How to Combat Declining Email Open and Click-Through Rates

4 minute read

Upland Admin

If you’re running a nonprofit, the chances are the people you most want to reach aren’t reading your emails. An article in the Nonprofit Times cites research from Blackbaud’s Luminate Online Report which shows that nonprofits need to take a different approach to reaching their target market.

The Problem of Unopened Emails

According to the research, nonprofits have increased the number of emails they send by 2.9%, but in 2015, the conversion rate dropped by 11.1% to an abysmal 0.4%. That means nonprofits have to send even more emails to achieve the same results, risking unwelcome email overload.

Blackbaud found that in 2015, both donation and advocacy related emails increased by 17.2% compared to 2014. The open rate for advocacy email stayed stable, which is good news, but the click-through rate for these emails fell sharply by 12.45% to just 2%. And open rates for donation-related emails fell by 2.25% to 15.34%.

Email conversion rates aren’t just dropping in the nonprofit sector, either. According to an analysis of research done by Monetate on Marketing Land, they have been falling for a year. The most recent figures showed a dip in average conversion rates in the first quarter of 2015 from 2.54% to 2.32%.

Some analysts suggest that the rise of the smartphone is to blame. Business Insider, for example, says that although more people are using smartphones to access content, they haven’t changed their behavior and may therefore not take the seemingly logical step of clicking through.

The bottom line is that it’s getting harder for nonprofits to get through to the core audience and ensure that their messaging is seen and acted upon.

Why SMS is the Solution
But some nonprofits are bucking the trend with text messaging, or SMS. That seems a smart move, as SMS is proven to get customers’ attention. Research from SAP Global shows that:

  • 68% of people check their smartphones at least hourly
  • 20% check their phones every 10 minutes
  • An average of 75% of people believe SMS communication improves their experience of interacting with organizations
  • 64% of people believe organizations should use SMS more

And there’s more:

These figures compare very well to email response rates, which means that nonprofits that connect with their audience using SMS can guarantee that people will see their messaging and can expect that a significant number will act on their messages.

Nonprofit SMS Marketing Case Studies

Here are a few examples of companies who are using SMS as part of their outreach strategy:

  • The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence used SMS marketing in conjunction with social media and email to mobilize action against gun violence. The organization found results from the SMS call to action were 25-30 times better than the call to action on social media and email.
  • The Humane Society uses text messages with social media to run a “text to give” campaign. The organization reports that gifts coming via SMS usually have higher average value.
  • The Humane Society has also used SMS to spearhead a campaign calling for the removal of a fur product from a retailer’s shelves. When texting people got more information and a number they could call to register their complaint. More than 2,000 people texted and the product was removed along with an apology from the retailer.
  • The Sierra Club used text message marketing to get people to attend rallies to fight a Supreme Court ruling. More than 2500 people or 6.4% of the organization’s supporters texted to get information about the rally that was closest to them.
  • Human Rights Campaign compared fundraising data for mobile-only subscribers and email-only subscribers. They found that mobile-only subscribers are more likely to donate. In 2014, mobile subscribers represented 9% of their list but contributed 21% of their donations.

As these case studies show, SMS is an effective way for nonprofits to reach people with targeted messaging they will act on. It’s an excellent way to mobilize your core audience and build relationships with them.

For more information on integrating text messaging into your business, contact us.

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