NGO Emailing: newsletters that deliver results

NGO emailing insights cover

NGO Emailing: newsletters that deliver results

NGO Emailing: newsletters that deliver results 1900 1267 AY Institute

This autumn our newsletter open rate has risen from around 30% to more than 40% – a result, which could be considered an achievement for any organization. Us being us, we have decided to share our insights with the community.

Est. reading time: ~5 fruitful minutes

How to increase the email open rate?

Naturally, your decision whether to open an email depends on two things mostly:

  1. Who is sending the email?
  2. What is the subject?
email senders and subject lines

The sender and the subject line are the main factors when deciding whether to open an email.

Hence, to increase the email open rate, you need to work on both variables.

Let us first talk about the sender. Are people more likely to open something from an organisation (e.g. Active Youth) or a person (e.g. Sophia)? Or perhaps stating your position at the organisation (e.g. Manager at Active Youth) makes sense? How about giving both your name and the organisation you represent (e.g. Sophia from Active Youth)?

Poll: which sender is the best?

To be sure, the results here may vary across the sectors. Yet, our experience in the NGO emailing shows that it is best to state both your name and the organisation represented: e.g. Sophia from Active Youth. That is, such sender had the highest open rate.

Why? The answer is not based on hard scientific evidence, but it seems that people get to a more personal level when seeing a name of someone. For instance, this is the reason why salespeople always state their name when trying to sell something to you. Whereas, showing that you belong to an organisation gives you more credibility, i.e. you look less like a spam.

A/B testing notice: we recommend to always check whether something works for you (or not) by testing it first. For example, send half of your emails with one subject line & the other half with another. Lastly, compare the results and adjust your strategy.

How to rock emails’ subject lines?

At the end of the summer of 2020 we did an analysis of our subject lines to see which of them had the highest open rates. What we have realised is that all the best subject lines had similar features:

  • they were short (4 to 6 words)
  • had a clear value offer for the reader
  • they’ve had either ⭐ (which creates association with starred/important emails – a feature of Gmail) and/or some related emoji at the end (e.g. ✈️ if your email is going to be related to travel)

Informed by the above findings, we have switched to writing subject lines that fit the criteria. I.e. are both short and enticing. The results speak for themselves:

NGO emailing subject lines examples

Great email subject lines are short, enticing and may have an emoji (screenshot from our MailerLite account)

Note: some words in subject lines might be considered as spam (e.g. “WIN”, “Lottery”, “Prize”) by email service providers. Thus, be careful not to overdo it.

Simple trick to increase email open rate by up to 10%

Note: this works only if you are sending bulk emails (i.e., to many recipients at once). Not sure how to send emails in bulk? Find more information at the bottom of this section.

Let us say you have sent your email campaign to 100 recipients. 50 of them (i.e., 50%) have opened the email. That’s good. But how about the other half? Chances are that:

  • they either have not even seen the email (very likely given the sheer amount of emails sent everyday)
  • or did not get interested by the subject line / sender, etc.

Do you let them go? No, it is far better to try one more time. By that we mean sending the same email (with a changed subject line, preferably) to the recipients, who didn’t open the first bulk email. Our experience shows that this trick boosts the overall email open rate by up to 10%.

Is it difficult? Not at all, if you’re using email service providers, such as MailerLite. They usually provide the option to resend the email campaign to a part of your initial audience (with one button click). Which makes your job easy here.

How to keep your email audience loyal?

Even though having perfected the sender and the subject line is important, that is not enough. To keep your readers coming back, you will have to pay attention to your main content too. This is what we do each time we craft a newsletter:

  • Every newsletter has the same layout, little text, and a smart number of high-quality pictures
  • The content is a mix of information, education & offers

Why? Email readers do not have much time, i.e. they skim through content (and that is at best). Thus, you need to keep the layout simple and highly anticipated. In other words, do not make your users learn where is what every time they open your email. Surely, the usefulness of stuff / resources provided plays a big role too. I.e. the user needs to get some benefit out of your email.

🥇 Emailing rule #1: an email that does not give anything to the reader and/or is frustrating to read is better kept unsent.

Lastly, always keep an eye on the emailing statistics (see below on how to do that) and make decisions accordingly.

Example of NGO emailing / newsletters

Currently, Active Youth is mailing two regular newsletters:

  1. Biweekly newsletter for the wider audience and youth in particular (in Lithuanian)
  2. Quarterly newsletter created for NGOs, policymakers, businesses, and other stakeholders (in English)

As you can see, our two regular newsletters are targeted at different target groups. The biweekly Lithuanian newsletter is for everyone who is keen to take part in youth exchanges, local events, initiatives and similar.

On the other hand, the quarterly English newsletter is suited for organisations, policymakers and businesses who are interested in learning the latest developments from the field.

Feel free to subscribe to whichever by clicking on the links above.

What emailing tools to use?

Our preferred email marketing tool is MailerLite. It has a freemium model and allows you to:

  • send in bulk (to many recipients at once)
  • build beautiful and effective emails in an user-friendly way (drag and drop)
  • track how many people have opened your email. clicked on your links and buttons, etc.
  • collect subscribers, see the percentage of active readers, etc.
  • make A/B tests for our subject lines, senders, content, etc.
  • and much more

Of course, there are more emaling tools in the market. So it is up to you to choose the one that best suits your needs.

Why newsletters are important for non-profits?

To sum up, regular newsletters are a great way to keep in touch with your community by offering them extra value. With the help of email marketing tools like MailerLite, you can keep an eye on what works and what does not. By following the reading patterns and getting to know your readers, you can get a better insight into what to do next / improve your services.

Poll: is/was this useful for you?

What other digital tools are recommended by top NGOs?

Get to know 4 more user-friendly digital tools for non-profits. In this article we tell how to get free access to them and explain why they are useful.

More useful resources for NGOs

Active Youth Association offers a range of useful resources and insights at no cost. Interested? Then check them out:

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