Adapting to the ever-changing digital scene has its perks – the constant dynamism keeps things exciting. Yet, it also brings its fair share of challenges, injecting a dose of unpredictability into the mix.
The recent changes in email policies by Google and Yahoo for 2024 are no exception.
And although these strengthened rules for email may feel annoying, it is ultimately a change for the better. Think of it as finally forcing our hand to do the right thing (eat your vegetables, it’s good for your email deliverability)
Understanding these changes is crucial for nonprofits, especially those heavily reliant on email for advocacy, fundraising, and communications (Yeah, that’s just about everyone).
The Yeeboo Digital team hopes this little guide can provide some clarity, demystify these changes into key points and provide a clear path of action to compliance and effective email management for the year ahead.
1.Email Authentication (SPF, DKIM, DMARC):
The new policies require stringent email authentication using SPF, DKIM, and DMARC protocols.
SPF stands for “Sender Policy Framework,” DKIM stands for “DomainKeys Identified Mail,” and DMARC stands for “Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance.”
These measures are designed to verify your emails’ legitimacy, significantly reducing the chances of them being marked as spam.
2. One-Click Unsubscribe Links:
The updated policies mandate easy-to-use unsubscribe options. This change aims to enhance the email experience for recipients, potentially leading to more engaged and interested audiences.
If you’re using an email marketing tool like HubSpot, Engaging Networks, MailChimp, Luminate Online, Constant contact, etc. this is likely already done and you are compliant already (but it doesn’t hurt to check your emails for one click unsubscribe links just in case)
3. Maintaining Low Spam Rates:
Keeping spam rates below the specified threshold is critical. High spam rates can lead to your emails being blocked or filtered into spam folders, impacting your reach and effectiveness.
In theory, if you have your sender frameworks set up, (point 1) have a list that can easily unsubscribe (point 2), was acquired through opt-in means (think donors and subscribers), and you are sending regular and valuable email to your list segments based on their preferences , your spam complaints should be pretty low already.
Nonprofit organizations, particularly those sending a large volume of emails, must take these changes seriously. Non-compliance could mean your messages end up in spam folders or, worse, get blocked.
Spam. There is a mind-boggling amount of spam sent every minute through countless servers to countless email addresses. The numbers are staggering, and it is the job of these big email services to filter out the good from the bad to create the best possible experience for their customers.
Google and Yahoo are now going to start enforcing these industry best practice tools for email sender authentication. Your nonprofit should think of it as a digital certificate of authenticity for the source of the email. This makes it much easier to decipher good emails from bad – saving effort for verified emails and allowing Google/Yahoo to put more energy into other best practices.
These changes will be going in to effect by February 1, 2024 – at which time they expect everyone to be playing by the new rules. If you choose to ignore these changes you can expect it to have a significant impact on your engagement, deliverability and likely fundraising results.
Implement SPF, DKIM, and DMARC protocols. This not only complies with the new regulations but also improves the credibility and deliverability of your emails.
If your nonprofit team has a dedicated IT person at the organization, flag this as a priority item for them to handle (if it already hasn’t been done).
If there is no such person on your team you may be wondering what the set up of this looks like.
WARNING! Please be careful! If you accidentally remove a domain setting or add the incorrect setting to your dns you can crash your website, or destroy email deliverability for your entire organization.
To get started, there are several tools available online that can help you check if your domain is correctly set up for DMARC, DKIM, and SPF. These tools typically analyze your domain’s DNS records and provide a report on the status of these email authentication methods.
Recommended tools from the Yeeboo Digital team:
1.MXToolbox: This is a popular tool that offers a range of DNS and networking diagnostics, including checks for SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records.
2. Google Admin Toolbox: Specifically for those using Google services, this toolbox can check the status of your SPF and DKIM records.
3. DMARC Analyzer: This tool provides a detailed analysis of your DMARC setup and helps in understanding DMARC reports. L
4. Kitterman SPF Validator: This tool specifically checks the validity of your SPF record.
5. dmarcian: dmarcian provides tools to check DMARC, SPF, and DKIM records and offers insights into how to improve your email deliverability and security.
It’s important to note that while these tools provide valuable insights, they might not cover all aspects of your email setup. For comprehensive auditing, especially for large-scale or critical email operations, consider consulting with professionals or agencies that specialize in nonprofit email marketing who can help you audit your setup and support you through this transition.
So what do you do, if you find out by checking the above tools that you are not currently compliant or set up.
At this point, there’s two paths. Engage with an external consultant or agency partner to help you with a set up, or if you have access to your organizations domain registrar, (the place where you have registered your domain, which is sometimes the same place you host your website, and sometimes not) you can go through the step-by-step walk-through for each protocol and set them up yourself.
Do a quick audit of all of your outbound emails and check to make sure that you were including a one click unsubscribe link, ideally in the footer.
If you are. You’re done.
If you’re not, follow these steps.
Check the help resources of your email marketing tool to find out how to include the Unsubscribe link. If you are not using an email marketing tool that has the feature of a one click email Unsubscribe link you may want to start exploring a move over to a tool that does.
Most email marketing tools can provide you a very quick snapshot of your spam score. A quick scan of the help documents for your particular tool should point you in the right direction of where to find it.
The magic number here is 0.3% or less.
Now let’s talk about some strategies for staying compliant.
Regularly updating your email list and segmenting it based on different criteria can lead to more targeted and effective communications.
The size of our nonprofit email list is not what matter, engagement on that list is. It is much better to have a list of 5000 very active email subscribers, than 50,000 people on a list with only 5000 active email subscribers within it. Think of these inactive email addresses as deadweight, weighing down your deliverability and overall engagement.
Keep an eye on your spam rate, ensuring it stays below the 0.3% threshold.
Educate your team about these changes. Knowledge and awareness are key to successful implementation and compliance.
By addressing these questions, nonprofits can gain a clearer understanding of their preparedness for evergreen campaigns and identify areas where improvements may be needed to ensure long-term success and impact.
Email lists at your nonprofit will ebb and flow – yet email is one of the most effective digital fundraising tools.
So if both of these things are true, it means that acquisition is an incredibly important strategy. List growth, with effective and engaged constituents will have a positive impact on our fundraising efforts which will have a knock on effect for our ability to deliver our missions.
If there is a mantra for the year ahead, let it be: Never Not Acquiring.
This incoming change from Yahoo and Google is ultimately a change for the better. Better deliverability equals better engagement and ultimately better connections with your subscribers, advocates and donors.
If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out to our team of digital experts at yeeboodigital.com We’d be happy to share additional resources, point you in the right direction, or help you through this transition
Erik Rubadeau (article author) is a Data Driven Online Fundraising Professional & Agency CEO. As the Founder and CEO at Yeeboo Digital, he shepherds a growing team of digital fundraising experts who collaborate with a wide range of nonprofit clients to develop ideas that generate online fundraising revenue by leveraging technology.