Most nonprofits have growing lists of email addresses for donors, members, volunteers and other supporters or potential supporters. Many of these organizations fail to make the most of their lists, though. Instead of segmenting them, they send all of their communications — donation requests, newsletters, meeting announcements, legislative updates — to everyone. Email segmentation can help you increase the effectiveness of each communication by getting the right messages to the right people.

Benefits of segmentation

It’s difficult to admit sometimes, but not everyone is interested in everything your organization has to say — and too many irrelevant contacts can make people tune out or unsubscribe. That’s just one of many reasons to think about segmenting your email list and sending particular emails to only specific slices of the list.

Segmentation can even increase your response rates and strengthen engagement. You’ll likely see higher open and click-through rates. One email marketing company recently sampled 2,000 users who sent about 11,000 segmented campaigns and compared the results with the same users’ nonsegmented campaigns. It found the “opens” for the segmented campaigns were almost 15% higher than for nonsegmented, and “clicks” were 59% higher.

Using a segmented approach, the recipients will get more information they value and less that doesn’t interest them, fostering greater trust in your organization and the relevance of your communications. And segmentation lets you experiment with different tones, writing styles, subject lines and visual presentations to determine which work best. You may learn that different groups respond differently based on the message.

Of course, the benefits of segmentation require effective email messaging to begin with. To get the most bang for the buck, organizations need to think not just about content but also about presentation. With recipients reading emails on a variety of devices these days, nonprofits also should ensure their messages are optimized for reading on mobile devices and tablets, as well as desktop computers.

Potential segments

Every organization’s email list is unique, of course, but nonprofits often have some simple segments they can use to begin tailoring their emails. For example, a nonprofit can segment its list by age, gender, location, income or similar trait. If you don’t already possess this information, though, gathering the demographic information can prove delicate — be careful not to turn off potential donors or members with your inquiries.

You also could segment your list on the basis of past actions. For example, you can track activities such as event attendance, volunteer work, donations or membership renewal. You might further narrow the segment by setting a date parameter (for instance, activity within the past year) or, in the case of donations, creating subgroups based on donation amounts or specific campaigns. “Super donors” whose giving exceeds a certain threshold, “super attendees” who attend a specified number of events in a year and “super volunteers” who donate a certain number of hours in a year might receive every email, while others receive fewer.

Interests present another opportunity for segmentation. When you obtain new supporters, members, newsletter subscribers or other additions to your email list, you can send them targeted emails early on and monitor whether and how they respond. Track the pages on your website that visitors check out before they move to action-oriented pages, such as those for event registrations or donations. You also can track open-and-click activity to see how recipients responded to previous emails. Then use that information to segment by interest.

A valuable resource ripe for the taking

Properly leveraged, your organization’s email list is one of its most valuable assets. Carving your list into segments can empower you to craft more personalized and effective communications that help build loyalty and achieve your goals.

© 2016