Optimize Your Nonprofit’s Email Outreach in 2023: The Importance of List Hygiene

When it comes to your nonprofit email list, quality matters more than quantity.



Email marketing continues to be a popular tool for nonprofits looking to connect with their audience, build relationships, and drive action. It provides an affordable, measurable, and targeted way to reach supporters, volunteers, and donors. Whether you’re sharing updates on your latest projects, highlighting success stories, or inviting people to take part in an event, email marketing helps you build a strong connection with your community.

So with how important email marketing is for your communications and fundraising how can you go about improving your nonprofit’s email strategy? Yeeboo Digital has been supporting nonprofits with email marketing and fundraising campaign supports for over a decade and we have seen the power of a healthy email list.

In this blog post, we’re going to focus on how keeping your email list in tip-top shape can help your organization reach its goals in 2023 and beyond. We’ll talk about why email list data cleaning is so important, how list quality can influence your fundraising,  what metrics for email marketing you should focus on and more.


How “clean” is your email list?

Cleaning up your email list, also known as scrubbing, means getting rid of subscribers who are no longer active or interested in your emails.

The average mailing list depreciates by about 30% yearly because people switch internet or inbox service providers, change jobs, and abandon old email addresses.

By cleaning up your email list, you’ll see an improvement in your engagement rates. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get more opens and clicks, but it does mean that having fewer inactive subscribers on your list won’t bring down your overall performance metrics.

Making sure your email list is clean is super important for having a good reputation as a sender and for making sure your emails actually get to people’s inboxes. There are a lot of things that go into making sure emails are delivered successfully, and having a clean list is one of the most important ones.


The benefit of regular email hygiene

As a nonprofit, it’s important to regularly maintain the health of your email list. By removing inactive or unengaged subscribers, you’ll see an improvement in your engagement rates and overall email deliverability.

We recommend cleaning out your email list every three months, but even doing it twice a year (every six months) can help lower your bounce rate, unsubscribes, and spam complaints.

If you can’t do it that often, make sure to do it at least once a year, and the beginning of a new year may be the best time, when you’ve completed your holiday and year-end campaigns and gathered all the necessary analytics. With a clean email list, you’ll be better prepared for your next big fundraising push and your mission-driven message will reach more of the people you want to impact.


Tips on how to manage and clean your email list

As we mentioned earlier your nonprofit list will change year over year and slowly depreciate over time – this is to be expected. But there are some metrics you should be watching for and managing.

  1. Hard Bounces – these bounces usually refer to invalid or “dead” email addresses. Scrub these from your nonprofit list immediately or segment them out for donor stewardship work if you have donor phone numbers on file.
  2. Soft Bounces – these bounces could involve a full mailbox, Out of Office or a privacy wall. While these soft bounces may turn in to hard bounces it can be worth waiting and evaluating these email addresses quarterly
  3. Spam Complaints – suppress these email addresses IMMEDIATELY. While most email service providers like Mailchimp will remove these email addresses from your list it is important to not continue to send any communication via mass email to these addresses or risk service issues


Email list quality and its influence on fundraising and donors

Email list quality is crucial for successful fundraising campaigns as it directly affects the reach and engagement of your messaging. A high-quality list of engaged and interested individuals is more likely to result in increased donations and support. On the other hand, sending emails to outdated or uninterested recipients not only wastes resources but also undermines the credibility of your organization with potential donors.

Let’s dive in more to what cleaning your email list will accomplish:

  1. Increased engagement
    • A clean email list will have better Inbox placement, higher open and click rates.
    • You will see a reduction in the number of bounced emails.
  2. Fewer spam complaints
    • Sometimes people don’t remember signing up for emails and report it as spam. 
    • If enough people do this, it can harm your brand and sender reputation.
  3. Accurate Reporting
    • With email only going to active supporters you will have a better grasp of true performance yielding more accurate metrics and ROI
  4. Cost effective
    • Many email marketing software platforms have nonprofits paying per email address or per email.
    • Your nonprofit may be wasting money sending emails to subscribers who aren’t adding to your engagement rates
    • Cleaning your list could result in true savings and a leaner budget.

What is email list segmentation – why is it important?

Segmentation involves dividing your supporters into distinct groups based on their shared characteristics.

By communicating with smaller, targeted groups within your community, you can tailor your messages to resonate with specific individuals and foster a deeper connection through shared experiences or interests.

The benefits of segmentation are significant. Research shows that targeted segmentation can lead to a 15% increase in click-through rates on email campaigns, as reported by MailChimp. This approach is a highly effective way to ensure that each constituent group receives the tailored support and resources they need, at the right time.

Personalizing your emails, not just by adding the supporter’s name but by sending recommendations and content relevant to the email list segment, will also build your relationship and establish trust with donors. When the content is relevant to the email recipient, they are more likely to be engaged.

When you’re looking to tidy up your email list, a great place to start is by figuring out which subscribers haven’t been active. To do this, you can make a special list of email addresses that haven’t opened any of your recent emails.

You can start by including any addresses that haven’t opened your last 5 or 10 emails. If you’ve been sending an email once a week, that’s about 12 emails over the past three months. This special list will help you see who you want to keep on your email list.

Another area of focus can be segmenting your list based on donors in the last 3, 6 or 12 months. Breaking out donors in this fashion will help you to not make the ask again and instead target those individuals on your list who haven’t given recently.


Training staff to be better data stewards

Maybe you are a small nonprofit team where everyone works within your email campaigns. Or you are a large nonprofit with a dedicated email marketing team member. Either way you will be pulling analytics and statistics from each email campaign to understand your fundraising successes and failures and make informed decisions on future strategy.

Regardless of team size you should have a dedicated point person for email hygiene. Who on your team is responsible for the removal of dead addresses?

Yeeboo Digital recommends scheduling in quarterly data cleaning to keep your email list healthy for future campaign work. If you are wondering where to start, many of the service providers frequently run webinars (like Mailchimp) or training videos can be found on Youtube, Hubspot or Litmus.com.



​​Optimizing your nonprofit’s email outreach is a must in 2023 and keeping your email list clean is key. Think of it as giving your email list a fresh start. By taking some simple steps like saying goodbye to inactive subscribers, increasing personalization, and dividing your list into groups, you’ll be on your way to email fundraising success. Your emails will reach their intended recipients with ease and make a real impact.

Moreover, list hygiene is not just about improving the effectiveness of your email outreach, but it also shows your subscribers that you value their time and privacy. When you regularly clean your email list, you’re removing people who are no longer interested in hearing from you, which can reduce the number of unsubscribes and complaints. In the end, it all adds up to a better email experience for both you and your subscribers.

So, don’t let a cluttered email list hold you back from reaching your goals. Focus on quality over quantity and optimize your email marketing today! With a clean and organized list, you’ll be able to effectively communicate your message and inspire your subscribers to support your cause. 

Tasha Van Vlack (article author) is a nonprofit connector, marketer and advocate. She works closely with the Yeeboo Digital team to curate excellent resources that will support nonprofit professionals in advancing their missions.


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