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11 Tips to Increase Your Email Click-Through Rates

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Published January 22, 2020 Reading Time: 7 minutes

Your email click-through rate (CTR) tells you whether people  engage with your emails and land on the pages you want them to see or abandon your message before taking that next step. Increasing your CTR starts with a few best practices, a dash of creativity, and a bit of experimentation for meaningful results.

Here’s why you should care about your email CTR, with 11 tips to boost your click-through rate to engage donors in a more impactful way.

What Is an Email Click-Through Rate?

Your CTR is the percentage of people who opened your email and clicked on a link within the message. A high click-through rate means you’ve successfully enticed your audience to explore your content and take action. 

CTR is an essential metric for nonprofit marketers because it helps you better understand your audience. Different subject lines, layouts, and visuals translate to a higher CTR, but it’s up to you to experiment and learn what resonates best with your audience.

Your CTR can vary depending on the email type and specific audience preferences. In 2018, the industry average among nonprofits was 0.65% for fundraising emails, 2.4% for advocacy emails, and 1.5% for newsletters.¹ If you have a lower CTR, now is the time to set a goal to improve it.

A good click-through rate means you get more attention on the pages you want your followers to see and write compelling email copy that resonates and inspires your readers.

If you use an email marketing tool, it should showcase your CTR within its reporting metrics. If not, you can also calculate your email CTR manually. Here’s how: take the number of clicks your email received and divide that by the number of people who opened your email. You can then multiply that number by 100 to show a percentage.

How to Increase Email Click-Through Rates

1. Write Compelling Subject Lines

Seasoned nonprofit marketers know that email success starts with the subject line. To engage with your email, readers need to open it first.

Here are a few tips to level up your copywriting:

  • Keep it brief. Maximize your characters because you have limited space—about 50 characters or less, including spaces.
  • Speak to emotion. Decide what emotion you want your audience to feel when they read your subject line, and craft your message accordingly.
  • Use an A/B test. Send the exact same email with two different subject lines. Which one performs better? If your audience ignores questions in subject lines but responds to emojis, that’s a valuable insight for future marketing campaigns.

For more tips, check out this blog to achieve better open rates with killer subject lines.

2. Optimize for Mobile

Classy platform data shows that mobile device traffic makes up 56% of all traffic to donation pages. So if your emails look fantastic on a desktop but are cluttered, incomplete, or difficult to navigate on mobile, you’re losing almost half of your audience.

There’s a simple solution for this: preview your email on mobile. Does your layout incite action, or is it a visual headache? With this level of quality assurance, you ensure your message gets delivered the way you intended, no matter how your reader views it. This concept is also known as responsive design.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you look at your email on different devices:

  • Are all the links working and pointing to the right places?
  • Are the font sizes legible?
  • Are our brand colors showing up correctly—or better yet, is the email template designed for accessibility?
  • Are the videos and images loading quickly and displaying as intended?

Are our calls to action (CTAs) clear and easily clickable?

3. Get to the Point

Less is more with email copy. And most of your audience is reading on their phones. So say what you need to say and move on. 

If brevity doesn’t come naturally, try a free app like Hemingway Editor or Grammarly to simplify your writing.

4. Include a Clear Call to Action

Your email needs to tell your readers what to do, whether donating to your cause, sharing a campaign page, or signing up for an event. Here are a few tips to ensure your CTA is clear and effective:

  • Keep the text brief and actionable (think “Donate now” or “Sign me up”)
  • Include the CTA above the fold (near the top of the email), so it’s one of the first things readers see
  • Add a secondary CTA toward the end if you plan to send a longer email

5. Use Buttons

To prevent readers from missing your CTAs, use buttons with hyperlinks. Your email marketing service should have the option to include an effective donate button or relevant CTA in the body of your email. This step makes your appeal stand out and easier to click, which is a big plus for readers on smartphones and tablets.

You don’t have to limit your CTA copy to phrases like “Donate now,” either. Experiment with different copy on your CTA buttons that align with the message you want to send. 

In this nonprofit email example, charity: water anticipates the reader will feel confused by an unexpected description of the best holiday gift. So it uses the CTA to echo that emotion with a simple “Huh?” as the button copy. This copy is unique, which can motivate a curious reader to click through.

nonprofit marketing email

Most email marketing services allow you to A/B test within the platform, enabling you to experiment with different elements to see what best captures your audience’s attention.

Whether you strictly test for higher open rates or above-average CTR, running A/B tests can provide a wealth of insight into user behavior. Borrow from charity: water’s example and test different variations of CTA button copy to see if one leads to higher CTRs.

