Are you one of the many email fundraisers, organizers, advocates or marketers who view their online statistics with a sigh? Do you fantasize about sky-high open, click-through, and response rates… a list with zero unsubscribes? If so, you are not alone. Nonprofit professionals are increasingly faced with underperforming online programs.

Among the possible explanations for why your email list members are “just not that into you,” one has some actual data to support it: inconsistency of communications.

Could it be true that failing to communicate with your listmembers consistently might cause them to not respond to your organization’s emails as consistently as they might if you stayed in better touch? In order to find out, we looked closely at the effect that gaps in email communications have on listmembers’ responsiveness.

Do Email “Silences” Matter?

To conduct this study, we gathered data from four national nonprofit groups – The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region, American Rights at Work, and The Wilderness Society.

We looked solely at email advocacy messaging in order to identify one consistent response mechanism (such as filling out an online petition) that we could then compare across months and organizations.

Three of the four organizations experienced declines of at least 1% in click-through and response rates after gaps of one or more months in their email advocacy messaging. The other organization had only a one-month gap in its messaging and its click-through and response rates fell only slightly (less than 1%) the next month.

An email silence of two to three months resulted in lower click-through and response rates to the next advocacy message. The gap in communications caused click-through rates to drop an average of 3.80% while response rates dropped an average of 3.03%. A one-month gap in advocacy messaging resulted in an average drop of 1.41% in click-through rates and a 1.06% drop in response rates to the first advocacy message after the gap.

Please keep in mind that this is a small data set with only seven gaps between the four organizations over a 12-month period. However, it does appear that the response rate to subsequent advocacy messages dropped proportionately to the length of the gap in email advocacy messaging.