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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

End-of-Year Email Data

The last three days of December are some of the busiest fundraising days of the year. Should you send emails during this period? Or will your message get lost among the other updates and appeals your supporters receive?

Let’s take a look.

Email Frequency

During this time frame in 2021, both large and small nonprofits sent an average of one email campaign to their supporters. In 2022, though, both groups upped this number to two total campaigns.

Number of End-of-Year Email Campaigns Sent 2021 2022
Average Nonprofit 1 2
Small Nonprofit 1 2
Large Nonprofit 1 2


As was the case with GivingTuesday, sending about two appeals to donors during this time period seems to be the “sweet spot” in terms of campaigns’ influence on overall fundraising. That said, segmentation seems to be a winning strategy, especially with end-of-year fundraising. One notable organization sent a total of 19 total emails to very targeted segments of their base, which had a positive impact on their fundraising totals.
Illustration of Ace, of the One Bunch, holding a laptop and an email is hovering above it to symbolize bounce rate

Average Email Performance Benchmarks

How do donors engage with end-of-year email campaigns? Are they more likely to open and respond to your messages? Or will your emails get lost in their inboxes?

Here’s what the data has to say.

All Year End-of-Year Difference
Open Rate 28.59% 22.87% -20.01%
Unsubscribe Rate 0.19% 0.20% +5.26%
Click-Through Rate 3.29% 1.51% -54.10%

Overall, engagement with end-of-year email campaigns is lower than emails sent during the rest of the year. But, remember, the emails in the year-round dataset include campaigns like newsletters, impact updates, and other types of communications. Seeing lower engagement here isn’t too surprising. Comparing end-of-year campaign benchmarks to GivingTuesday benchmarks, we can see a clearer picture of how audiences engage with both types of campaign.

GivingTuesday End-of-Year Difference
Open Rate 28.71% 22.87% -20.34%
Unsubscribe Rate 0.23% 0.20% -0.03%
Click-Through Rate 1.63% 1.51% -7.36%

Comparing engagement rates for GivingTuesday and end-of-year campaigns reveals that, as a general rule, GivingTuesday campaigns perform better than campaigns sent during the last three days of the year. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send emails during this time period! There are lots of reasons engagement may be lower here. These campaigns remain an important part of a successful year-end fundraising strategy.

This does mean there are opportunities to adjust your email campaign during the end of the year to try to boost interactions. When we look more closely at performance metrics for small and large organizations, we can draw some more definite conclusions about steps you can take to boost your own engagement rates.

Email Performance by Day

Which of the three days is the best to send your end-of-year emails? A look at email performance benchmarks for December 29, 30, and 31, 2022 reveals some interesting insights.

December 29 December 30 December 31 All Three Days
Average List Size 6243 4310 6175 5593
Open Rate 23% 24.52% 22.33% 22.87%
Click-Through Rate 1.46% 2.67% 1.17% 1.51%
Unsubscribe Rate 0.24% 0.23% 0.19%</td<> 0.20%
Amount Raised Per Campaign $3671.73 $6998.54 $5804.26 $6177.35
Amount Raised Per Contact $0.59 $1.62 $0.93 $1.10


What Does This Mean?

Across nearly all metrics (apart from average list size), emails sent on December 30, 2022 outperformed campaigns sent on other days. Email audiences were more likely to open an email and click on a link, and campaigns sent on that day raised more, on average, than the other two days despite having the smallest average list sizes. The day with the second-highest engagement rates was December 29, but with one notable exception: Those campaigns raised an average of $2,505.62 less than emails sent on December 31, 2022.

What Do I Do With This Information?

You may want to try sending an email appeal on December 30. The other two days aren’t as clear-cut: You can choose to send on December 29, when engagement tends to be higher but fundraising totals tend to be lower, or on December 31, which may earn you lower engagement but better overall

As with any benchmark or best practice, you know what works best for your own email audiences! Do you see better fundraising results on December 29 and 31? Send those days! Do you get awful engagement on December 29? Don’t feel like you need to send an email that day.

Email Performance for Small Nonprofits

How can small nonprofits improve their year-end email performance? Let’s see what trends the data reveals:

All Year End-of-Year Difference
Open Rate 45.70% 38.73% -6.97%
Unsubscribe Rate 0.16% 0.34% +0.18
Click-Through Rate 10.24% 4.65% -5.59%

You probably won’t be surprised that engagement during the end of the year is lower than averages for the rest of the year. Appeals usually include fewer opportunities to interact with different content than a newsletter or client success story! But look what happens when you compare these emails’ performance with campaigns sent on GivingTuesday:

All Year End-of-Year Difference
Open Rate 36.70% 38.73% +5.53%
Unsubscribe Rate 0.16% 0.34% +0.18
Click-Through Rate 3.85% 4.65% +20.78%

Your audience is even more likely to engage with your end-of-year campaigns than they are with your GivingTuesday campaigns. That’s reason to celebrate!

Email Performance for Large Nonprofits

What about larger organizations? Will having a larger list change your audience’s willingness to engage with your email campaigns?

All Year End-of-Year Difference
Open Rate 26.64% 22.40% +18.96%
Unsubscribe Rate 0.18% 0.20% +0.02%
Click-Through Rate 2.91% 1.43% -50.86%

You’re probably not surprised by the fact that end-of-year campaigns get lower levels of engagement than campaigns sent during the rest of the year. After all, your appeals probably don’t include a variety of content and lots of different links the way your newsletters or impact updates do. To get a better feel for how your audience interacts with your messaging during the end of the year, let’s compare this group’s year-end campaign performance to their GivingTuesday results.

GivingTuesday End-of-Year Difference
Open Rate 28.43% 22.40% -21.21%
Unsubscribe Rate 0.23% 0.20% -0.03%
Click-Through Rate 1.56% 1.43% -8.33%

If you’re like most large organizations, you probably see lower engagement with year-end email campaigns than you do with GivingTuesday campaigns. And that’s okay! GivingTuesday is, by its nature, a fundraising day that thrives on digital channels.