Are you sending your email blasts to your entire email housefile? A full file blast may seem harmless, but Email Service Providers (ESP’s) such as Gmail and Hotmail are watching and taking note.

If email recipients grow dormant and are no longer opening your messages, their ‘disinterest’ or ‘unresponsiveness’ may be counting against you. Over time, Gmail and Hotmail ESP’s will draw correlations between audience ‘inactivity’ and your messages – essentially flagging them as spam and treating them as such. Unfortunately, that means your message will be treated as spam across all Gmail and Hotmail recipients – not just limited to your non-openers!


Yikes! Combine this scenario with Gmail’s new move toward a tab inbox structure which will automatically categorize and file your emails – and you can expect to see far fewer email opens and clicks (if you’re not already.) Not to mention, Yahoo recently indicated as soon as July 15th, email ID’s that haven’t been used within the last year are to be re-released for new ownership. If you’re currently sending to dormant Yahoo accounts, there’s a high likelihood that that your emails will be compromised.

For a communication channel that many nonprofits have come to rely on for its inherent low-cost and ROI effectiveness, this paints a troubling picture. According to the recent Monetate EQ1 2013 report, “email is responsible for generating twice as much direct traffic as social media, and fully four times the conversion rate.” Further, their comparison of email and Search traffic indicates that email drives more than twice the conversions. Unless you are willing to sacrifice Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo users, you need a proactive strategy that beats ESP’s to the punch.


A proactive strategy must be enacted globally and over the long-term. It begins with an immediate assessment of your email file and your recent email performance. Consider these initial steps in order to avoid being flagged as spam:

  • Review email best practices to avoid traditional spam triggers – email content should contain clean HTML, subject lines should avoid ALL CAPS and keywords like “free.”
  • Audit recent email performance – are you seeing a dip in the number of email opens?
  • Assess your email file for inactivity trends – identify email addresses that have not opened or clicked any emails within the last 365 days.
  • Identify subscribers who are using the “Big 3” email providers – create segments of these users who have a record or opening emails within the last 90 days
  • Develop business rules around segmenting the ‘inactive’ portion of your audience – suppress the dormant email addresses from the majority of your email communications.
  • Limit the number of emails sent to the inactive segment – plan a simple quarterly ‘reactivation’ message to dormant subscribers
  • Dig deeper into the portion of your file that has gone inactive – are these email handles heavily Gmail or Hotmail? If so, it’s even more imperative that you begin to reverse Gmail and Hotmail’s understating of your email. By continuing to message active Gmail and Hotmail users, their opens and clicks will work to reverse the spam flag.

*e-Commerce Quarterly EQ1 2013 Report, Monetate. Jay Baer. (2013)


The Creative & Strategy Practice at Charity Dynamics is dedicated to mulling over current trends, fleshing out recommendations and vetting new opportunities in the digital nonprofit world. Partner with us and gain insight into what’s new, what’s worth pursuing and what your organization can do to change the world.