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Non-Profits Struggle with Email Customization- Only 12% Used Geographic Data to Customize Email Marketing, According to New Return Path Study

For Immediate Release — Most non-profit organizations have mastered the basics of email marketing, yet room for improvement remains, according to a new Return Path study — Telling Stories, Building Relationships: How Non-Profits Can Create More Engaging Email Marketing Programs.

Sixty-two percent of non-profit organizations studied sent new subscribers a welcome email message, according to the new study. In fact, non-profit organizations’ were more likely to send a proper welcome message than commercial marketers. Only 40% of commercial marketers sent a welcome message, an earlier Return Path study discovered. Even better, ninety percent of non-profits followed best practices and sent their welcome message within 24 hours.

But moving beyond the basics is a challenge for charitable organizations. Most notably, the study found that non-profits struggle with email customization. Eighty-one percent of advocacy organizations requested geographic data. However, a woeful 12% actually used geographic data to customize or segment their email marketing. Fifty-eight percent of arts organizations requested geographic data, and none of the organizations used that data to customize their email marketing.

“Overall, we were happy to see that non-profit advocacy and arts organizations have embraced the power of email marketing,” Bonnie Malone, Director of Response Consulting, Return Path, said. “They’re following many best practices. However, we think they’re missing out on the ability to make email an even more-powerful 1-to-1 marketing tool by customizing their messages – targeting geographically with local-specific news or providing contact information for local politicians, segmenting content based subscribers’ varied interests, and so on.”

The study also revealed that non-profit organizations are missing out on the power of email marketing to educate new subscribers about the organization’s goals and mission. More than half of all organizations (58%) sent a newsletter as their first regular email. Another 25 percent sent a request to join their organization or donate. Seventeen percent sent some other type of email message (for example, arts organizations sent retail information about their gift shops).

“Marketers need to remember the unique advantages of email marketing,” Malone said. “If a new subscriber has indicated interest in your organization, you have the power to tell your story completely and convert someone’s interest into passion. There are easy-to-use tools available for non-profits to send specific, introductory emails designed to pique new subscribers interest – before that person receives the organization’s standard email newsletter.”

Other important findings from the Telling Stories, Building Relationships: How Non-Profits Can Create More Engaging Email Marketing Programs study include:

– Only 20% of non-profits collected demographic data – another key data point for customizing email messaging.

– Twenty-eight percent of non-profits did not send any email at all during the 30 day study period – either due to deliverability problems or a failure to respond.

Return Path’s Professional Services Group conducted the study by registering for email from 50 non-profit marketers – 26 advocacy organizations and 24 arts organizations. Return Path then studied the message streams from these organizations during a 30 day period.

About Return Path

Founded in 1999, Return Path helps commercial email senders get more email delivered to the inbox. Our tools and services give senders the insight and resources to diagnose and prevent email deliverability and rendering failures by improving and maintaining their email sending reputations. Our Professional Services division then helps our client improve ROI and response by creating consistent and compelling subscriber experiences across the email customer lifecycle. Return Path runs the internet’s most widely used third-party whitelist, the Return Path Certification Program. Return Path also invented the Sender Score, an email reputation measure based on data contributed by ISPs and other receivers of large volume email into the Return Path Reputation Network. We offer free access to our Sender Score to any sender, receiver or consumer of email at our reputation portal senderscore.org. Information about Return Path can be found at returnpath.com.

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