“Failure isn’t fatal but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

As a publisher of a successful daily enewsletter, I know that subscribers don’t stay loyal forever.

When I first started publishing the newsletter over three years ago, I took it a little personally when someone unsubscribed. As if I had done something bad to them and they were unsubscribing to get back at me.

But as they say, time heals all wounds.

After sending over a quarter million emails and learning what works and what doesn’t, I am more laid back about unsubscribes. Subscribers come and subscribers go.

Do I still wish all subscribers stayed forever? Of course! But that’s unrealistic.

However, I have learned that unsubscribes are a gold mine of great info and intel. Simply not paying attention to them or casually paying attention to them is bad for business.

Here’s why.

Why You Need To Check Email Unsubscribes

Over a thousand nonprofit pros subscribe to my daily newsletter. I consistently hear from my readers and very much enjoy their feedback.

The unsubscribers? I pay very close attention to them as well.

People unsubscribe for a whole slew of reasons. Those reasons are GOLD for your nonprofit!

Not everyone includes a reason for unsubscribing. There are plenty who simply check off “no longer interested” when asked why they’re unsubscribing.

Get a lot of those? You might want to start considering whether your content is off the mark.

Thankfully, you’re also going to have unsubscribers who add a reason why they’re saying goodbye. Those reasons are critical to your email fundraising and marketing success.

Here are some that I have received:

“I’m leaving this position and am cleaning up my email inbox. I’ve loved the emails and have learned so much over the last year-ish. All the best!”

“I am no longer working in development- I have gone back to teaching. I have thoroughly enjoyed and learned from your daily emails. Thank you!”

“I’m retiring from the NP world. Your newsletters have been a highlight the last year or so for me. Big thanks. Wishing you continued success!”

OK, so all three of those contain praise for my newsletter.

Remember when I told you unsubscribes used to be painful? I’ll take the compliments and accolades any day 😊

The fact is that each of the above gave me useful insight into what was happening in an individual’s life. If you’re smart, you’ll know how to make good use of that info.

Moving On

When a subscriber unsubscribes, I highly recommend checking out why.

For example, when someone indicates they’re moving to a new position and won’t have access to their current email, you shouldn’t just let them go!

Your job is to build relationships with each subscriber. To engage them. Encourage them to click your CTA’s.

Moving to a new job? Figure out how to get in touch with them and

  1. Congratulate them on the new gig
  2. Ask if they’d like to re-subscribe from their new email address.

No reason to stop being connected!

How about this one?

“All your emails ask for money and even though I’m a donor, you never tell me what impact my donation had. I’m tired of feeling like a cash cow.”

Might feel harsh but if you have an email subscriber who you’ve converted into a donor and this is how they feel, that’s not great. You’ve lost a subscriber and a donor.

In fact, a comment like that should cause you and your team to pause and review past emails. Is it true that all your emails only ask for money? Are you neglecting to share the impact donations have on people in your community? Are you sharing stories which connect donors directly to the people they want to assist?

(Of course, all of this ties back to a bigger picture question: Do you have an email fundraising and marketing strategy? If no, get on that! If yes, are you following it? Does it need to be improved, changed, upgraded?)

Unsubscribe reasons can be endless. A good use of your time is learning why people unsubscribe and figuring out the next move based on their reasoning.

thousands of emails in an inbox

Photo by Brian Tromp on Unsplash

Inboxes Are A Nuclear Disaster Zone

It’s not a given that someone will subscribe to your organization’s enewsletter.

You’re competing with overflowing inboxes. With a kajillion pieces of content that get published every minute. With work and family and vacay and…

As tough as it might seem, it is VERY doable to build up a list of engaged subscribers. It IS possible to convert subscribers into donors. You CAN build relationships via email!

And believe it or not, unsubscribes is a key component in all of that.

When an individual unsubscribes, find out why. Glean insights. Follow up if possible. Don’t lose the connection.

The overall retention rate in the nonprofit sector is an abysmal 45%. Know the reason?

Organizations spend way too much time on acquiring new donors. They take current donors for gifted and assume they’ll keep giving year after year. The data clearly shows the opposite happens.

From a budget standpoint, it costs more to acquire a new donor than it does to retain a current one.

Now consider your emails: You worked hard to get them to sign up. You craft great subject lines to encourage opens. Your content mobilizes people to take action.

So when someone unsubscribes, if there’s any way you can retain them, wouldn’t it make sense to do so?!

Have a look at your unsubscribes. Go through the list and see why they left. You can learn a lot.

It could be the difference between letting a donor walk away or keeping them as a supporter.

I don’t think it’s really that tough a choice.

P.S. Want to use email to help your organization grow and thrive? Let’s work together on creating a roadmap to email success! We’ll craft a custom strategy to ensure subscribers open your emails, read them, click your CTA and are encouraged to take action.