Stephanie Tippitt

QUICK SHOT: Do you worry about sending too many fundraising emails?

“Are we sending too many emails?”

This is a question our digital team gets asked a lot, especially right now. And honestly, we DO send a lot of emails on behalf of our clients between September and December! With Thanksgiving, Christmas, Giving Tuesday and Year End fundraising all happening in this window, the number of emails stacks up quickly.

Here’s why your 4th Quarter fundraising is so important:

  • 50% of nonprofits receive a majority of annual donations between October and December
  • 31% of annual giving occurs in December
  • 12% of all giving happens in the last 3 days of the year (for reference: 12% of a year is 44 days!)

With so much at stake, a nonprofit would NEVER want to jeopardize any income during this period. And so, I get why nonprofits get sensitive about how many asks they’re sending at this time of year.

So are you sending too much email? There are lots of ways to answer this question, which I’ll dig into in a minute, but here’s my short answer: No. You’re NOT sending too many emails, I promise!

Just be sure your email marketing program includes these 5 important steps:

1. Send your email subscribers relevant and varied content

As a fundraiser, it’s my job to create fundraising-focused emails that will generate revenue. But fundraising emails should only be a portion of the email content your donor receives. According to the 2020 M+R Benchmarks Study, nonprofits sent an average of 50 email messages per subscriber in 2019. On average, fundraising appeals accounted for 22 of these messages, newsletters for 11 and advocacy messages, 7.* Add additional non-fundraising communications into your mix throughout the year including: thank you messages, organization updates, testimony/success stories, event invitations and advocacy messages.

Variety of email campaigns

2. Use list segmentation and timing

Most of the fundraising appeals that we send for our clients have scheduled resends with specific list segment requirements. A great example of this is resending the original email to a subscriber who didn’t open it the first time around. While it may feel like you’re emailing the same email to the donor again, you’re not.☺ The more a list can be segmented to send personalized and targeted emails, the better. Use a marketing automation platform like Salesforce, HubSpot or Virtuous (to name a few) – it’s the ultimate way to manage your donor communications and feel good about exactly when and how many emails are going out in a given time period.

3. Conduct good list hygiene

Check your email list semi-annually and remove any people that haven’t responded to your emails. Our BDI team has determined a recency and frequency that makes sense for our clients and typically remove 30% of the file to an inactive segment. Then get creative with a reactivation email to these folks, inviting them to reengage with you. This helps maintain higher delivery rates to your active file, and stops you from emailing folks who either aren’t interested or don’t want to engage with you via email – which will help you feel confident that the emails you’re sending out will be welcome by the recipients.

Sample Reactivation Series emails

4. Reply to any email responses to your email campaigns

Pro Tip for Email Campaigns

During the busy 4th Quarter fundraising season, you may receive a few emails from donors who express concern at receiving too many emails, or hear from a donor who already gave to a previous email they received. My advice: respond quickly, acknowledging their concern and thanking them for their support.

5. Watch the results

Another important way to measure your success and to determine if there’s any donor fatigue in terms of receiving too many emails is monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) on any campaign, such as:

  • Open rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Delivery rate

Unsubscribes and list attrition is going to happen. It’s why you also need to have list building strategies throughout the year. As long as the key measurements stay within a healthy range, then the extra emails that get sent in the fall are only benefiting your organization by raising the additional revenue needed to support your organization’s goals.

Want to discuss the specifics of your email marketing program? Feel free to email me directly at I would love to hear from you!

Check out last week’s Quick Shot: “Approach 2021 fundraising like a competitive rower!”››

  • Stephanie Tippitt

    Stephanie Tippitt, Senior Vice President, Digital Strategy

    With more than 20 years of professional experience in digital media and cross-channel marketing, Stephanie has spent her career helping clients realize the potential of digital. As the Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy for BDI, she uses her experience to guide clients through digital development such as website optimization, email marketing, data-driven analytics and tracking, paid digital media and new media trends. She regularly coaches internal and external teams on Digital Marketing Strategies and tactics that can be used to reach more donors and generate increased revenue.

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