Inactive e-mail lists have always posed a challenge to fundraisers, but as spam filters get more sophisticated, the stakes are getting higher, Dan Atherton, a consultant at Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey, told participants in San Francisco at the Nonprofit Technology Conference.
He said e-mail providers like Google, Hotmail, and Yahoo monitor how people interact with an organization’s e-mail communication, and if not enough supporters open the messages, the providers will stop delivering the messages to subscribers’ inboxes.
“If nobody in the first wave of e-mails I send out opens my e-mail, other people won’t even see that e-mail,” said Mr. Atherton. “It will go into their spam folder.”
The Environmental Defense Fund recently ran into the problem with Gmail, said Matthew Grimm, an analyst at the organization.
“We saw our Gmail open rates plummet recently and didn’t understand what was going on,” said Mr. Grimm. But when the organization stopped sending messages to people who were unresponsive, “the Gmail open rates went to back up again.”
Fundraisers need to start paying much closer attention to inactivity on their e-mail lists, Mr. Atherton told conference participants: “As spam filters become harsher and more able to tell how people are interacting with your messaging, a user ignoring your e-mail is actually worse than a user unsubscribing.”
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