Unsubscribes are a Sign of Success


A couple of years ago, I talked to a very large national organization on the East Coast about their email fundraising.

They had a solid program, sending out a whopping 70 emails per year.

About half of those were your traditional e-appeal, 5 were report-focused emails like an e-newsletter, 20 were advocacy-related, and around 15 I would classify as “other” – meaning they didn’t really fall into any these categories.

I suggested a number of tactics they could use to improve their results, but when I look back at that conversation, one thing stood out.

You Can Be Sending More Emails

Yes, your organization can almost certainly be sending out more emails.

More cultivation emails. More asking appeals. More engagement emails. More reporting emails. More.

Let’s use this East Coast organization as an example. Why did they send out so many emails? Because they knew that the more emails they sent, the more engaged followers they would reach. And when they had more engaged followers, they received more donations.

This organization understood that the true reason for an email file is to gather people who are interested, and then sort those people into donors and nondonors.

Specifically, every unsubscribe was considered a success, because the unsubscribe helped to sort contacts into donors and non-donors.

Unsubscribes Are Success

I repeat: unsubscribes are success. Don’t be afraid of them. And please don’t think they are a negative.

If you’re viewing your email fundraising as a way to not only raise money, but to build your file, then unsubscribes are simply part of the process towards acquiring more donors.


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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