Why the rise of mobile email might hurt nonprofits | npENGAGE

Why the rise of mobile email might hurt nonprofits

By on Jan 8, 2013


It’s predicted that more email will be opened on mobile devices than on desktops by the end of 2013. This may not be good news for nonprofits.

As more people continue to check email on mobile devices, research has found mobile click-throughs are lacking.

Epsilon and The Email Institute’s Q3 2012 report indicated overall click-through rates have fallen from 5.5% to 4.5% over the past year. Knotice’s Mobile Email 1st Half 2012 report also found that even as mobile open rates have increased, the majority of email clicks still occur on desktops.

Mobile click-through rates remain low because the user experience still isn’t very good. Mobile users are left to squint, expand or scroll horizontally to read emails.

Why could this hurt nonprofits?

Less clicks means fewer constituents reach your website to donate, volunteer or register for an event. This is especially important since email has been found to be the top source of online revenue.

In fact, the 2010 eNonprofit Benchmark Study found the largest difference between high and low performing nonprofit email programs was in the click-through rate.

How mobile emails render

So what can nonprofits do? First, it’s important to understand how an email typically renders on both an iPhone and Android phone (both of which account for over 90% of all mobile phone opens):


As shown to the left, the iPhone shrinks an email to fit within the screen.

The initial text size is controlled by the width of the email, so wider layouts result in smaller text.

Users can pinch/zoom to make text larger, but then may need to scroll horizontally to read the email.


Android Phone

Conversely, Android devices will not shrink the email to fit within the screen.

Users often have to scroll horizontally to read an email (depending on the width of the email).

There’s also an inability to pinch/zoom on some devices.

Improving the mobile email experience

Nonprofits have heard about the importance of creating mobile-friendly web pages using responsive design. It’s now not so much a matter of “if,” but “when” nonprofits will offer mobile-friendly web pages.

The same will likely soon be true of email. Nonprofits have slowly begun to utilize responsive email design to improve the mobile experience.

Responsive design allows you to adjust font sizes for different screens and reposition/hide elements within an email. Here’s an example:

Desktop View: The original desktop view shows a link and photo in the right column.


Responsive design: The link and photo have been repositioned to the beginning of the mobile version. As you scroll down, you see the text size has also been increased to be much more mobile-friendly:


Like everything, there are drawbacks for nonprofits to consider. Without the expertise on staff, there’s the cost to have someone create a responsive email design.  Also, Gmail strips out responsive design like media queries, so some readers will still see the “non-responsive view.”

But if you’re going to offer mobile-friendly web pages, it’s important to first get your constituents there with a better mobile email experience.

In addition to using responsive design, here are other helpful posts to help you create a better mobile email experience:

Litmus’ Anatomy of a Perfect Mobile Email
Econsultancy’s Best Practices for Mobile Email Design
MailChimp’s Email on Mobile Devices


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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