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Engagement And Email Deliverability Resources

Every year, it seems nonprofits experience tectonic shifts in the technology best practices they rely on to generate support for their missions. Few areas have we seen more rampant change than in the email business. Since December 2016, when Gmail changed its algorithm for what constitutes an email worthy of getting into an inbox, the rules for email inbox placement seem to be changing more rapidly than ever. Increasingly, mailbox providers rely on sender reputation - their own rating of your nonprofit domain as a legitimate sender of valued messages - to determine whether or not to place your emails in their subscriber inboxes. 

A key factor that currently influences your sender reputation is engagement. How often do people engage with your emails by opening, replying to, forwarding, and clicking on links in your emails? Or do more people tend to delete your emails without reading or, worse, report them as spam? Inbox providers like Gmail use these metrics to determine where to place future emails you send - elevating the priority of ensuring that people engage with your emails. 

To help you keep up with the rapidly evolving science of delivering emails into supporter inboxes, I've put together some resources for you. Below you'll find some of the latest findings from industry experts, nonprofit leaders, and our Blackbaud email technology team.  

The Fundamentals of Engagement
Want to get up to speed fast? Kivi Leroux Miller at Nonprofit Marketing Guide did a particularly good series on the science of engagement as the criterion for email success - and some hard truths about culling your list:

The "Worry Less" blog posts are a quick read, and get at the heart of the matter quickly: 

(The new rules for staying out of spam filters) "...are all about — you guessed it! — engagement. While email seems very different from social media in many ways, it’s not all that different when it comes to engagement.

"On Facebook, it’s all about likes, comments, shares and video views. On email, engagement used to mean just opens and clicks.

"Those still matter, of course, but inbox providers are also tracking data such as how often you delete emails from someone without reading them and how often you reply to that sender. Those activities that you take in your inbox affect what you see later, just like how Facebook changes what you see in your news feed based on your past engagement with posts.

"Engage with content from a certain person or page on Facebook and you’ll see them more often in your news feed. The same is true with email: Engage with emails from a particular sender more often by reading them, forwarding, and replying, and those emails are much less likely to be sent to your spam folder and more likely to be considered “priority” messages. 

Blackbaud Resources on Email Engagement and Delivery
  • The Engagement Factors tool in Luminate Online helps you master the science of supporter engagement. A recent Community blog post How Can I Track Constituent Engagement by Chris Cain teaches you how to get started! 
  • A/B testing in Luminate Online lets you test variants on a message to see which gets the best engagement. Try testing on a small subset of your list before launching a major email send. This practice can improve overall engagement, and with it, your inbox placement rates. 
  • Email Resource Center: This site provides the latest information about Blackbaud's email sending systems, and the (evolving) best practices that will help you keep landing your emails in inboxes
  • When Less Is More: Cracking the Email Deliverability Code in 2018 (blog post and webinar)
    We hosted communications experts from Feeding America and The Nature Conservancy for a conversation about how each of these organizations made tough choices and addressed the "what is an engaged constituent" challenge. In this recorded webinar, they explain specific tactics they used and some before and after metrics, such as:
    • Feeding America culled their email list from 650K to 250K records. Despite a 60% decrease in audience size, they saw a 17% increase in revenue from email.
    • The Nature Conservancy identified and suppressed 95,000 harmful email addresses, adjusted its delivery practices, and more than doubled year end fundraising results.
  • Deliverability Danger — Watch Out for SPAM Traps!
  • Luminate Online "Engagement Factors" Course
    Going to bbcon? We offer a session during bbcon University Day called “Luminate Online: Discovering Your Engaged Constituents”. In this session, you'll learn how to create simple and advanced queries, set up Engagement Factor and RFM Segmentation tasks, and put together queries and task results to target your most engaged constituents. This session is targeted to beginning users with little or no knowledge of Blackbaud Luminate Online or Blackbaud Luminate Beta. Join us! 
Other Industry Experts Weigh In
Have Hope and Keep the Faith!
For as much as email marketing can be challenging, we see a lot of upside in email still. It's an extremely cost effective form of marketing and the foundation of most nonprofits' digital campaign strategies. While organizations needed to send more emails in 2017 to reach their goals, revenue from email IS growing. Here's some good news: email performance highlights from the past year: 
For more information about how to use Engagement Factors or A/B testing in Luminate Online to improve your inbox placement rates, please contact Support or Customer Success -- or engage in a discussion in this forum. 
Posted by Kathryn Hall on Jul 27, 2018 9:26 AM America/New_York

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