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Email hygiene checklist: 4 tips for animal welfare organizations

In our 2023 Q3 benchmarks, we shared that animal welfare organizations must focus on building omnichannel donor journeys, diversifying their acquisition streams and increasing digital investment in 2024.

While there are many pieces that go into this, a strong email presence plays a critical role in the success of your program’s growth.

Earlier this year, Evan Arcoria shared a blog about email housekeeping focused on assessing the content of your emails—it’s a great read, and I encourage you to check it out here.

But assessing the back of the “house” is equally important for animal welfare organizations as it can have major implications on things like deliverability and engagement.

In this blog, I’m sharing a few areas animal welfare organizations should check on as they’re looking to grow their digital presence in 2024.


Make sure your email platform connects to your CRM

An important first step to a strong email-marketing program is having the right tech stack. An email platform that connects to your CRM will add more context and so many more dimensions to your audience compared to a platform that is siloed.

Here are a few reasons we strongly advise connecting your email-deployment platform data flow with your CRM or investing in one that does:

  • You’ll learn more about people’s engagement and behavior because you can track more than just donations.
  • You can more accurately attribute donor giving to the appropriate channel, removing the need for manual data uploads and recodes.
  • You can set up automated donor journeys based on specific actions—like new donor welcome, lapsed reactivation, sustainer conversion or sustainer-stewardship series, etc.
  • There’s less room for error if you’re not manually uploading data to your CRM from your email platform and vice versa.
  • You can more easily track things like opt-outs, hard bounces and lack of engagement, which will have a positive impact on your deliverability.
  • Your email lists have better data integrity and less database overlap.

Now, switching email platforms isn’t the right move for everyone. If your current email platform doesn’t connect to your CRM but switching platforms also isn’t in the cards, make sure your email platform is your source of truth for all things email to avoid inconsistencies and errors – including reporting and data management.

Rather than pulling in new lists for every deployment, let your email list live in your email platform and only upload new-to-file emails as you get them. And because you don’t have the context from your CRM, tag your email constituents based on their interests or relationship with you, like Volunteer, Event Attendee, Sustainer and more to help with segmentation efforts.

Double-check your IP environment

If you decide switching email platforms is the best move for your organization, double check if the platform is on a shared IP environment. A shared IP environment means the deliverability of other users will have an impact on the deliverability of your list.

When you start on your new email-deployment platform, make sure to appropriately warm up your IP address before you start sending. Failing to warm up your IP address can have long-term implications on the overall deliverability of your list and the effectiveness of your email campaigns.


Audit email hygiene and overall file health

When was the last time you audited your email file? We recommend assessing it for engagement and inactivity at least once a year.

If someone hasn’t opened or clicked any of your emails in the last 12 months, they’re weighing down the health of your primary email file. If someone hasn’t interacted with you in 12 months, try putting them in a special reactivation series.

If they still haven’t clicked, archive their email or tag them as unengaged.


Assess your segmentation

The final step in this checklist is a little less operational and a little more strategic: Who are you emailing?

A lot of organizations focus on emailing only their core/active donors or a file that matches their direct mail file. Don’t get me wrong, this is a critical segment. But you’re also leaving a lot on the table.

You should be emailing everyone on your file (that hasn’t opted out) with dynamic copy versions or separate email streams, based on their preferences and relationships with your organization.

Email is a wonderful tool for cultivation and stewardship—especially for groups like volunteers, adopters and sustainers. So don’t be afraid to engage with them on this channel! And if those segments of users are in different systems (as Adopters and Volunteers often are!), make sure you consolidate that into one system, or at minimum have a collaborative email communications calendar so you can ensure a clean and clear user email cadence!

Although these areas may seem small or tactical, they can have a major impact on the deliverability of your deployments, engagement from your audiences and long-term growth of your overall program.

Additional Resources


Hayley Smith

With over a decade of experience in digital fundraising and marketing, Hayley is an expert at crafting strategies across channels to build relationships with donors and help organizations increase their reach. She has been with RKD since 2019 and helps guide the overall digital strategy for her clients.



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