Charlotte Field

Charlotte Field

Fundraiser. Digital native. Word enchantress. Tea drinker. Pun maker. Kitten cuddler. Pronounces GIF with a hard 'g'.

The Most Important Emails You’re Forgetting

April 3, 2017

You want to give your subscribers an awesome experience as a part of your email list. You want to send them super relevant content, at just the right frequency. You want them to feel inspired, energized, and ready to take action for your awesome cause. You want to foster a deep and personal connection between them and the work they’re supporting.

If that’s your goal, then you should make sure that the experience you’re trying to create isn’t being derailed by something that’s often over-looked: back-end copy.

Back-end copy refers to the webpages and emails that are automatically generated by you email client (like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor). These neglected elements pop up at the most critical moments: when someone subscribes for the first time, or when they’re trying to unsubscribe. By spending some time tweaking these, you can take your subscribers’ experience to the next level – and even foster some subscriber loyalty!

Ask yourself:

1) What’s the first thing A DONOR seeS when they subscribe?

You likely know that the best practice nowadays is a welcome series of emails that onboards a new subscriber into your family, tells them more about the work they’re enabling, and gives them opportunities to upgrade their involvement (a second gift, a monthly commitment, volunteering, or signing a pledge, for example). You might even be rolling out such a series yourself!

But before that gets into the inbox, what else are they getting? A generic opt-in confirmation email, devoid of any passion? An auto-populated ‘Thanks for subscribing, click here to go back to the homepage’ pop-up? Take your subscription process for a test-drive and see what you find.

If you see something that less than awesome, go into your back-end and find out where these pieces live (it’s different for every email client!). Then, beef them up with genuine gratitude and excitement! This way, you make sure that the very first piece of communication they get from you is on-brand and powerful, setting the tone for emails to come.

2) What do they see if they try to Unsubscribe?

If someone is clicking unsubscribe, they’re not happy. Either the email is too frequent, not relevant enough, or contained a message that didn’t go over well. But, like any other donor complaint, the next page a subscriber sees when they click unsubscribe is a huge opportunity.

Different charities go about the unsubscribe page in different ways. Some Unsub pages remind the subscriber of all the good times – all the change we made together, all the work that’s left to do.  Some offer up a survey to glean information about why that person wanted to leave. Some go humour: Charity:water, for example, gives you the choice of opt-ing out OR watching their CEO get pelted with water balloons:

Either way, this page is your last chance to make the case to keep someone. Yes, you want to be mindful in creating this content – you don’t want be annoying in what can be a sensitive moment. But with the right case in front of them, people can and do re-consider (in charity:water’s case, for example, their unsub rate is about 0.001%)

3) Are they managing their preferences?

This connects back to section 2, because more and more people are offering folks who trying to unsubscribe, the opportunity to manage the email they receive.

You might offer up the choice of individual content types or messages. You might let them adjust the frequency of the emails they receive.

Admittedly, these systems can sometimes be tricky to implement – and, especially, to scale. But once your infrastructure in place, you’ll often find people are more likely to curate the content the want from you than to leave you altogether, and you can watch your unsubscribe rate drop.


These are 3 questions you can ask yourself to make sure your back-end copy lives up to the awesome email program you’re working so hard to build. What’s your favourite unsub example you’ve ever seen? Let me know!

One thought on “The Most Important Emails You’re Forgetting

  1. Very interesting, thank you for sharing your tips. Charity:water is a great example of how you can be creative with your subscriptions and use the unsubscribe to your benefit. The idea of individual content types is an interesting one, it might take more effort but if it helps to engage donors better it is definitely worth trying

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