement. What will? Your click-through rate. Even if we can’t measure views, we can measure clicks with 100% accuracy.
This metric measures deliveries to clicks. So you can tell, at a glance, what percentage of email recipients click on a link in your email. For nonprofits, the most prominent link is usually the “donate now” button. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch that number and see it rise?
If it’s low or declining, then you have a place to start increasing your rate, and therefore increasing your fundraising. And if you send an appeal email and have numbers way lower or higher than average, that tells you plenty, too.
Metric #2: Conversion Rates
Conversion rates fall in the similar-but-different category. If click-through rates tell you how many people clicked on your email to go to your website’s donation page, the conversion rate will tell you how many of those people actually donated.
Higher conversion rates indicate relevant content and a clear CTA, so those are two places to look if your conversion rates aren’t great.
If you want to improve your conversion rates, otherwise known as CRO or Conversion Rate Optimization, there are a few steps we recommend:
- A/B testing is the easiest way to see the most effective option. Send two emails to two groups of donors and change just one thing (the subject line, the color of the donate button, the header design) and see which one has a higher conversion rate. Through iterative A/B testing, you’ll land on the most effective email.
- Think about consistent branding. Use the same logo, colors, and messaging on both your email and your website’s donation page.
- Make sure your call to action, or CTA, is clear, prominent, and accessible.
- Consider an exit-intent popup on your website. If someone has clicked on your email and comes to your donation page but makes a sign indicating they’re leaving without donating, a heartfelt exit intent popup with a brief story and photo might make all the difference.
Metric #3: Unsubscribe Rate
This is a crucial rate to watch because it means a recipient is completely opting out of email communications from your nonprofit. (And you are required to honor this!)
But, as a recipient, you’d probably agree, sometimes it’s easier to delete an email than to find the unsubscribe button, or even to leave the email unread in your email inbox.
This number tells you the “for sure” unsubscribers. So it’s the best-case scenario! What can you do with this somewhat-unreliable metric? Just watch its direction. You want to see unsubscribes going down because you cleaned up your email list, reached out to those unengaged recipients with a “Click here if you want to keep hearing from us” button, and made your content more engaging and irresistible.
Metric #4: Bounce Rate
This cute little jumpy name goes back to email deliverability. It means the percentage of emails that don’t get delivered to an inbox: the email address doesn’t exist, the inbox is full, or—yikes—bad SPAM sender reputation or a restrictive DMARC record. If you want to learn the nuts and bolts of email deliverability, we’ve got you. It’s a user-friendly look at the basics you need to know.
Just to highlight the importance of bounce rates, if yours creeps above 5%, your sender reputation can suffer. And then your emails don’t get delivered reliably, and the cycle continues. It’s much easier to prevent a high bounce rate!
Again, we’re pretty good at email deliverability. Give us a ring if you want to learn more.
Metric #5: ROI
This metric measures how much money you’re generating during an email fundraising campaign. As with the previous metrics, this speaks to email deliverability and effectiveness.
In this case, higher ROI means your emails are getting into the right hands, the recipient is clicking on the “donate now” button that takes them to your website landing page, and they’re donating.
One could argue that if the other four metrics are looking good, this one will too, and we won’t disagree. The purpose of your email campaign is to raise money, and if you’re succeeding, the goal has been met.
When Measuring Brings Bad News
Sometimes you’ll measure something you haven’t previously considered, like bounce rate, and find yourself shocked by a number. It’s okay!
Numbers, bad or good or in between, just show you what you’re doing well and what needs work.
Check all five of these metrics and keep checking them to identify trends. A lot of the fixes are in your nonprofit’s hands: clean up your email lists, send captivating content, check out where your CTAs are, and make donating easy.
When it comes to DMARC and sender reputations, find a partner you can trust. One who has a history of success with the biggest nonprofits but treats you like you’re their only client. Can you think of one? We can!