5 Tests to Get Better Results from Your Nonprofit’s Email Newsletter

Testing Nonprofit Newsletter

There’s no shortage of advice when it comes to getting the most out of your nonprofit’s email newsletter.  I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of folks telling you to keep your copy simple or to personalize your message based on the interests of your audience.

That’s all good stuff.  And while that kind of general advice can be incredibly helpful, it doesn’t necessarily take all the nuances of your recipients into account.

Instead of simply applying the best practices you come across, test them out for yourself.

What is A/B Testing?

What we’re talking about here is called “A/B testing.”  That means instead of sending one version of your newsletter, you send two – Version A and Version B (hence the name).  The two versions are identical, except for one key difference of your choosing.  Every subscriber on your newsletter list only gets one version.  So some get A and some get B, allowing you to compare their data and see what works.

By keeping everything the same except just one element, you can see which version performs better (often deemed “the winner”).  You can then apply the one that performs best in the future.

Let’s look at some examples to help flesh this concept out.

1. Best Subject Lines

In the world of newsletters, A/B testing is often applied to subject lines.

To test out your subject lines, you’ll send the exact same newsletter with two different subjects.  See which variation gets more opens and engagement from your audience.  Doing so will help you learn what piques the interest of your subscribers.

2. Best Day to Send Your Nonprofit’s Newsletter

Use A/B testing to determine the best day to send your nonprofit’s newsletter.  To do this, you’ll send the exact same newsletter with the same subject line, but you’ll send one version on one day and another on a different day (at the same time of day).  By keeping everything else exactly the same, you’ll be able to determine the best day to send your emails.

Next time you send out your newsletter, use the “winner” as Version A and try a new day as Version B.

3. Best Time of Day to Send Your Newsletter

You can also test the best time of day to send your newsletter.  Send the exact same newsletter on the same day, but send each version at a different time.  Perhaps try one in the early morning and one in the afternoon.

Whichever time performs best, try to beat it when you next send your email newsletter.

4. Best Sender Name

Try mixing up your sender name (the name that shows in your recipient’s inbox).  Consider trying one variation with your organization’s name and another with the name of someone that works in your organization.  If no one will know this person, you can try “Person | Org. Name” or “First Name @ Org. Name” as the sender.

Some of your recipients may like this personalized touch.  There’s no way to know if this will work for you unless you try it out.

5. Best Calls to Action

For many organizations, a large percentage of your newsletters will have some prominent call to action.  Well you can test these too.

Keep everything else the same, but mix up the language in your call to action within your newsletter’s content.  Whichever call to action drives the most people to click through to your website, put it up against a new call to action in the future.

How to A/B Test Your Nonprofit’s Newsletter

Many popular email service providers have a system for A/B testing.  Below are links to resources for a few of the ones we often come across:

MailChimp – How does A/B Split Testing Work?

iContact – Email Split Testing

Campaign Monitor – A/B Testing Your Email Campaigns

If you use a different one and are interested in A/B testing, reach out to customer support.  I’m sure they can point you in the right direction.

Have you done much testing with your nonprofit’s email newsletter?  Or are you excited about trying any of these out?  Have any tests to add to our list?  Let me know in the comments.

Related Reads

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Segmenting Lists for Your Email Newsletter: Why and How

9 Content Ideas for Your Nonprofit Newsletter

How Often Should Your Nonprofit Send Your Email Newsletter?

Image courtesy of Jocelyn Kinghorn