How to Target for a Healthy Email Program

Updated by Justine Hong

Sending Consistently to Active Recipients

You want to make sure that the mail providers (like Gmail, Outlook, etc) see positive engagement across your email program in order to maintain strong deliverability. Sending consistently to folks who want to receive your emails is a big part of this. Active engagement with your subscribers shows mail providers you are a reliable sender with a healthy email list. For example:

  • Sending inconsistently can also hurt your reputation, it’s better to send consistently to smaller lists than to send to higher volume audiences only 4-5 times a month. Use Switchboard’s “schedule send” feature to schedule email blasts across multiple days.
  • Sending an email to your recent openers is better than sending an email to people on your email list that have not opened an email in over 90 days.
Off-boarding Inactive Recipients

As a part of managing your email deliverability we recommend instituting some form of “off-boarding” for email recipients that have not engaged with your email content over a specific time period. Sending emails to people that are not active or do not want to receive your emails will negatively impact your domain and IP reputation.

At Switchboard, we want to empower you as the manager of your email program to do what is best for your active email recipients and your program as a whole. We are not prescriptive on what this off-boarding should look like, but may move you to a different IP pool if your program has consistently poor engagement rates.

An example of what email audiences could look like for your program:





Anyone who has clicked and/or opened in the last 30/60/90 days.

Stay on main email list

New Subscribers

A new email address that your organization added to its list because the user took a proactive action (i.e. filled out a form, donated, etc).

Onboarded to the email program via a welcome series. If they engage with the welcome series, they can be moved to the actives list.


Anyone who has not taken an action in the last 30/60/90 days

Removed from the main email list


Someone who has engaged with your program in the past but is no longer active.

Add a small percentage (under 10%) on the days you send to your active universe. Only those that engage should be migrated to your active list.

Warming Up a Cold/New Email List

If you are uploading new leads who did not opt into your email program, it is best to split your new list into small groups (10% or less of the overall list) and send to them over the course of several days. Doing so will spread out any impact to your domain reputation caused by sending to inactive email addresses.

After this new list receives a few emails, you will have a better understanding of their activity and can add them to your above structure.

Setting Up a Welcome Program

A welcome series or onboarding program is a strategic series of emails designed to engage and nurture new subscribers or supporters who have recently donated or subscribed to your organization's email list. This series typically begins with a welcome email and may extend over several messages, introducing the recipient to the campaign's mission, values, and key messages. The goal is to establish a positive relationship, set expectations, and encourage ongoing engagement and donations. Email programs will typically include their highest performing evergreen emails as part of their welcome series.

How Do You Know When to Change Your Targeting?

We mentioned a few different definitions of your “active” list– 30/60/90 day openers or clickers. The general rule of thumb when you are (re)starting a new email program is to start small and expand your targeting out – so starting with a smaller group like the 30 day openers or clickers and expanding out when you’re ready.

To understand when to expand your targeting, keep a close eye on your email metrics. Consistently high open and click through rates (check benchmarks for your industry) suggest that you can expand your targeting to include the next available segment. If you see waning engagement rates and other methods to improve them have failed, you may consider reducing the size of your audience. For more information on understanding your email program, check out this page.

Targeting Fundraising Emails Specifically

When targeting fundraising emails, some groups prefer to split their audience into three groups: non-donors, low-dollar donors, and high-dollar donors. They will then adjust their fundraising amounts and language according to the audience. For example, they will thank their donors for giving in the past and explaining why they need a secondary donation. They will also lower the fundraising button amounts for non-donors to make the act of giving more approachable.

Switchboard lets you easily customize your emails based on ActBlue data, so if you wanted to customize your copy to change based on an individual donor’s contribution history, you could do that very easily! If you have questions about this, its the exact same as how you customize texts!

This is not required nor is it necessary for all fundraising emails, but is a strategy to consider to improve fundraising rates.

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