Re-engage email list

Guest blogger Karla Capers specializes in using the internet to raise visibility for progressive issues and engage people more deeply in campaigns. She has worked for advocacy organizations since 1996. 

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), where I’m Director of Engagement, faced a daunting challenge a couple of years ago: How to re-engage the many folks who were not reading or acting on our emails. It’s a common problem, for nonprofit organizations and beyond, and one that’s crucial to address.

Here’s how we tackled our “dead” email list:

First, we segmented our “Inactives:”

  • We defined “inactive” as anyone who’s never donated (online or off) and hasn’t opened, clicked, or taken any action from an email in the last 12 months
  • We segmented the “inactive” people on our list (initially, this group was about 25% of our deliverable email file)
  • We excluded them from “regular” email campaigns and messages.

Then, we launched our three-part reactivation campaign:

1) Initial email

  • Sent as soon as an individual moves to the “inactive” list
  • Subject line: We miss you [first name]
  • Call to action: Click here to let us know you still want to receive our emails
  • Clicking the link moves the recipient into the “Active” list, and takes her to a “Thanks and welcome back….” landing page.

2) Second email (if recipient doesn’t click on the initial email)

  • Sent one week after the first email
  • Subject line: “Science still needs you [firstname]”
  • Call to action: Tries to re-engage people with an action alert, talks about recent attacks on science and asks the person to sign a generic pledge to “stand with science.”

3) Final email (if recipient doesn’t click on the second email)

  • Sent one week after the second email
  • Subject line: “Thanks and Goodbye”
  • Informs the person that since we haven’t heard from them for a long time, we are going to unsubscribe them. Offers one last chance to click to continue receiving UCS emails.
  • The landing page is a survey where they can update their email subscriptions by issue topic and type of message, and share feedback on why they have been out of touch.

Our Results—Good but We Want to Do Better
We re-engaged almost 5% of our inactive file in the last five months. The third email performed the best re-engaging 3.17% of the inactive file. Email one re-engaged 1.56% of the list and email two only 0.88%.

Next Steps—Start Earlier, Before a Year of Inaction
One change I’d like to make is adding an email to the series to re-engage people before they fall into the inactive pool. I think that if we reconnect sooner, we may pull more people back into the active file. I’m figuring out the best timing for this additional email; whether its three or six months after people click or act on an email.

How do you reengage inactive supporters, whether those on your email list who don’t respond or lapsed donors? Please share your reactivation methods here.

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