What to do when donors start unsubscribing to the email list

Monitoring email subscription lists requires strong donor management skills.
Date Published
01/17/2014

Despite the ubiquitous nature of email marketing, it continues to be a tricky and fickle aspect of donor management for nonprofit enterprises. Many organizations have an expectation that a certain number of donors and followers will unsubscribe from their email list. Yet, after the large influx of interest and support that occurs during the holiday season and end of the year, it’s important that nonprofits aren’t caught off guard when more individuals than anticipated drop off of the radar.

The post-holiday email doldrums
The Internet marketing news source Clickz referred to the “2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report,” published by MarketingSherpa, when explaining the fact that organizations should be prepared to see an annual average unsubscribe rate of 3 percent. The report also emphasized this number can increase two-fold or possibly triple in the beginning weeks of the new year after the holidays fade into memory.

For nonprofit groups, this likely has a source in the fact that many donors wait until the end of the year to contribute to a cause they had set funds aside for. At the same time, many people earn their holiday bonus during the waning days of December, which provides an injection of money that they can put toward charity. There are a number of ways that nonprofits can avoid elevated attrition rates to their list of email subscribers.

Tap the breaks on pushy email subscription tactics
First, when donors initially request information from a charitable group or input their contact data while filling out a donation form, don’t automatically sign them up for an email subscription. While this might sound counter-intuitive – after all, improving outreach is generally positive – giving contributors control over what level of interaction they have with a nonprofit group generates respect between the two parties. Pushing contributors or prospects into being part of an email list gives the impression that the organization doesn’t care about their feelings or preferences.

Meanwhile, if a nonprofit wants to keep those who have elected to subscribe more engaged with the organization, it’s important to integrate dynamic content. Maintaining the same format and images can grow tiresome and put some donors off after extended exposure. One recommendation from HubSpot is including emails that contain a variety of content – for example, free digital guides or videos. As with any communication, these resources should be relevant to things that contributors previously expressed interest in.

While email lists will always face a certain level of abandonment, keeping donors in mind can improve nonprofit management strategies in a far more effective manner.

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