Friday, May 12th, 2023

Does a “noble cause” translate into higher email marketing performance?

Chart showing the relative performance of email marketing for charities compared to other sectors

Fundraising by email has much to offer. Lower costs, wider reach and arguably more profitable compared to physical direct marketing. After all, you’re asking people to part with money for a noble cause that obviously resonates with them. Otherwise they wouldn’t sign up, right?

After a discussion about this topic, I went looking for data to support this theory. There’s not much in the public domain around beyond the usual bloggers offering their opinion. The best public data set I could find was a 2022 benchmarking report by Campaign Monitor. It is a little out of date as it looks at emails sent across the whole of 2021, although I think it’s OK as a starting point.

I thought it was interesting to see that while open rates are better than average, after that everything gets distinctly middle of the road. An issue for message content, perhaps?

Beware of open rates

One word of caution on using Open Rates. Privacy settings in Apple’s Mail app have been causing problems due to the way it preloads images via an anonymous proxy before the user opens it. It triggers a signal to the data that the recipient has opened the message, even if they don’t. Along the way I’ve seen stats suggesting doubling or more of open rates by possible Apple users.

(This is a reversal of behaviour in apps like Gmail that don’t load images unless the user explicitly requests it)

I’ve generally ignored anything to do with open rates because of its unreliability as a metric, but I included it here for completeness.

Problems brewing?

Multiple reports are suggesting the cost of living crisis is having a profound impact on charitable donations. Email is going to have to work harder if you hope to responsibly raise money from those with less to give, or operate in an area outside of the public eye.

Bottom line

If you’re hoping being a “charity” is going to get better email performance, stats suggest otherwise. Pay attention to the usual hygiene factors like personalising, respecting opt-in preferences and message design.

Tough times are coming, and charities can’t rely on tugging the heart strings of those already struggling.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.