Show Me The Way To The Inbox! 3255

Show Me The Way To The Inbox!

Whether we are reaching out to our constituents with a fundraising request, a call to action, or with a newsletter, we want to be sure that message is read — and it’s only read if it gets to the recipient’s inbox. There is a new world out there when it comes to deliverability. Email service providers are barraged by mountains of email and their main objective is to ensure that the emails that reach the inbox are relevant and wanted. To do so, they incorporate dynamic analysis on inbound email to determine several factors that will determine whether or not the message makes it in front of the recipient.

Engagement Analysis

Gmail is a leader in the dynamic analysis of inbound email. Based on the actions across the Gmail user base to a specific message, including opening, clicking and reporting as spam, Gmail will dynamically determine whether an in-flight email is worthy of the inbox or foldering. Foldering with Gmail can mean to move the message to the Subscription tab or to the spam folder. This means it is more important than ever to deliver your email to engaged constituents. This article explains how to segment your housefile to create groups of your most engaged constituents to ensure the peak level of effectiveness of your messages.

Explicit Opt-in

All Blackbaud email marketing software requires the use of an explicit opt in, meaning that the user has to have explicitly noted that they would like to receive mail from your organization. This means that when you’re performing a constituent upload or in any way adding a constituent to your housefile on their behalf, you are doing so under this requirement.

Adding a list of constituents who do not know your organization or that were acquired from another organization without the constituent’s knowledge, violates the Acceptable Use Policy for Blackbaud Software. These contact will result in higher spam complaints that will negatively affect the deliverability of email for your organization. Studies have shown that purchased lists and spam complaints go hand in hand. Any benefit gained from adding these constituents to your housefile will be erased by the lower inbox rates you will experience. This directly impacts the reputation of your domain as a sender.


Gmail has moved their focus when analyzing email to the actions of recipients was more important than the content or reputation of the sender. This doesn’t mean that reputation and content aren’t important, they are. For content there are several rules around determining the “spamminess” of your messages. These rules are complicated - take a look at Bayesian analysis if you want to get into the nitty gritty details (you may need some calculus).
Want easier to use tools that help you create better messages? Use the SpamAssassin analysis built into Luminate Online. You can also use some great third party tools in conjunction with Luminate Online. lets you look at your email’s content and the DNS setup to verify you’re doing all you can to make it to the inbox. Just go to the “Send Review Email” step in the email creation flow, and add the special email provided by In just a couple of minutes you’ll have a full analysis.

Proper DNS Configuration


To start, you should be sure that you have Sender Verification (SPF) properly configured on your domain’s DNS. Don’t worry - if this isn’t set up properly you will see a big yellow error message when sending an email message through Luminate Online. This simply tells inbound email providers that the Luminate Online servers are trusted senders for emails listed as from your domain. This setup is explained in this help topic for Luminate Online.


Luminate Online automatically signs with a public shared key so that your emails will pass DKIM authentication. For further levels of DKIM authentication, you can work with Blackbaud Support to set up a private (unshared) key for your domain. This isn’t necessary but can allow the use of a stricter DMARC policy if your organization chooses to do so. The steps to implement are here. More information about DMARC is available here.


More Resources and Training 

This is a fairly high level overview of what can be done for email - you can also leverage the analytical tools within Luminate Online and Luminate Beta to determine the usage patterns of your constituents and get very granular in when and how you reach out. For more reading, you can head to this article in the Blackbaud Knowledgebase. It is a hub for all things email and gives you in-depth information on how email works and what issues may arise.

For instructor-led training on email campaigns, groups, queries, and reporting, register for Blackbaud University’s, Luminate Online: Email Strategy and Optimization.


News Blackbaud Luminate Online® Blog 03/13/2017 10:21pm EDT

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