Double Opt-In Benefits for Nonprofit Email Marketing

Improve the quality of your donor data in one easy step by incorporating double opt-in into your email marketing strategy


The argument could be made that nowhere is the adage “old habits die hard” more true than in the nonprofit world.

That is why it can often be frustrating for 21st century fundraisers and philanthropy innovators to continually hear “no” when a new idea is suggested—or when an outdated process is proposed to be put to rest.

What’s more, forward-thinking nonprofit professionals face an even tougher uphill battle when it comes to initiatives that, on the surface at least, appear to be counter-intuitive to success.

Quality vs. quantity

For example, The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is challenging the long-held belief that more donors means more donations by shrinking their donor pool… on purpose.

While NWF used to claim over a million supporters, it is no longer viewing quantity as an indicator of quality.

NWF implemented a new strategy that dropped low-value, high-churn givers from their donor rolls and focused their marketing efforts on identifying and appealing to supporters who are more likely to actually be invested in NWF’s mission and values.

By segmenting their donors by motivational interest using StratusLIVE for Fundraisers nonprofit CRM software, NWF was able to save on overhead costs while reducing their carbon footprint by sending over one million fewer direct mail solicitations. At the same time, the average value of individual member gifts increased more than 13%.

Likewise, nonprofits should take a look at every one of their operational processes and subject them to similar scrutiny. Case in point: double opt-in emails.

What is double opt-in emailing?

Simply put, double opt-in requires your email recipients to confirm they want to receive email communication from you after filling out a form.

This is in contrast to the single opt-in method, whereby a person enters their email address (on your website, for example) and is automatically signed up to receive communications from your organization.

While it may be tempting to stick with single opt-in — particularly for new or growing nonprofits — the disadvantages of single opt-in email marketing outweigh the benefits in the long run.

Advantages of double opt-in

By verifying that the email address is legitimate and confirming the intention of the person to subscribe to receive emails, double opt-in serves some very important functions:

  1. Ensures subscribers are genuine. (Not bots.)
  2. Reaffirms they are truly interested in your message, increasing the likelihood that they will engage with your nonprofit mission
  3. Proves that the email address is functioning and accessible, meaning lower bounce rates, better email deliverability, and even lower monthly premiums if your email service provider (ESP) charges higher rates for larger bulk email sends
  4. Prevents registrations using another person’s email address, (or a fake address, if you are offering gated content or other inducements that the subscriber might be interested in obtaining—without providing your nonprofit with their actual information.

Additional information

While double opt-in is not currently required by law in the United States, in certain countries such as Canada and the European Union, privacy protections are much stronger.

In addition to just being a sound business practice for good data hygiene, double opt-in also ensures that your nonprofit complies with the law if you have subscribers from outside of the U.S.

If you’re unsure which regulations apply to your organization, be sure to research the laws for the areas in which your nonprofit operates.

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