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Engaging Your Email List and Measuring Results


Your nonprofit’s email newsletter is one of the most important and direct methods of communication you have with your supporters. But how much time do you spend thinking about how to create a really great newsletter experience for your readers?

There are a lot of things to consider when putting together an email newsletter. Fortunately, email marketing guru, Eric Squair, put on an encore performance of his well-received presentation at this month’s Toronto Net Tuesday event, “Engaging Your Email List and Measuring Results.”

Eric started out by explaining that he was making the following assumptions about the audience (and which I, in turn, make about you the reader):

  1. You are writing somewhat regular, personalized emails to a body of your supporters. You’re not just blasting out press releases at every opportunity.
  2. You are using an email marketing system like MailChimp, VerticalResponse, Constant Contact, etc.
  3. You are paying attention to things like bounce rates and click throughs. You care about the results of the emails you are sending.

Eric divided the presentation into two important topics: how to grow your list, and how to keep people engaged and measure the impact of your email.

Eric presenting at Toronto Net Tuesday

How to grow your list

The answer is both simpler and more complex than you might imagine. According to Eric, the secret is to offer people something they value.

Easy, right?

The key here is that you need to know your organization well enough to be able to identify what it is that makes you unique. You also need to know your readers well enough to know what it is they value.

To figure out what you can offer that will be of value to your readers, Eric suggests asking yourself the following questions.

  • What is my superpower? What can my organization offer that no one else can?
  • What can we tell people, teach people, connect people with that no one else can?

Eric provided an excellent handout (see “resources” at the end of this post for the download). Be sure to take the time to work through the worksheet to help you get the answers to these questions. I know it sure made me think!

How to keep people engaged and measure the impact of your email

When it comes to keeping your audience engaged there are a few things to keep in mind:
Open rates depend on:

  • The subject line - make it compelling, interesting, simple and personal. If there’s a hint of recognition in the subject line, it’s more likely that it will be opened.
  • Previous experience with the sender - people open emails from people they know and trust.

Other important rules of thumb for making sure your email is engaging:

  • Don’t send crap (Eric’s words, not mine.) If you don’t have anything relevant to share, then just wait until you do before sending an email.
  • Keep people as the focus of your email. At the end of the day people want to read about people. If your content is not particularly people-focused, find a way to make it so. Keep the tone conversational and personal. Make sure you are speaking to someone, not at someone. And include pictures whenever possible, preferably of people.
  • Make the email about the reader, not about you. This means providing useful information to your readers, offering them chances to attend events, and asking for their opinions.
  • Segment your list in order to make it more personal.  Use what you know about your readers to provide them with the best messaging. This is especially useful in fundraising; for example, if you know someone is already a monthly donor, perhaps you would put them on a donor thank you email list instead of asking them to donate again.

Measuring impact is a crucial part of engagement because it allows us to gauge what is working with our supporters and what is not. The better we understand our supporters the more likely we are to effectively engage with them online and through email.

Eric had a few top tips when it comes to measuring impact:

  1. Use Google Analytics - sign up today!
  2. Tag the links you send out via email and social as ‘campaigns’ so that they are accurately reflected in analytics. You can do this via Google’s simple URL Builder tool.
  3. Create goals within Google Analytics - this will help you sift through the mountain of data and stay focused on the results you are looking for.


Eric’s presentation materials and worksheet provide additional information and links to other useful resources.

Happy emailing!