Email Tsunami: How Much Is Too Much?

When it comes to emailing, how much is too much?

I recently had a conversation with a client that boiled down to this: how much email should an organization send to keep its audience engaged, without sending so much that the audience loses interest?

Kivi Leroux Miller, non-profit communication guru, recently conducted a survey of nonprofit communicators regarding how often they send out emails to their constituents.  Of the survey respondents, 44% send emails out monthly and 12% send weekly emails.  I think these monthly update organizations on to something.

According to, about “247 billion emails are sent each day.” Click here to read more fun (and slightly disturbing) email stats.

Confession time: I currently have 2,652 unread emails in my inbox [insert collective gasp here]. Most of them are emails from organizations and list-serves that I have signed up for but have never gotten around to reading.  Do I like these organizations? Yes.  Have I signed up to get these emails? Yes. Do I open and read them? No. Even the ones that offer me something tangible and personalized go unopened most of the time.

So, if my situation is even remotely representative of the typical list serve member, is email communication even worth it?

Yes, I think email marketing is an essential part of any communications strategy. But here are three tips for figuring out when you’re in danger of sending too much.

1. Know Your Goals

First, identify the ultimate goal of your email communications (e.g. “to share life change stories,” or “to remind folks of upcoming events”). Then stay focused on that goal, sending out regular, focused emails. Keeping your goal in mind is a vital step in determining how often you should click “send.”

Ask yourself: how often do we need to contact people to accomplish our goal?

2. Find Your Frequency

Once you have your overall communication goal in mind, it’s time to determine the appropriate frequency. Life change stories do not demand the same frequency as current event listings.

When we miss the frequency mark, our emails becomes ineffective, annoying, and even wasteful.

Check out this article about a less-is-more-approach to e-marketing. While written about a retailer, I think the same message applies to non-profits. Linda Punch writes,

“It might seem logical to retailers that if one e-mail blast produces increased sales, follow-up mailings will do the same. What actually happens is they get higher unsubscribe rates, and lower click-through rates,” says Joe Colopy, CEO of Bronto Software Inc. “They end up burning their lists.”

3. Know Your Audience

We need to match our communication goals and frequency with the needs of our audience. We may find that we need different mailings for our multiple audiences. For those of you interested in more on this subject and how to increase the quality (and quantity) of your e-newsletters, check out this blog article from e-newsletter platform,MailChimp.

What do the folks who love our organization want from us? What about those who don’t know us yet?

Speaking of audience, if your organization works with high school students, you already know that email is as old fashioned as snail mail. Before you build your entire communications strategy around email, ask yourself: “Will email even be a viable means of communication in 5 years?”

I recently asked a high school student if I could have her email address to follow up. She laughed and said, “Email? Who checks email?  Just text me or Facebook me.”

Yes, I did feel old after that conversation.

What do you think?

Am I on to something here, or do I just need to go clean out my inbox? I would love to hear what you have you learned in regards to email and your preferred method of communicating with your support base.

  • How often do you send out group emails and what do you see as the goal of these communications?
  • What do you think the next wave of digital communications is going to be?

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