Email marketing is still one of the best ways for nonprofits to reach supporters, share updates, and get those much-needed donations. In fact, it outperforms all social media platforms by a long shot.

But getting people to actually open your emails? That can be a bit of a challenge. Sadly, many charities lack a proper digital strategy when it comes to email marketing.

Let’s explore some simple approaches to boost your nonprofit's email open rates and figure out what the average open rate looks like.

Average Email Open Rates for Nonprofits

Email open rates show the percentage of recipients who open an email out of the total number sent. It's a key metric for checking how effective your email campaigns are. For nonprofits, the average open rate is around 20-25%. Knowing this benchmark helps you see how you’re doing.


In 2021, Campaign Monitor reported that the average open rate for nonprofit emails was about 25.17%. This gives you a good idea of where you should aim.

How to Increase your Nonprofit's Email Open Rates

1. Craft Compelling Subject Lines

Your subject line is the first thing people see, so it needs to grab their attention. Keep it short, engaging, and relevant. Personalising it can also help.

  • Use Actionable Language: Get people to act. For example, "Join Us in Making a Difference" or "See How You Can Help Today."
  • Create a Sense of Urgency: Use phrases like "Don’t Miss Out" or "Last Chance" to get immediate responses.
  • Personalise When Possible: Adding the recipient’s name or tailoring the subject line to their interests can make a big difference.


If you’re with Save the Children, a subject line like "John, Your Support Is Needed Today" can feel more personal and prompt action.

2. Segment Your Audience

Segmenting your email list means dividing it into smaller groups based on specific criteria like donation history or event participation. This lets you send more relevant emails.

  • Donor Segments: Separate new donors from regular ones and tailor your messages.
  • Interest Segments: If you know what supporters care about, use that info to send more relevant content.


A wildlife conservation nonprofit could send tailored updates to supporters interested in marine life and a different set of updates to those who care about forest conservation.

3. Optimise Email Timing

When you send your emails matters. Experiment with different days and times to find out what works best for your audience.

  • Timing Considerations: Many studies suggest emails sent mid-week and mid-morning perform better. But test this to see what your audience prefers.
  • A/B Testing: Try sending the same email at different times to small segments of your list to determine the best send time.


A local food bank might find Tuesday mornings get the highest open rates, while another nonprofit might see better results on Thursday afternoons.

4. Ensure Mobile-Friendliness

A lot of people check their emails on their phones. Make sure your emails look good on mobile devices.

  • Responsive Design: Use email templates that adjust to different screen sizes.
  • Short and Sweet: Keep your subject lines and preheaders concise so they display well on mobile.


A nonprofit focusing on youth education can use responsive design to make sure their emails look great on mobile, making it easier for busy parents to engage.

5. Personalise Your Emails

Go beyond just personalising the subject line. Tailor the email content itself to the recipient. Use their name, reference past interactions, and provide relevant content.

  • Dynamic Content: Use dynamic fields to insert personalised content for each recipient.
  • Behavioural Triggers: Set up automated emails based on specific actions, like a donation or event registration.


The Humane Society might send a personalised thank-you email to donors who recently contributed, mentioning their specific donation amount and how it helps their cause.

6. Test and Optimise

Keep testing and optimising your emails to improve open rates over time. A/B testing different elements, like subject lines and send times, can give you valuable insights.

  • Subject Line Testing: Try different styles, lengths, and types of subject lines to see what resonates most with your audience.
  • Content Testing: Test various formats like videos, images, and text to see which gets the best response.


A healthcare nonprofit could test subject lines like "Your Impact on Community Health" versus "See the Difference You Made This Month" to see which one gets more opens.

7. Clean Your Email List

Regularly clean your email list to remove inactive subscribers. Keeping a list of engaged recipients improves your open rates and deliverability.

  • Engagement Campaigns: Send re-engagement emails to inactive subscribers to see if they still want to hear from you.
  • List Pruning: Remove subscribers who haven’t engaged with your emails in a while, say six months or a year.


An environmental nonprofit might send a re-engagement email like "We Miss You! Here’s What’s New at [Organization]" to inactive subscribers before deciding to remove them from the list.

8. Use a Recognisable Sender Name

People are more likely to open emails from a sender they recognise and trust. Make sure your sender name is clearly associated with your nonprofit.

  • Consistent Branding: Use a sender name that clearly identifies your organisation.
  • Friendly and Professional: Combine a personal touch with professionalism to build trust.


Emails from "Jane at Animal Rescue League" are more likely to be opened than those from a generic "" address.

9. Create Engaging Preheaders

The preheader text, or the preview text, is an extension of your subject line and can influence open rates. Make sure it complements your subject line and provides extra incentive to open the email.

  • Complementary Text: Use the preheader to expand on the subject line or give a sneak peek of the email content.
  • Call to Action: Include a call to action or highlight a key benefit to entice recipients to open the email.


A children’s charity might use a subject line like "Join Us in Making a Child’s Dream Come True" and a preheader that says, "See how you can change a life today."


Increasing email open rates for nonprofits involves a mix of creative and strategic efforts. By crafting compelling subject lines, segmenting your audience, optimising timing, ensuring mobile-friendliness, personalising content, testing and optimising, cleaning your email list, using a recognisable sender name, and creating engaging preheaders, you can significantly boost your open rates.

Remember, the average open rate for nonprofit emails is around 20-25%, but with these strategies, you can aim to exceed this benchmark and enhance your email marketing effectiveness.

By continually refining your approach and staying attuned to your audience’s preferences, your nonprofit can achieve higher engagement and, ultimately, greater support for your mission.

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