Email Deliverability - FAQ
Updated over a week ago

So you’ve written a perfect email blast and sent it out to your whole list of contacts – but when you check back in a few hours, you realize that many of those emails ended up “bounced”, "rejected", or “undelivered.”

How does something like this happen? And how can it be prevented?

Why is my email showing as "rejected" in my Donor Management system?

Emails in your Donor Management system that reflect as "rejected" can do so for a few reasons. The most common that we see are:

  • Your IP address has been listed as "denied" by the recipient (or their email provider)

  • The content of your email contains elements that the recipient's email provider has deemed to be "junk" or "spam"

  • There was a technical issue that occurred between the two servers (yours and the recipient's) at the time you attempted to send the email

What is a “deliverability rate”? What is an “open rate”?

A “deliverability rate” is the rate in which a particular email was successful in being delivered to your contacts without any obstacles, such as getting caught in a “junk” or “spam” folder. They are measured in percentages – so an email with a deliverability rate of 45% means that 45% of the people that were sent the email actually were able to receive it.

An “open rate” is the rate in which an email is opened by email recipients, instead of being left unread or deleted. A “click-to-open" rate (the “clicked” metric in your Email Blasts) is the rate in which individuals who opened that email clicked on the links within – like a link to your donation page, or your nonprofit’s social media accounts.

To learn more about how Bonterra is working to address changes to email open rates, check out this related article.

What is considered a “good” deliverability rate, or a “good” open rate?

It can be difficult to determine a “good” deliverability rate in the nonprofit sector, since there are several factors that can impact how successful an email’s deliverability is. A good deliverability rate can depend on how large the email’s audience is, how large the email was, and several other aspects that are hard to compare across the entire nonprofit sector.

However, nonprofit organizations do have one of the highest industry averages for their email open rates, with 20-25% of nonprofit email communications being opened by their recipients. The click-to-open rate for nonprofits can vary as well, depending on what kind of link is included in the message. Only about 1% of email recipients click on links within a nonprofit’s email blast – but nearly 5% of email recipients click on links that allow them to share the message or post directly to social media.

What causes an email’s deliverability rate to decrease?

There are many things that can negatively impact an email’s deliverability rate. Here are some of the most common that we see:

  • Generic “from” email addresses, such as, or

  • Using “shortened” URLs for links or buttons within the message

  • Email subject lines in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS

  • Email subject lines that include special characters, or excessive punctuation!!!

  • Sending communication infrequently or inconsistently

  • Sending an email to a large audience (e.g. 10,000 contacts)

  • Sending too many similar emails to the same audience in a short period of time

  • Including large attachments, images, or videos

  • Inconsistent formatting (such as multiple colors and fonts)

  • Spelling errors

How can you improve an email’s deliverability rate?

There are several ways to help increase the changes that your email hits more of your contacts’ email inboxes. Here are a few we recommend:

  • Keep your email lists “clean” from any email addresses that previously have unsubscribed or bounced.

  • Update your “from” email address in Donor Management to a more personalized email address for your organization. (Not sure how? Learn more here.)

  • Use the full link (including the https://) when adding a hyperlink, adding an image, or including a button within the body of the email.

  • Use short, catchy, personalized subject lines that avoid excessive punctuation, special characters, or all capital letters.

  • Personalize the email by using merge fields to pull in a donor’s name.

  • Be consistent with your font colors and sizes throughout the message.

  • Use spell-check to ensure there are no spelling errors.

  • Send communications consistently to your audience (weekly, monthly, etc.)

  • Using filtering and segmenting to share the email with multiple smaller audiences. (Want to learn more about filtering and segmenting to send more effective emails? Click here.)

  • Minimize the size and number of images and attachments included with the email.

  • Avoid the use of “spam trigger words” that may cause email providers to assume the message isn’t genuine. (Examples of “trigger words” that nonprofits may find familiar include “free gift”, “giveaway”, “miracle”, “promise”, “act now”, “take action”, “dear friend”, etc.)

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