Have you noticed a change in your email open rates? Do they seem to have drastically increased?

That increase isn’t what you think.

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection

Even if you’re not an iPhone user, you may remember all the news about a year ago when Apple shared its new privacy protections, particularly with email.

As a consumer, I love turning on as many privacy features as possible. As a marketer or fundraiser, I worry about how to measure our reach. And if we’ll be reduced to sending generic messages to our list instead of the customizable messages we’ve been able too.

One of the interesting (scary?) things about Apple’s move with the protections in iOS 15 is that it doesn’t just affect email sent to Apple domains like icloud.com. The protections stretch to all emails read on devices using the default Apple “Mail” app. So even the emails sent to donors’ work or Google emails can be impacted.

So what has Apple Privacy Protection done so far?

So I was fascinated to get M+R’s newest email this week: What actually happened: Apple Mail Privacy Protection.

One interesting development is that, if you’ve measured open rates to your emails, you have likely seen they’ve gone up steeply. If you compare the opens this month to this time last year, M+R says you’ll likely see a 17% or greater increase in opens.

That sounds great right? Most non-professional marketers and fundraisers put great stock in the “open rate” their email programs measure. So more opens has been seen as better.

Even knowledgable marketers looked at open rates because it was a stable metric. Sure, some corporations had systems with bots triggering all pixels and links before delivering the email to an employees inbox. (This was to trigger malicious links in a protected area before they got to an employee.)

But open rates were stable. So it was a metric measured.

The problem? Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection protocol automatically preloads all emails. For all emails opened in the app on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. This means the tiny image “pixel” indicates an “open” is getting triggered. For all emails. For a large percent of your donors.

Don’t measure success by open rates

It’s never been a good practice to measure marketing or fundraising success by open rates. Opens are not proof of people reading a message.

It’s always been more important to measure success by metrics like “click through” rates.

Reading a message is good for your nonprofit. But having someone take action is more important. Even if that action is clicking through to read the full story on your nonprofit’s website.

Click through rates are more important now than ever. If clicks on your links are going up, that is success. Just like the first job of a fundraising appeal is to get the donor to open the envelope, it can be argued that an email’s job is to get a donor to your website.

Measure the clicks

Are you writing stories compelling enough for readers to act?

If you are, great! Keep it up. If you aren’t, don’t worry. You can learn to communicate more clearly. There are conferences like the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference and webinars like our Tactical Thursdays. And there are lots and lots of books and courses on copy writing.

Writing appropriate “copy” is what helps you talk clearly enough for a person to take action if they want to. Too often, our writing confuses people – both those we want to help and those we’d like to help us.

It’s our job to communicate clearly and equitably so that people will have a very clear understanding of what action we’re asking them to take. That serves them because they can then clearly decide to act or not.

Read M+R’s full post

Hopefully, privacy tools will be a growing complexity for us. And ultimately, having to work with tools like Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection will force us to be better marketers and fundraisers. Because we’ll be constantly learning to talk clearly to those demonstrably interested in our work.

It’s important to stay informed. That’s why I love M+R’s research on social and email marketing. Their reports are easy to understand. And they “get” nonprofits.

If you’re not signed up to their email yet, I’d suggest fixing that today. You can read their full post at: https://www.mrss.com/lab/what-actually-happened-apple-mail-privacy-protection/. They have some great tips to consider for your email list.

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