6. Keep It Consistent

From your colors to your voice and tone, your nonprofit has specific branding elements that should be consistent across all channels, including your website, digital marketing tactics, cost per click (CPC ) ad copy, campaign landing pages, and emails.

Given that you’re competing for attention in your readers’ crowded inboxes, you want to remain memorable and enable donors to recognize your nonprofit as soon as they receive your email. That means your email colors, font, and voice should also be consistent, from the subject line to the CTA.

Good design also boosts credibility, which is a big deal when seeking donations. Brand consistency is one effective way to show your audience that you’re a trustworthy brand. So be consistent across everything, from your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts to your email campaigns to your landing pages.

7. Include Video

Adding videos to your email can increase CTRs by 200% to 300%, according to a report published by Forrester.² Videos are engaging and shareable, helping your brand tell a story.

8. Try Different Layouts

As a rule of thumb, short emails are usually better. Typically quicker and easier to digest, but that doesn’t mean you must stick to one format. Experiment with different layouts to find what works for your message and target audience. Emails tend to break down into two layout types:

  • Single-column: Ultra-readable and great for succinct messages with a clear CTA
  • Multicolumn: Ideal for emails that include a variety of content, like links to articles and resources

One layout isn’t necessarily better than the other. Instead, it depends on the message you want to send. For example, an event email should lead with the necessary details at a glance, so a single-column format works well here. 

A thank you email, on the other hand, could invite readers to become more involved with your nonprofit’s ecosystem, so a multicolumn format might make sense. You can use sidebars and CTAs to direct readers to learn more about your mission, sign up to volunteer, or read beneficiary stories.

9. Include a P.S. Section

Here’s an old copywriting secret: people remember the first and last items in a list significantly more than the rest. Known as the serial-position effect, this concept can pay off big in an email.

If you want to incite a specific action, include it at the beginning and end of your email. If a reader is scanning your message, they might miss the first CTA, but if you repeat it as a final P.S., you cover your bases and catch their eye.

The example below from the National Network of Abortion Funds uses a CTA button near the end of the email, numerous hyperlinks in the closing paragraph, and a P.S. section to offer one more way to support the cause.

This example works because it offers so many options to show support, which allows the donor to choose how they’d like to engage with the nonprofit.

nonprofit fundraising email example

10. Timing Is Everything

Send too many emails, and you’ll end up in the spam folder. Send it at the wrong time, and people might miss your message.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to email frequency and timing. Instead, here are some best practices:

  • Time: Send emails between the prime hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Test: Find when your readers are most active with an A/B test of your email send times. Do you have higher click-through rates at certain times of the day?
  • Frequency: Follow a regular cadence with your emails—though you don’t have to send a specific number of emails every month. That might mean one email a month or a week, depending on your organization’s goals and bandwidth.

According to Litmus, nonprofits send fewer emails than other companies.⁴ In fact, about 60% of nonprofits send four or fewer emails per month.

Survey your subscribers (via email and/or social media) to get a sense of their desired email frequency and what topics they want to see. You’ll get a better sense of your readership, plus more content ideas.

11. Test and Retest

One of the best and most frustrating parts about marketing is that your data will continually change over time. Your email list will grow, your interests (and those of your donors) will change, and how you present your emails will need to adapt.

Support high CTRs by testing everything: subject lines, layouts, content, timing, and design. Doing so will help you learn more about how to make your nonprofit more data-driven using the results of your A/B tests.

Your CTR proves whether you communicated your intended message. That’s why it’s an important metric to keep in mind as you develop your nonprofit’s marketing strategy.

Engage Your Supporters With Classy

These tips to increase your click-through rate aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but starting points. Use them to find what works for your audience and your nonprofit’s mission.

However, getting your email recipients to click through your email is just one step. Once donors land on your donation page, it’s time to convert them. Classy helps you build optimized (and mobile-responsive) donation pages to increase your one-time and recurring donations.

Talk to an expert to see how our fundraising platform can help your nonprofit boost donations and drive engagement with your supporters.

Sources

  1. “M+R Benchmarks Study,” Research, M+R, last modified 2022, https://mrbenchmarks.com/journeys#now-arriving.
  2. “Video Is No Longer an Accessory for Marketing – Here’s What You Need to Know,” Video, Forbes, last modified December 15, 2016, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ellevate/2016/12/15/video-is-no-longer-a-marketing-accessory/.
  3. “Industry Spotlight: Email Marketing at Nonprofits.” Email Marketing, Litmus, April 20, 2020, https://www.litmus.com/blog/industry-spotlight-email-marketing-at-nonprofits/.
9 Email Templates for Nonprofit Annual Communication Plan

9 Email Templates for Nonprofit Annual Communication Plan

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