Understanding email consent

Consent is the single most important element in setting yourself up for email deliverability success. Consent means that a person has explicitly opted-in to your email list. The recipient must have a reasonable expectation that she is going to hear from you, how often, and about what content.

Recipients who give consent are much less likely to unsubscribe or mark the email as spam. Over time, this increases your email deliverability.

Email deliverability is the success rate of your emails delivered to recipients’ inboxes. If your email deliverability is low, email providers will limit the number of emails being delivered, send your blasts to the junk folder, or in the worst cases – block your email address entirely.

NationBuilder monitors your email deliverability and will pause your email capabilities if you are in danger of damaging your reputation. Learning good deliverability practices, like those covered in this article, will help avoid any disruption to your email service. 

Learn about the types of consent and how to ask your supporters for their consent. Set up a preference center for your recipients.


Types of consent

Single opt-in: A form of consent where the supporter takes an action in your nation and is added to your email list. The supporter has provided consent once.

Double opt in: A form of consent where the recipient opts-in twice. A supporter gives you her email address, usually through taking an action in your nation. You send the supporter an email asking her to click a confirmation link to be added to your email list. If she clicks the link, she is added to your list. This is the gold standard of consent. While there is not a built-in feature in NationBuilder to automate this, you can set up your own double opt-in confirmation page using this walkthrough.


Preference management

You want to make every effort to offer your subscribers options to change their preferences about the type and frequency of emails they receive. Create and offer preferences on the unsubscribe page of your nation. Be specific about the type of content a subscriber will receive. For example, “Bi-monthly donor newsletter” is much better than “Newsletter.” 

The options will appear as checkboxes on the unsubscribe page: 

Consent email preferences

If you have a large range of preference offerings, we recommend using a signup page to act as a preferences page on your website. 


Unsubscribe links

In accordance with the CAN-SPAM Act’s sending guidelines, every NationBuilder email template has an unsubscribe link included in the footer that will direct the recipient to your nation's unsubscribe page. There are a few things to note as you configure your unsubscribe page and gain consent from your recipients:

  1. People are going to unsubscribe from your email list. There is no way to prevent this. The key is that you want to offer an alternative to unsubscribing by giving subscribers options to alter their preferences, or even take a break from your email service.
  2. Consider including more than one unsubscribe link in every email. Obscuring your unsubscribe link does not dissuade your recipients from unsubscribing. Instead, if a recipient cannot find the unsubscribe link, she will probably hit the spam button. If your blasts are flagged for spam, it affects the deliverability to the rest of your recipients.
  3. Just because a person unsubscribes does not necessarily mean she doesn’t want to hear from you. For example, high profile donors probably do not want to receive your generic email blasts, but they are committed to your organization. Honor the unsubscribe as an indication that a recipient needs a break, and offer opportunities in the future to opt back in.

When running a reconfirmation or opt-in campaign you will want to include a second unsubscribe link in the body of your email.

To include a second unsubscribe link in your email: 

1. Create an email blast. Enter content for the body of your email. 

2. Highlight the text you wish to hyperlink to your unsubscribe page. Click on the hyperlink tool. 

Highlight text second unsubscribe

3. Enter the liquid call for your unsubscribe page into the link editor:

{{ settings.site.unsubscribe_url }}

Insert Edit Link

4. Click Insert. The link is now embedded in your email.

Second unsubscribe

Learn more about liquid and its capabilities in email.

When a recipient unsubscribes, she can still receive one-to-one and transactional emails. Transactional emails are sent in response to a person's actions. For example, autoresponse emails are sent when a person takes an action on your website. Each of these emails includes a link to unfollow the page, which will opt the recipient out of future emails.


Opt-out campaign

An opt-out campaign is a casual way of confirming the consent of your current subscribers. Note that an opt-out campaign is a great way to confirm consent in the short term, but if you are sending email for longer than six months you should consider a reconfirmation or opt-in campaign to establish your supporters’ consent.

1. Send an opt-out email to your list.

Segment the list into small, manageable portions. Test your opt-out email with a small pool of recipients. This will help you gauge the reception of the opt-out email before you send it to your whole email list.

Include two prominent unsubscribe links in the body of your email. Offer the recipient the opportunity to unsubscribe from your list and ask her to update her preferences. The recipient will remain on your list unless she takes the action to unsubscribe. 

Here is a template for an opt-out email:

Hello XX,

You are receiving this email because you previously indicated you are interested in XX.

XX is a grassroots organization fighting for XX in order to XX.

If do not wish to receive future emails from us, please unsubscribe here. If you wish to receive fewer emails, please update your preferences here.

Thank you,
XX

2. Anyone who unsubscribed will automatically be removed from your email list.

Remember, this does not remove them from your database. It ensures that unsubscribed recipients are not receiving unwanted email and negatively impacting your deliverability.


