Skip to Main Content

The Nonprofit Email Report: Data-Backed Insights for Better Engagement

Browse The Report

  1. Introduction
    1. A Note from Neon One
    2. Who’s Represented In This Report?
    3. Why Is Email So Important?
    4. Anatomy of an Email
  2. Nonprofit Email Deliverability & Engagement Benchmarks
    1. Introduction
    2. Nonprofit List Sizes
    3. Ask The Expert: Is List Segmentation Really That Important?
    4. Nonprofit Email Bounce Rates
    5. Nonprofit Email Open Rates
    6. Nonprofit Email Unsubscribe Rates
    7. Nonprofit Email Click-Through Rates
    8. Nonprofit Email Fundraising Performance
    9. Nonprofit Email Performance by Date & Time
    10. Email Sender Superlatives
  3. A Data-Driven Approach to Subject Lines & Preview Text
    1. Introduction
    2. Convey Positive Emotions in Subject Lines
    3. Ask the Expert: How Did You Use AI for Subject Line Sentiment Analysis?
    4. Words to Include (or Avoid) in Your Subject Lines
    5. Experiment with Emojis in Subject Lines
    6. Write Compelling Preview Text
    7. Words to Include (or Avoid) in Your Preview Text
    8. Put It All Together — Performance Benchmarks & Word Usage
  4. Creating Effective Emails
    1. Introduction
    2. Ask the Expert: What Should I Keep In Mind When Creating Compelling Emails?
    3. Tip #1 — Include Imagery in Your Emails
    4. Tip #2 — Pay Attention to Salutations
    5. Ask The Expert: Do Salutations Really Make a Difference?
    6. Tip #3 — Use the Word "You"
    7. Tip #4 — Make Your Message Scannable
    8. Ask The Expert: How Do I Create a Great Call to Action?
    9. Tip #5 — Include Great Calls to Action
    10. Put It All Together - Build Clear, Compelling Emails
  5. Lessons from the Most Engaging Email of 2022
    1. Introduction
    2. Top Engagement Email Dissection
    3. Go Build More Engaging Emails
  6. Data-Backed Insights for GivingTuesday and Year-End
    1. Introduction
    2. Who’s Included In This Data?
    3. GivingTuesday Fundraising Totals
    4. GivingTuesday Email Data
    5. End of Year Fundraising Totals
    6. End-of-Year Email Data
    7. Use These Data-Backed Best Practices to Nail Your GivingTuesday and Year-End Goals
    8. Now Get Out There And Write Some Emails
  7. Methodology & Appendix
    1. Methodology
    2. The Dataset
    3. Terminology and Definitions
    4. Metrics Definitions
    5. Analysis by Mission & Organization Income
    6. Analysis by Time & Date Sent
    7. Analysis by Content Sentiment
    8. Data Privacy & Security
  8. About Neon One
    1. Learn more about Neon One

Tip #1 — Include Imagery in Your Emails

Illustrated icon of a photograph
Humans are hardwired to respond to images, especially when those images include faces. Including an image in your email will help capture readers’ attention; images of people will be even more effective. In an experiment by research firm NextAfter, a nonprofit organization sent two versions of an email promoting their newest online course: One version contained an image, the other did not. They conducted an A/B test to see which performed better—the version that contained an image in addition to the copy saw a 129% higher click-through rate than the version that did not. Adding an image to your email can have a tremendous impact on your overall performance.

Choosing good imagery can also help readers connect emotionally with your message! According to Canva, a graphic design tool used to create digital images, “If there is something our brains love more than an image, it’s an emotion. Though you can of course get emotion across in words, we are masters at reading other people’s faces for emotional cues … Because we are always on the lookout for emotional cues in images, especially of people, these are a great way to get across positive emotions to associate with your brand.”

The takeaway here is straightforward: Use imagery in your emails. Your readers (and your performance metrics) will thank you.

Here are some guidelines for choosing the best images for your emails:

  • When using pictures of people, choose images that include peoples’ faces.
  • People-centered images will be most effective when readers can connect with the subjects. Look for images that include one to three people, ideally people who are making eye contact with the camera.
  • When using text-based images, make sure the font you use is clear and easy to read.
  • Text-based images should be easy to read—use high-contrast colors and fonts that are clearly visible against the background.
  • If supported by your email service provider, include alt text that describes the image. This is an important part of creating accessible email messages to users who rely on screen readers and other accessibility features.

Sending test versions of emails is always a good idea. It’s especially important when your emails contain imagery! Make sure to look at your test email on a few different devices to make sure your images don’t impact your deliverability, load quickly, and display properly.

  1. NextAfter. (2021, March 3). How images in an email affect Clickthrough Rate. Experiments. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from
  2. Tate, A. (2021, August 16). 10 scientific reasons people are wired to respond to your visual marketing. Canva Visual Marketing. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from