How to Improve Your Charity’s Email Open Rate

Charity Marketing / 04 Oct 2022

Blog header for Beesting Digital blog 'How to improve your charity's email open rate'. In a box next to the title, there is a graphic of an envelope

If you work in third sector marketing, you’ve no doubt wracked your brains on the enigma that is email marketing. In particular, how to improve your charity email open rates.

What is an email open rate? And why does it matter? 

Email open rates are the percentage of recipients who open a specific email out of your total number of subs. Sounds simple? You’d think so, but not quite. 

You see, an email is generally only counted as opened after one of the following takes place: (a) a reader enables images in your email to be displayed in preview or full view mode, or (b) they click a link in the email.

Your email service provider will calculate your open rate by dividing the number of people who open your email by the number of emails sent out (that did not bounce or fail to arrive in someone’s inbox).

As of February 2022, the average email open rate for all industries is 29.55% which means nearly 7 out of 10 emails you send are never to be opened by subscribers. Yikes. 

Thankfully, there are ways to improve these metrics. Dig into some simple ways to snazz up your charity’s email marketing processes. With these nifty need-to-knows, you’ll be reaching more eyeballs – and new donors(!) – in no time. 

3 Ways to improve your charity email open rates

Smart(er) subject lines

Email subject lines are among the most – if not the most – important factors to consider for boosting open rates.  

Sharp and result-worthy subject lines are rarely the first sentences that spring to mind. You ought to base them on research and data. We may even go as far as to say that you should spend as much time writing your subject line as the sum of the content within your email. 

If your subject lines fall just short of engaging your reader, it’s a surefire way to junk land or the bottomless pit of long-lost, unread emails.

Without coming across as cryptic, your subject line should reveal enough to pique curiosity but not so much that your reader feels they already know everything included inside. Little teasers, if you like. 

Encouraging power words – persuasive terms that trigger a psychological or emotional response – such as life-changing, unbeatable, or hero can also crank up user interest. 

Top tip: make sure the email contains what your subject line promises. Tricking users with false pledges will fast-track you to unsubscribes. 

Segment your audiences

Did you know that about 300 billion emails go out every single day? Not everyone receives that amount, obviously – unless you’re the editor of Vogue, maybe – but it’s still a reminder that you’re competing with tons of incoming and outgoing mail. So if recipients don’t think an email is relevant to them, will they waste time opening it to find out? Probably not. 

A great way to increase the relevance of your emails is email segmentation, the process of separating subscribers into groups based on set criteria. Charities can segment groups based on past volunteers, loyal donors, or fundraising event attendees.

Based on data from over 1000+ marketers, Hubspot recently revealed that 78% of marketers view segmentation as the most effective strategy for email marketing campaigns.

Segmenting audiences can help organisations to: 

  • Improve personalisation
  • Increase product or campaign relevance
  • Improve deliverability
  • Advance charity digital marketing effectiveness, leading to more conversions

Perfect your timing 

When managing social media for charities, you don’t send out posts willy-nilly. You choose the optimum time, right? It’s the same for email marketing. Optimising what time you send campaigns can maximise open rates tenfold. 

Most email service providers offer something called Send Time Optimization (STO). STO is an AI-driven tool that analyses the email responses of every recipient against the campaign launch time. With this data, you can dispatch batches of emails at the optimal time for your audience or segment. This add-on could elevate your marketing for charities, uplifting engagement without you having to break a sweat.

Want to take this a step further? Many providers also offer time-zone optimisation and personalised delivery. This can ensure each individual receives your email when they are most likely to engage – rather than based on an average or group estimate. 

Top tip: tackling social media for charities? Take advantage of your email marketing and repurpose your email or newsletter content for alternative social platforms. 

There are many more ways you can streamline your charity email marketing and improve open rates. If you’re in the process of refining your email marketing strategy, good luck – and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.