Reconfirmation campaign

A reconfirmation campaign is a way to reaffirm the consent of current subscribers. You send an email asking subscribers to reconfirm consent by clicking a link to a signup page. A recipient is considered opted-in after she reconfirms her consent.

Reconfirmation campaigns are best used when you have a list that is already familiar with your organization and has received emails in the past. 

1. If the list is older than six months, verify the addresses. 

Old emails can be bought and repurposed by ISPs to act as spamtraps. These emails should be identified and removed. Services, such as Accurate Append can help to verify active email addresses. Note that even after you clean your list, there could still be hidden spamtraps. The only way to remove spamtraps entirely is to send a reconfirmation email that requires recipients to opt-in. 

2. Send a reconfirmation email to your list.

Segment the list into small, manageable portions. Test your reconfirmation email with a small pool of recipients. This will help you gauge the reception of the reconfirmation email before you send it to your whole email list.

Include two prominent unsubscribe links in the body of your email. Ask each recipient to reconfirm her subscription and update her preferences. Even if you have emailed your list recently, it is worthwhile running a reconfirmation campaign when moving to a new platform, like NationBuilder.

Here is a template for a reconfirmation email:

Hello XX,

You are receiving this email because you previously indicated you are interested in XX.

XX is a grassroots organization fighting for XX in order to XX.

If you are interested in receiving updates please join our newsletter. If you do not respond to this message you will not receive any more email from us.

Thank you,
XX

3. Remove anyone who did not respond to your reconfirmation email. 

Remember, this does not remove them from your database. It just ensures that un-engaged recipients are not receiving unwanted email and negatively impacting your deliverability.


Opt-in campaign

An opt-in campaign is a method to collect consent. You send an email blast asking recipients to opt-in by clicking a link to a signup page. A recipient is considered opted-in after she clicks on the link and confirms her subscription.

Opt-in campaigns are best if you collect emails from your website or offline. Your supporters have shown interest in your organization, but you may have not emailed them before. 

1. Create a preferences page. 

Create a signup page with the email preferences available to your supporters. Include the type of content and frequency of delivery for each selection. 

2. Run an opt-in campaign for your supporters to confirm their subscriptions. 

Send an email asking if the recipient wants to be part of your email list. Include two prominent unsubscribe links in the body of your email. Offer the recipient the opportunity to update her preferences on your new preferences page and ask her to confirm her subscription.

Here is a good example of an opt-in email:

Hello XX,

Thank you for showing support for XX. We would like to stay in contact with you.

If you would like to receive updates on XX please join our newsletter. If you do not respond to this message you will not receive any more email from us.

Thank you,
XX

3. Remove anyone who did not opt-in to your email list. 

This includes anyone who did not open your email or click the confirmation link. Removing un-engaged emails ensures that recipients are not receiving unwanted email and negatively impacting your deliverability.


Emailing prospects

You will want to be very careful in how you reach out to this list.

Prospects are not familiar with your organization, but there is some indication that they might be interested in hearing from you. Perhaps they supported your sister organization in the past, or a previous campaign.

When you email prospects you run a high risk of having your email reported as spam. NationBuilder will pause your email capabilities if you appear to be in danger of damaging your email reputation. Take great care in how you segment and test this list to avoid being flagged as spam.

1. Mark these profiles as “prospects” in your nation. 

When you send an email from your nation you must choose between sending to prospects or supporters. Batch update these profiles to have a “prospect” support status. Keeping these two groups separate ensures that the deliverability rate of your prospects will not affect the engagement level of your supporters for any individual email. 

2. Create a preferences page.

Create a signup page with email preferences available to your recipients. Include the type of content and frequency of delivery. 

3. Segment your list. 

It is crucial that you segment your prospect list and be targeted in your outreach. Since this is a group that you have never interacted with, there is no way to know how they are going to react to your email. Sending to smaller pools of recipients will avoid major damage to your email reputation. 

4. Run an opt-in campaign.

Send an email asking if the recipient wants to be part of your email list. Offer them the opportunity to learn more about you and sign up on your new preferences page.

Hello XX,

You are receiving this email because you previously indicated interest in XX. We are XX, a grassroots organization fighting for XX.

If you are interested in learning more about us, please check out some of our work. If you are interested in staying in contact with us join our newsletter.

If you do not respond to this message you will not receive any more email from us.

Thank you,
XX

5. Remove any recipient who did not opt-in to your email list. 

This includes anyone who did not open your email or click the confirmation link. Removing un-engaged emails ensures that recipients are not receiving unwanted email and negatively impacting your deliverability. 

Important reminder: It is never a good idea to buy a list. Purchased lists are often outdated and contain bad addresses that could get you flagged as spam or blacklisted and could lead to your NationBuilder email capabilities being paused. Sending to people who never opted in to receive your emails inevitably hurts your brand and deliverability. 


How to optimize email deliverability

How to maintain a healthy email list

How to set up email blasts

Understanding the results of your email blast

Understanding spam

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