Why do people unsubscribe from your email? While there are a number of possible reasons, many can likely be traced to unmet expectations.

The content doesn’t interest me. They send too much email. The experience was not personalized.

So, how can you align subscriber expectations with your actual email program? Start with your email sign-up form. Set the right expectations here and you’ll avoid complaints and misunderstandings later on. You’ll also lay the groundwork for a relationship with your subscribers based on honesty and respect.

Here are 5 important items to include on your email sign-up form:

1) Email Descriptions

Include brief descriptions of your emails, focusing on what’s in it for subscribers. Do you announce major breakthroughs or new volunteer opportunities via email? Mention it here, along with how often emails are sent.

2) Samples of Past Emails

Allow people to “preview” your messages before subscribing by including links to past emails. This gets the relationship off to a good start by being very transparent about the type of content you send. Diabetes Research Institute’s email sign-up page below is a good example of including both descriptions and links to samples.

3) Links to Email Archives

Links to an email archives section offers potential subscribers access to news they missed. As a bonus, it adds new, search engine-friendly content to your website on a regular basis. Creating web-based versions of your emails doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s often as simple as pasting your email HTML into a web page.

4) Privacy Information

Include how your organization respects the privacy of its email subscribers and the fact that they can opt out at any time.

5) Incentives

If possible, offer an incentive with every email sign-up. Be creative here. For example, perhaps a corporate sponsor could provide a product discount or make a donation up to a certain amount for each email sign-up. Or, you could offer subscribers early-bird registration to a popular event.

While it’s a good place to start, setting expectations doesn’t end at the email sign-up form. Reinforce important information in your subscription confirmation email, offline communications and actual emails.

What tips do you have to reduce opt outs?


Mike Snusz brings over 11+ years of nonprofit experience to his role as a principal strategy consultant at Blackbaud. He focuses on helping nonprofits create online fundraising, email, P2P, social media, SEO, analytics and website optimization strategies to maximize giving opportunities. Mike previously managed the turnaround of the Ride For Roswell, including the event’s growth from $330,000 to $1.2 million over a three-year period. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn and Twitter at @mikesnusz. To learn how Mike can help your organization’s next fundraising campaign, contact him at mike.snusz@blackbaud.com.

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