Over 90% of people in the U.S. are email users. Like most people in 2023, your supporters likely receive an overwhelming number of emails each day. In fact, an average of 121 business emails are sent and received daily!
So, how can your nonprofit organization stand out from the crowd of emails filling your supporters’ inboxes? In combination with other factors, the time of day you send your fundraising emails can have a major impact. When you send a fundraising email can be the difference between improved engagement metrics (open rate, click-through rate, donation amount, etc.) and disappointing ones. That begs the question: What’s the best time to send a fundraising email?
You want to make sure that every element of your fundraising email is aligned in a way that will catch a supporter’s attention and get opened. Let’s focus on the send time piece—read on for helpful fundraising email send time data and best practices!
The Best Time for Nonprofit Emails
For our latest research report, The Nonprofit Email Report: Data-Backed Insights for Better Engagement, we analyzed 37,472 email campaigns (that’s 157,048,634 individual emails) and then broke down important benchmarks by list size. We paid close attention to key email engagement metrics, including email performance by time of day.
There’s not one best time to send a fundraising email. Note that these averages may not lead you to the perfect fundraising email send time formula for your organization (more on how to find that in the next section), but they can give you points of comparison and a solid place to start. Here’s what we found:
The average email send time for nonprofits was 11:44 a.m. CDT and the average open rate for this time was 29.18%.
For small nonprofits, the average email send time was 12:01 p.m. CDT and the average open rate for this time was 45.37%.
For large nonprofits, the average email send time was 11:32 a.m. CDT and the average open rate for this time was 26.10%.
Even with some adjustments for different time zones, this data shows us that nonprofits across the board typically send their emails in the late morning and early afternoon. It also reveals that small nonprofits tend to have more engaged contacts. Regardless of your organization’s size, experimenting with the time of day you send fundraising emails can result in better engagement outcomes.
How to Find the Ideal Send Time for Your Fundraising Emails
Fundraising emails are a crucial piece of nonprofit communications, but they’re less effective when they aren’t sent at an ideal time. The benchmarks above are a great launching pad for experimentation, and they likely won’t be the end of your quest to find the best time to send nonprofit emails. Here’s how you can find the most effective send time for your organization’s emails:
1. Test, Test, Test
Try sending emails at a different time of day than you usually do. Compare engagement metrics and test until you see improvements. What difference does a different time of day make for open rates? Donations completed? Click-through rates?
Use A/B testing (also known as “split testing”) to test various send times. In email marketing, A/B testing means sending different versions of an email to test how a single adjustment changes engagement metrics. For example, if you normally send fundraising emails at 9:00 am but you want to test the average small nonprofit email send time of around 12:00 pm, you would send two versions of the same email (Version 1 sent at 9:00 am and Version 2 sent at 12:00 pm) to see which performs better.
This doesn’t mean you send the same email to everyone on your list twice. Most email marketing platforms allow you to A/B test within the same campaign, sending half of your email contacts Version 1 and the rest Version 2.
When testing, it’s important to only experiment with one element of your fundraising email at a time. If you want to see whether one send time is better than another, don’t also use a wildly different subject line or make major changes to your email’s layout or content. By only testing one element at a time, you’re able to confirm that that piece is driving the changes and not something else.
2. Follow the Money
Increased open rates aren’t the only metric you’ll want to pay attention to when trying to find the best time to send your fundraising emails. The donation amount that a supporter gives after receiving a fundraising email can also be impacted by the time it was sent.
Are your supporters more likely to click through and make a donation early in the morning? Do they donate more when fundraising emails are sent in the afternoon or evening? If a donor clicks a link in your fundraising email, at what time are they completing their donation? At what time of day do they most often click through to the “Donate” page but don’t follow through with a donation?
Experimenting with different fundraising email send times can reveal all of this information. After A/B testing, check the timestamps for donations that came through a fundraising email. Do you notice a pattern?
3. Consider Other Factors
If you’ve reviewed nonprofit email benchmarks and tried testing various times of day to send your fundraising emails with little to no success, it’s time to consider other factors.
Low engagement with fundraising emails could be due to issues unrelated to the time the email is sent. The issue may be with your subject lines or even your copy. If you’re not seeing the better results you hoped for when changing the email send time, test changes to other parts of your email.
For help getting started with a higher-performing subject line, check out 10 Nonprofit Email Subject Line Ideas That Work.
Get Data-Backed Insights for Better Email Engagement
There’s more nonprofit-specific data where the average send time data in this article came from. Our latest research, The Nonprofit Email Report: Data-Backed Insights for Better Engagement, is full of email benchmarks for nonprofits of all sizes that can help you create emails your supporters want to open. Download your copy today for best practices, great nonprofit email examples, and more tips that will equip you to build more compelling emails.
Join the discussion in our Slack channel on connected fundraising