When I started publishing my daily Enewsletter, I hated when someone unsubscribed. After I put in so much time and effort to posting great content, how dare they?!

Took a little time but I learned to not only live with it but appreciate it. It’s the natural order of things in our email world. Subscribers come, subscribers go.

And that’s not a bad thing.

How Many Is Too Much

All ESPs (email service providers) will tally and display your unsubscribe rate. But if you want to figure it out on your own, here’s an equation you can use:

(Unsubscribers / successful email deliveries) x 100

For example, your email was delivered successfully to 5,000 email addresses. After sending, 20 people unsubscribed: 20/5,000 x 100 = 0.004 x 100 = 0.4%

Your unsubscribe rate would be 0.4%. Is that bad or good?

According to a number of studies, below 0.5% is normal. Below 0.2% is excellent. Mailchimp, which has access to a mountain of data, claims the average nonprofit unsubscribe rate is 0.2%.

Obviously your goal is to keep your unsubscribe rate as close to zero as possible. However, truth is that unsubscribes aren’t a bad thing.

Unsubscribe Isn’t A Four-Letter Word

Wait a sec: If a person unsubscribed, that’s one less person for my organization to connect with, build a relationship with, mobilize to take action and hopefully convert into a subscriber. How could that be a GOOD thing?!

A few things to consider…

  • The “Why” Is Important: When someone unsubscribes, you should wonder why they did so. Are you not delivering quality content? Is the person no longer interested in your mission? Is their Inbox just too full and they need to clean up?

There is value in finding out why they’ve decided to stop receiving your enewsletters. I see plenty of businesses and organizations that have a brief multiple choice questionnaire they request people answer when unsubscribing. That data could be gold to helping your email fundraising and marketing efforts.

Full disclosure: I don’t have an exit survey for people who unsubscribe from my newsletter. Why? Because I personally find them annoying and once someone has decided to unsubscribe, no need to prolong the process. BUT, as I stated above, there IS value in finding out why. Even if only a small percentage of unsubscribers fill it out, it’s data you can utilize.  

  • Roomba your list: Data hygiene is extremely important to the success of your email fundraising and marketing. No reason to email people who aren’t interested in hearing from you. If anything, you’re just adding to the growing list of emails overflowing in a subscriber’s Inbox. The more emails you send, the more they may come to resent you (think how many emails you send at year’s end). Better they unsubscribe, rather than…
  • Unsubscribe over spam: It’s better someone unsubscribe than labeling you as spam. If enough people label your emails as spam, you will have trouble getting your emails delivered. ESPs will begin to wonder if your emails are legitimate or not. If enough people report you as spam, they may shut you down.

As a follow up, a high unsubscribe rate could damage your sender reputation as well. If email providers- e.g. Gmail, Outlook- see a high percent of people unsubscribing from your emails, they will get suspicious and wonder why. At some point that high unsubscribe rate could cause email providers to simply stop delivering your emails or they will deliver them directly to the Spam Folder, which no one checks. Suddenly, a very decent percent of your email list isn’t even seeing your emails.

Not great Bob.

So How Do You Prevent Unsubscribes?

The easiest answer to that question is to constantly provide quality content. Content is king. If people like your content, they’ll open your emails and click on your CTAs (calls to action).

Here are 4 other ways to prevent unsubscribes:

  • Never ever ever buy email lists: Ever. I can’t stress that enough. If people start receiving emails from you that they didn’t subscribe to, you’ll have a very high unsubscribe rate. Many will mark you as spam. Both will hurt deliverability. And let’s not forget that it’s against anti-privacy and anti-spam laws!
  • Mobile friendly: Think how often you read emails on your phone. Your subscribers are doing the same. If your emails aren’t mobile friendly, they’re going to unsubscribe.

The data: On average, people look at an email on their phone for 5-10 seconds. If the email isn’t mobile friendly, 80% will delete the email and 30% will unsubscribe. Look at that last number twice. Now go make sure your emails are mobile responsive.

  • Segment your list: Your goal should be to deliver content that subscribers want, not what you or your organization wants. One way to do this is to survey subscribers and find out what they’re most interested in. Segment your list and deliver content the individual subscriber will look forward to reading. That will help boost your CTR (click thru rate). More people taking action means more opportunities for signups, event attendance, donations and more.
  • Ask for subscriber feedback: Many of us are afraid of negative feedback. But there’s great value in it! You learn what’s working and what isn’t and that helps you tweak and sharpen your content strategy.

Two other reasons for requesting feedback from subscribers:

  • It makes subscribers feel like they matter
  • If a subscriber takes the time to send you feedback, you can now have a 1-to-1 conversation with them. If fundraising and marketing is all about building relationships, having a back and forth with an individual subscriber is a wonderful way to do that!

make sure your emails arrive in the Inbox

Let It Go

I may not like it but I have learned to deal with the reality of people unsubscribing from my newsletter. Thankfully my unsubscribe rate is only 0.1%. I’m quite proud of that!

On the face of it, an unsubscribe stinks. But it’s not the end of the world. Use it as a learning and growing opportunity.

Want your emails to raise more money for your org but you don’t have enough time to dedicate to email? Time to accomplish more while raising more! My team and I will manage your email program A-Z so you’re raising money while also being free to finish other tasks.