I've seen many organizations myopically focused on open rate for their key email metric. It is a number that is easy to find, simple to interpret and accessible as a metric for people who aren't new media gurus.
But for fundraising (and most action-based emails), conversion rates are the most important metric. Not open rates, not click-through rates, but what percentage of your audience saw your email and donated money. It sounds simple, but your goal should be to raise money when you are sending a fundraising email. Focusing on conversions will help you run a better program, too!
- It forces you to look holistically at the path the donor takes. A good subject line should lead to a good ask, which hopefully leads to a good contribution form. An enticing subject line may boost your open rate, but without a dynamite ask and an easy contribution form your conversion rate will be poor.
- You won't be as tempted to write gimmicky or misleading subject lines. Sure, they might boost your open rate. But what matters is the entire donor experience. Open rates don't tell you if the donor felt misled after opening and reading your email. The subject line "Baby Lemur sneezing" might get a high open rate. But will those people donate, or unsubscribe?
- It focuses you on action takers. If you only tracked how much money an ask raised, you run the risk of believing an email was awesome because of one or two abnormally large contributions. Conversion rates are a much steadier metric to measure over time. Focusing only on the money raised can lead you to make incorrect assumptions later.
Nate Thames is Political Director at ActBlue and an NOI trainer and community member